Saturday 29 November 2008

Oliver James on Affluenza

Oliver James, Affluenza: How to be Successful and Stay Sane (London: Vermilion, 2007), xxii + 570pp., ISBN 9780091900113, £8.99, and The Selfish Capitalist: Origins of Affluenza (London: Vermilion, 2008), 288pp., ISBN 9780091923815, £14.99.

‘Affluenza’ is the virus which increases our vulnerability to emotional distress by placing a high value on wealth, possessions, status, and appearance. Far from economic growth making us happier, James argues, it has made us more susceptible to depression, anxiety attacks, and personality disorder. The US and UK, in particular, are plagued by an attack of unrealistic aspirations, competitive workaholism, entrepreneurial fantasies, sustained by the ideology that material affluence is the key to personal fulfilment. The virus promotes ‘having’ over ‘being’ and confuses wants with needs. Blaming affluence for our ills might blind us to other damaging features of society, but there is lots to ponder here, much of it resonating with a Christian worldview. The paperback edition of Affluenza coincided with the publication of The Selfish Capitalist, a more rigorous reworking of the same material, detailing the academic research that underpins the ideas he explores.

Friday 28 November 2008

Rhetoric and Preaching

Lucy Lind Hogan and Robert Reid, Connecting with the Congregation: Rhetoric and the Art of Preaching (Nashville: Abingdon, 1999), 175pp. ISBN 9780687085293, and André Resner, Preacher and Cross: Person and Message in Theology and Rhetoric (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), x + 205pp, ISBN 9780802846402.

[The following review of these two books was written in June 2000, and was first published on London School of Theology’s website.]

These two books join a number of recent others which are offering reflections on homiletics from a theological perspective first and foremost, hoping thereby to challenge and transform some of the more practical dimensions of preaching. Narrative, imagination, and community, among others, have all been explored; here rhetoric is placed on the agenda.

Rhetoric, in this context, focuses on what is persuasive in human communication. And this itself has given rise to a wider debate in homiletics: should preaching be persuasive? Some homileticians (e.g., Richard Lischer and Lucy Rose) have argued that preaching must be community-oriented, dialogical, nonhierarchical and inclusive; persuasion can lead to abuse, and is inconsistent with such openness and mutual respect. Preaching is to be communal in nature – the church speaking to the church, rather than one individual speaking to a collection of individuals.

Hogan and Reid disagree. Drawing on the work of contemporary theorists who argue that all human discourse is inherently persuasive, they argue that preaching, by definition, cannot not be persuasive. That is, persuasion is implicit in language itself, and just to speak (or write) is to persuade. (Even the arguments of Lischer and Rose against persuasive preaching are themselves enmeshed in rhetoric intended to persuade!) Moreover, persuasion does not have to lead to manipulation and exploitation. Of course, preachers must come to terms with the power of the ‘preaching situation’, but authoritarian discourse disregards the context, and the nature and needs of the listener. Rhetoric and community-building do not have to be seen at odds with one another, for persuasion can be seen in terms of respect for the other, and has to do (in the understanding of Hogan and Reid), with issuing an invitation to growth and transformation.

At the heart of the book (in chs. 3-5), they consider three major components of rhetoric: logos, pathos, and ethos. Logos is ‘persuasive proof that arises as an effect of the argument and rational linkages presented in the speech’. Pathos is ‘persuasive proof that arises as an effect of understanding who the audience is and the ability of the speaker to move the audience emotionally’. Ethos is ‘persuasive proof that arises as an effect of the character of the speaker’. As might be expected, they call for a balance between the three:

‘Overemphasis on logos becomes a perversion of the persuasive task through overreliance on the subject... and results in... the pedant’s stance. Undervaluing the subject and overvaluing the pure effect of pathos becomes the advertiser’s stance. Sacrificing substance and effect in order to convey personality, charm, or some other way of putting ethos forward becomes the entertainer’s stance.’

There is practical payoff to all this: these categories help preachers consider what is communicated, wittingly and unwittingly, by their own character in the sermon; how preachers can help listeners care about what is being said; how reasoning should function in the sermon, etc.

From a related perspective, in his book, André Resner devotes particular attention to the preacher’s ethos in a bid to tackle the question as to whether the preacher’s ‘self’ can be an appropriate means of persuasion in Christian preaching. He reviews the treatment of ethos in classical rhetoric in Greek and Latin philosophers, before looking at Augustine (for whom the person of the preacher was understood to be a powerful witness to the truth) and Barth (for whom God is the main speaker in Christian preaching, and so consideration of rhetoric is excluded).

