In the next couple of posts I am going to look at David Ford’s Christian Wisdom: Desiring God and Learning in Love (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Ford offers a low-flying biblical/exegetical/theological account of wisdom as the overriding concept of Christian theology. The first thing that struck me about this book is Ford’s clear concern to work closely with the biblical text. At several points he quotes larges portions of scripture to exposit, and the book, in many ways, is an explication of these central biblical texts. In one such instance, commenting on Luke 24:13-53 (Road to Emmaus), Ford states:
So the person who at the beginning of the Gospel is filled with wisdom and amazes the teachers in the Temple, and in the middle has exulted in knowing the Father, and in death has cried out in words from a Psalm, here interprets ‘all the Scriptures’. Yet, even as he does this and their hearts burn within them, the vital recognition of who he is does not occur through this conversation: it happens only through the breaking of bread” (37).
In an important methodological comment, Ford notes, “One of theology’s main temptations is to formulate doctrines or other theological conclusions with reference to scripture and then forget that reference, failing to keep open the engagement with scripture that is needed if the theology is to avoid becoming fossilised” (43) Theology therefore is oriented by hope in God’s promises, that desires a wisdom true to God’s desires, and navigates life through a pneumatologically rich reading of the text. The theologian must cry out to God for wisdom, and in so doing, find oneself calling out in a chorus of all those who cry out to God, even God himself, calling out to his Father from the cross.
Christian theology therefore, is “an engagement with scripture whose primary desire is for the wisdom of God in life now” (52). This is a “wisdom interpretation” of the scriptural texts that we as the community of God seek to undertake. In an important comment, Ford states:
All of them together [incarnation, cross, etc.] are essential to any Christian hermeneutic, but not as some sort of formula or method; rather as a reminder to return again and again to the particularities of the testimonies to Jesus Christ seeking the wisdom that he himself inspires in new contexts as the ongoing interpreter of them through his Spirit” (62).
This of course begs the question, What is reading in the Spirit look like? Ford suggest that the core practice of a distinctively wisdom oriented interpretation is rereading. He links the canonization itself to this concept of rereading, of rehearsing the tradition in such a way as to provide the context for wisdom. Our rereading then is not mere repetition, but is learning to read with the people of God, the whole people of God. “The question: With and for whom do we read and reread? is, after the question of God, the second (though simultaneous) question for wisdom interpretation…To live in the Spirit is to reread with others for the sake of God and the Kingdom of God and to let oneself be addressed, schooled and transformed accordingly” (68-69).
What do you think about this initial analysis? Is a “wisdom rereading” the way we need to go? We will see this played out more specifically in later posts, but I just wanted to stop and ask the question: Is this how we should develop an account of biblical reading? Any thoughts?