This is a rant, I suppose. I'm writing just for me. This week I listened to the third presentation on the method of Contextual Bible Study that I have heard in two years. It was actually the fourth altogether because one of my courses for my BTh at the Baptist Theological College was on Contextual Bible Study. Every presentation was very good - partly, I suspect, because they were using material created by Gerald West the originator of CBS, although I may be wrong. (My degree course was explicitly based on a book written by him and prescribed for the course, which unfortunately I couldn't afford at the time and so used a library copy.)
But the thing is that two out of the last three presentations used the method to promote a sort of intellectual dishonesty that really irritates me. CBS suggests reading Bible passages in an indigenous way - what does it really say if you don't assume pre-packaged theological and spiritualised understandings. If you just read the passage, what does it actually say? This is cool because it raises good questions. From Matthew 20: Why were the workers hired for the vineyard standing in the marketplace? Does this passage have anything to say about a living wage and unfair labour practice? And so on.
But two of the last three facilitators took the next step of appropriating the passage to support other presupposed ideological conclusions - so now we don't use pre-exisiting theological or spiritualised understandings, but we have a new ideological understanding that is right simply because the other must be wrong.
So does the passage speak about unfair labour practice? Yes, they say. But what does it say? And here the intellectual dishonesty comes in because they don't know and so they just tag ideology on to it. The scripture raises the question, but it is not clear where the answer is coming from.
This belittles CBS - I am quite sure that Gerald West himself (knowing him) would give a fascinating interpretation of the passage and I am equally certain that it would be absolutely intellectually honest. Perhaps I am being too demanding of these facilitators, perhaps I am missing something - but I think even simple readers are entitled to consistency and straightforward thinking.
And as they would like to hear, the facilitators are entitled to their own understanding of Scripture!