Resner then turns to Paul’s discussion of ethos in 1 Corinthians 1-4, and argues that Paul is not hostile to rhetoric. Paul uses a ‘reverse-ethos’, where the preacher is judged not by assimilation to the cultural expectations of the listeners, but by faithfulness to the message of the cross of Christ. A preacher’s persuasive life is shaped by the cross. Resner applies this to contemporary homiletics in his final chapter: ethos appeals need to be subjected to the core values of the Christian community, which (for Paul) are shaped by the cross of Christ.

Both books will not go uncriticised. One has to recognise, of course, that rhetoric is not the only key to effective preaching. One has to ask whether it respects the diverse types of voices by which the Bible speaks and which must shape the preaching task. One has to reflect on how it relates to other aspects of church ministry and worship. In the final instance, the word of God takes effect not in a rhetorical theory, but in the ongoing life and ministry of the prayerful church in the presence and power of the Spirit. Nonetheless, preachers need to be more aware of the dynamics in the preaching event, not least related to their own character, and so be more responsible ambassadors for Christ. These two stimulating and persuasive books will help them on their way.

Thursday 27 November 2008

N.T. Wright on The Bible and Tomorrow’s World 2

The first main section of N.T. Wright’s Lambeth Conference 2008 address (‘The Bible and Tomorrow’s World’) discusses ‘Scripture and the authority of God’ (summary here); the second addresses ‘Scripture and the task of the church’.

Wright begins by commenting on the relationship between the Christian faith and culture, noting its ancient roots (from the confrontation between the Old Testament people of God and their surrounding cultures to Paul in Athens), and noting also that there is no one model which captures all the nuances about the relationship.

He focuses on three features of tomorrow’s world, which ‘call for a biblical engagement’:

• The Bible and Gnosticism
• The Bible and Empire
• Postmodernity

One feature of gnosticism is ‘a radical dualism in which the created order is irrelevant because we, the enlightened ones, are just passing through it’. Along with this is a religion of ‘self-discovery’, with the gnostic wanting to discover ‘who they really are’. Wright points out that, so far as Scripture is concerned, ‘you discover “who you really are” only when the living God, the creator, is rescuing you and giving you a new identity, a new status, a new name’.

With respect to empire, we need ‘to understand power the way the Bible understands it, as given by God to bring order to his creation on the one hand and, on the other, to anticipate in the present that final putting-to-rights of all things which we are promised’. Gnosticism and empire are linked, according to Wright, since ‘Caesar couldn’t care less if someone wants to pursue a private spirituality. But if they go around saying that all authority in heaven and on earth is given to the crucified and risen Jesus, Caesar shivers in his shoes’.

With postmodernity comes the deconstruction of truth, the self, and overarching narratives with their claims to power. Apart from pointing out that ‘the deconstruction of power-stories is itself a claim to power’, Wright notes that ‘the story of scripture is not a story of power, but a story of love – genuine love, overflowing love for the world God made’.

He finishes by saying we need the Spirit of Truth to pursue mission: ‘Truth is not something we possess and put in our pockets, because truth is grounded in the goodness of creation, the promise of redemption for that creation, and the vocation of human beings to speak God’s word both of naming the original creation and of working for the new creation – the word, in other words, of mission.’

Wednesday 26 November 2008

N.T. Wright on The Bible and Tomorrow’s World 1

The text of N.T. Wright’s Lambeth Conference 2008 address, ‘The Bible and Tomorrow’s World’, is available here, and is well worth a read.

It has two main sections:

1. Scripture and the authority of God
2. Scripture and the task of the church

Much of this summarises Wright’s earlier-published material on these topics, but is no less valuable for that.

In the first section, Wright argues that Scripture should be seen as ‘the vehicle of God’s authority’, where the authority of Scripture is the authority of God exercised through Scripture. That authority is not primarily that of a handbook for doctrines or ethics, but is related to the kingdom of God. ‘The God of Scripture’, he says, ‘is with us in the world, his world, the world in which he lived and died and rose again in the person of his Son, in which he breathes new life through the person of his Spirit. Scripture is the vehicle of the kingdom-bringing “authority”, in that sense, of this God.’ And then: ‘Basically, I believe that scripture is the book through which the church is enabled to be the church, to be the people of God anticipating his sovereign rule on earth as in heaven…’

How does the Bible function this way? Answer: by being itself, as story. Not merely a story, but the story, from first creation to new creation, providing something like ‘an unfinished play, in which those who belong to Jesus are now called to be the actors, taking forward the drama towards its intended conclusion’. Only by ‘soaking ourselves’ in the drama will we ‘live with and under Scripture’s authority, not simply by knowing which bits to look up on which topics, but by becoming people of this sort, people formed and shaped in our imaginations and intuitions by the overall narrative…’

Wright points out that this helps us understand why the book of Leviticus (for instance) remains a ‘non-negotiable part of that story’ even while ‘it is not the part where we presently live’, as the writer of Hebrews and Paul in Galatians make clear, even while ‘a good many features of the Mosaic law [such as ‘codes of sexual conduct’] are not only retained but enhanced’.

