August 24, 2107—Everywhere we turn, it seems we come face to face with terror: a missile threat from North Korea, a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, a refugee crisis in South Sudan, and the seemingly ubiquitous specter racism, sexism, violence, and discord.
These days, opening the newspaper (or visiting any social media outlet) is not for the faint of heart.
What are Christians to do and say at such a time as this? How can we negotiate the incendiary rhetoric that marks political and even theological discourse around these issues? What does it look like to advocate for justice and peace while still maintaining a gracious and charitable disposition towards those we disagree with?
How does our faith inform not only what we stand for but how we approach difficult topics and conversations in the first place?
There are no easy answers to these questions.
Making matters even more complicated is the fact that we find terror in the Bible as well. Whether we like or it, the Scriptures that we call sacred tell stories about holy war and conquest, exclusion and ethnocentrism, gender hierarchy and domestic violence.
How can we make sense of these so-called “texts of terror?” What does it look like to faithfully and honestly engage the problems these texts raise? Is there a way to approach these texts critically yet in a manner that still is edifying for the various ministries of the church?
In order to know how best to respond to the terror in the world today we must come to terms with how we respond to the terror we find in the Bible itself.
Doing so involves self-reflection and honesty. But it also involves developing a set of interpretive perspectives and approaches that can help facilitate open, healthy, and constructive dialogue.
The goal of the Center for Lifelong Learning’s “Texts of Terror” class is to provide an opportunity for participants to engage in open and honest conversations about some of the most difficult texts in Scripture.
Through a series of 5 case studies, we’ll explore how we might respond in a historically, theologically, and pastorally informed way to the difficult questions these texts raise for communities of faith today.
Post written by Ryan Bonfiglio.
Ryan Bonfiglio is Lecturer in Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary. Research for Dr. Bonfiglio focuses on theories and methods of iconographic exegesis, an interpretive method that studies biblical literature in light of ancient art and visual culture. He is also interested in Israelite religion, the Prophets, metaphor theory, contextual hermeneutics, and biblical theology. He is the Stembler Scholar in Residence, First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta.
How do troubling texts inform your sense of God? Texts of Terror, Certificate in Spiritual Formation with Ryan Bonfiglio, October 15-18, 2017, will engage a ‘charitable’ interpretive approach to explore Biblical texts that challenge our theological and ethical understandings. Montreat Conference Center. Register today!