Tonight was a fairly significant theological event on campus. Our most senior scripture scholar, Fr. William S. Kurz, SJ
, with whom I've done the bulk of my scriptural work at the doctoral level, gave this year's Annual Ciszek Lecture
. As the blurbs read:
“Can a Biblical Scholar Be a Catholic? Searching for Responsible Theological Approaches to Scripture"
Father Kurz shares his personal scholarly journey from graduate studies at Yale until today in search of ways to understand and teach Scripture as an openly confessing Catholic scholar for Catholic believers. He relates the strengths and limitations of historical critical approaches, the excitement and disappointments of literary studies of the Bible, to a forthrightly Catholic Christian reading of Scripture inspired by Church Fathers like Sts. Irenaeus and Athanasius.
Fr. Kurz's lecture was packed, and perhaps there wasn't a whole lot I found particularly new (I have, afterall, been studying these issues with him and others intensely for the last few years), particularly after having worked through his masterful The Future of Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A Constructive Conversation
, which he co-wrote with his old Yale doctoral classmate and Emory University professor Luke Timothy Johnson. I've also just informally gotten together with him and other students over the last few years and read scripture together, some of which turned into his newest award-winner, What Does The Bible Say About The End Times?: A Catholic View
, which attempts to break the hold that fundamentalist Protestant readings of Revelation (like are found in the Left Behind
novels) have on the American imagination. This, too, had helped in familiarizing me with the ideas he shared tonight. Nevertheless, I thought that the presentation itself--as an event--and how it was received by the [admittedly, well-disposed] crowd was still significant. In being as autobiographical in his presentation as he was, he really was representing some of the academic or scholarly "mood" of the last forty years. That is, he wasn't just a scholar: he was also a "sample," as it were--an eyewitness to the process he described of how scholarly trend dramatically affected popular religious (and non- or anti-religious) experience in America over the last five decades. I think that his shift toward finding some way to integrate what's (inaccurately) called "pre-critical" scriptural readings with our historical-critical or even "post-critical" (whatever the hell that really is supposed to mean) readings will be interesting to observe over the next few years. I hope to post a transcript of the talk here shortly.