Moreover, the story of the Bible equips us for mission, offering ‘a framework for developing and taking forward a wholistic mission which refuses to split apart full-on evangelism… and full-on kingdom-of-God work’.

This leads Wright to ask how Scripture can form us for ‘mission in tomorrow’s world’, the focus of the second main section of his lecture…

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Michael W. Martin on Betrothal Journey Narratives

Michael W. Martin, ‘Betrothal Journey Narratives’, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 70, 3 (2008), 505-23.

The betrothal journal narrative is ‘an archetypal narrative pattern repeatedly employed in biblical literature, often with important innovations, by different writers for different artistic purposes’ (505).

The climax of the pattern is when the suitor meets the bride-to-be at a well and a betrothal is arranged (a ‘type-scene’ [recurrent narrative episode] famously identified by Robert Alter), but Martin argues that the betrothal itself is situated in a larger narrative framework.

The commonly-recognised elements of the betrothal type scene include:

1. The groom-to-be travels to a foreign country.
2. He meets a young woman or young women at a well.
3. Someone draws water.
4. The young woman/women rush home with news of his arrival.
5. A betrothal is arranged, usually in connection with a meal.

Martin augments these with seven more elements (indicated in italics) (508-509):

1. The groom-to-be travels to a foreign country, either in flight from or commissioned by his kin.
2. He meets a young woman or young women at a well.
3. Someone draws water.
4. A gift is given or a service is performed that ingratiates the suitor with the woman and/or her family.
5. The suitor reveals his identity.
6. The young woman/women rush home with news of his arrival.
7. Someone from the family returns to greet and/or invite the suitor.
8. A betrothal is arranged, usually in connection with a meal.
9. The suitor resides with his bride’s kin, sometimes begetting children.
10. The suitor returns, usually commissioned by the bride’s kin.
11. The suitor is received by his kin at the end of his journey.
12. The suitor resides with his kin, sometimes begetting children.

Martin observes this expanded ‘betrothal journey narrative’ schema in accounts related to Isaac (Genesis 24), Jacob (Genesis 29), Moses (Exodus 2:15-21), Ruth, Saul (1 Samuel 9:11-12), David, Tobias (the Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha), sometimes with significant innovative departures from the pattern (509-19).

He also applies his fuller schema to the betrothal type-scene in John 4, noting (among other things) Jesus’ departure from Judea after conflict in Jerusalem (2:13-25) and because of the threat from the Pharisees (4:1), the moment the ‘suitor’ offers a gift (4:10-15), the revelation of his identity (4:25-26), etc., before returning home to Galilee and being welcomed there (4:43-45).

Martin notes: ‘If there is conformity to the traditional schema, there is also innovation. Usually, the suitor travels to the land where his father’s relatives reside and marries a relative, so that the resulting children can preserve the family bloodline. Jesus, however, has taken a Samaritan “bride,” and his “increase” consists of Samaritans and Gentiles.’ (522)

Martin also points out that Jesus’ betrothal journey does not begin when he leaves Judea for Samaria in 4:4; rather, like all betrothal journeys, he begins and ends in the same place – Galilee (2:1; 4:54). In fact, the departure for Samaria is a return trip to Galilee. The suitor appears to be returning home empty-handed when, in Samaria, ‘the anticipated encounter at the well finally occurs, though in an unintended place’. ‘Hence, the traditional story of endogamy is turned on its head, and the boundaries of Jesus’ family are extended to encompass Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile’ (523).

Monday 24 November 2008

David S. Dockery on John 4

David S. Dockery, ‘Reading John 4:1-45: Some Diverse Hermeneutical Perspectives’, Criswell Theological Review 3.1 (1988), 127-40.

Dockery begins (128-30) with some general and well-worn observations on John 4 – the contrasts between the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus; the structure of the passage in terms of the dialogue between Jesus and the woman on water (4:6-18) and worship (4:19-26), and the dialogue between Jesus and the disciples (4:31-38) set between two paragraphs describing the witness of the woman to her own people (4:27-30, 49-45).

