Thursday, November 26, 2009

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

If the reader of a text, let us say the biblical text, is a participator in and a producer of meaning, does this signify that we are left with an unlimited series of readings that are all valid?


Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

1. Corinthians 2,7-12:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

This drastically reduces the valid possibilities, imho, since the holy spirit needs to reveal those things to us! And he will not reveal "random stuff".

However, the reader being a participator in or producer of meaning will introduce quite some noise (technically speaking).


Greg said...

Thanks. While this passage from is revealing I take it to be an apologetic in defense of the gospel Paul is preaching - Christ crucified - the power of God versus human wisdom.

I'm not convinced that this text helps us very much. Seems as if believers have 101 interpretations of the biblical text and all claim the HS has revealed their interpretations to them. Does this not go beyond relativity and end up in a kind of absolute relativism of anything goes because the HS told me so?

I like the notion of 'valid possibilities,' but how many can there be for one text? Perhaps, there is a place for 'noise' but not in any absolute form.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

How many possibilities?
I dare to say: One.

But we do not know yet, which one it is. :-(

Noise comes from misunderstandings and from presuppositions, I guess.

Greg said...

Depends on the text. The one meaning you allude to that we don't now have access to does not seem to get us very far from relativism and Christian interpreters of the biblical text who embrace that would be shooting themselves in the foot, as they would counter relativism in most other areas.

Presuppositions appear to be with us and therefore there will be incessant noise for the time being, yet the noise will not be so overwhelmingly prevalent that it deafens without limits so that the text cannot be heard and some agreement be found on the noise.

nita said...

Let me jump into this:
I fully agree with Lukas in that "the reader being a participator in or producer of meaning will introduce quite some noise." And yet, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, insofar as it is inevitable that there are presuppositions, preunderstandings and prejudices in every reading of given texts, including the biblical ones. I think that "an unlimited series of readings" will not be "all valid" precisely because there are limits set by the very meaning, design or intent of the validity claims, in this case, that God is conveying something about reality, human nature and our selfhood thru His Word. In the final analysis, as Greg put it, the intent in God's Word is to contrast "the power of God versus human wisdom," God's infinite power and love vs. our human selfish and self-deceptive ways of making sense of things human and otherwise. That's why I am not convinced that we, as Christians and Bible readers, have actually embraced the full meaning of this "gospel Paul is preaching" qua "Christ crucified," as we tend to overlook or minimize all the ongoing suffering, injustice and scandalous annihilation of human selves by other humans who pretend to be like God without any regard for the otherness of others. As the apostle put it, in such strong words: "none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." It seems humankind keeps repeating the same mistakes and errors of the past, but I'm not sure that this is due to noise or failure to communicate with others. Now, more than ever, we are all connected all over the globe, and yet most people do not care about others. I still believe that cultural relativism must stop at the otherness of others, namely, at the very ethical encounter with the other. We can relativize most things but we cannot relativize the otherness of the other.

Greg said...

Thanks. I agree that an unlimited series of readings will not all be valid because of the constraints of God and the text.

One of the things I'm thinking about is: can the biblical text be said to have a fuller meaning (not fullest) because we interpret it? The range of meaning will be different for interpreters (pro relativity), but not so much so that open minded interpreters would not be able to come to some agreement about certain texts (con relativism). If that is the case, then there might be a possibility of even a fuller reading when the world of the biblical text is embraced and acted upon in the everyday affairs of self and other in their biblical configuration, which stands against oppression and for love, truth, and justice.