He also highlights some of the challenges facing interpreters of John 4 – the importance of taking into account background, the intended audience, the issue of historicity, and the identification of genre (130-32).

The bulk of the article, however, looks at John 4 from the three perspectives of (1) an author-oriented approach, (2) a text-oriented approach, and (3) a reader-oriented approach (132-38).

The author-oriented approach ‘seeks to discover what the text meant in the mind of the original author for the intended audience’, seen as threefold in this case: ‘to proclaim the gift of the “living water”… to prioritize the worship of the Father “in Spirit and in truth,” and… to explain the mission to non-Jews’ (132).

The text-oriented approach (133-35) ‘focuses upon the text, its context and broader biblical texts’ and highlights such features as irony and double meaning in the story (who is giving what kind of water to whom?), parallels with John 19, and intertextual links to Old Testament stories which follow a similar pattern in which a man meets a woman at a well. This last feature, though long-recognised, remains highly suggestive. In Old Testament accounts (e.g., Gen. 24:10-61; 29:1-20; Exod. 2:15-21), the pattern is that: (1) a man is travelling in a foreign land; (2) he goes to a well; (3) he meets there a maiden; (4) water is given; (5) the women hurries home to tell; (6) the man is invited to stay; (7) a betrothal is concluded. In John 4, Jesus (the bridegroom, 3:29) ventures into a foreign land, meets a woman at a well… except, of course, this woman is no maiden – having been married five times already and currently living with a man not her husband.

The reader-oriented approach, for Dockery, embraces allegorical, existential, pastoral, and feminist perspectives (135-38).

On the issue of how the three approaches relate, Dockery makes a distinction between exegesis (which is limited to the authorial level) and hermeneutics (which seeks to understand the meaning of the text for contemporary readers, and thus considers the other two levels) – the key being whether the ‘meanings’ in levels two and three are ‘consistent developments of the author’s purpose’ in level one (139, his italics).

Apart from its brevity, Dockery’s essay is twenty years old now, and thus lacks the nuance of subsequent discussions in hermeneutics. Even so, it provides a helpful reminder to take account of the three ‘worlds’ of the text along with some application of those concerns to John 4.

Saturday 22 November 2008

The Ws in John 4

I know it can be cheesy, but I like alliteration in sermon headings – when it’s not forced, and when it does justice to the themes arising out of the passage itself.

English translations of John 4 provide a few suggestive Ws to play with: woman, well, water, worship, work, witness. Here’s a first, provisional go:

1. The water the Christ gives (4:4-18)
2. The worship the Father seeks (4:19-26)
3. The witness the woman bears (4:27-30, 39-42)
4. The work the Son does (4:31-38)

Friday 21 November 2008

Frederick J. Gaiser on First Peter as Advent Preacher

Frederick J. Gaiser, ‘“Where the Angels Long to Look!” First Peter as Advent Preacher’, Word & World 24, 4 (2004), 351-52.

Word & World’s 2004 themed issue on 1 Peter begins with an editorial suggestion from Frederick J. Gaiser to see the letter’s ‘call to a living hope and faithful obedience’, based ‘firmly in the promises of the Old Testament’, as providing material for a series of Advent sermons…

Where the Angels Long to Look:

• To salvation promised (1:1-25)
• To salvation revealed (2:1-10)
• To salvation lived (2:11-3:12)
• To salvation hoped (3:13-4:19 [5:1-14])

1 Peter reminds us that ‘because God’s grace is being revealed in Christ, we followers of Christ are called to holy living, both in our private and public lives, in ways that can transform the present age’.

Thursday 20 November 2008

‘Theology’ and ‘Doctrine’

I read this on the train into work this morning, was quite taken by it (even though much more needs to be said), wanted to clock it, and thought the blog was as good a way as any to do so…

Rick Ritchie is reviewing David F. Wells’ latest book, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Nottingham: IVP, 2008), in Modern Reformation 17, 7 (2008), 52-53 (an issue devoted to ‘Evangelicalism’s Winter?’) and thinks (from days in seminary) he recalls Wells having a definition of theology where it was ‘a timely response to current questions’, in distinction from doctrine, which was ‘a timeless response to an age-old question’.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

World Toilet Day

I know the possibilities for scatological humour – intentional as well as unintentional – are endless, but let’s go for it anyway: 19 November is World Toilet Day.

TearFund and WaterAid, among others, are drawing attention to it, campaigning for action to tackle inadequate sanitation, and calling on world leaders, including the British government, to address the problem by creating a global action plan on water and sanitation by 2010.

2.5 billion people worldwide don’t have a toilet, and that lack of a basic facility takes its toll on communities in developing countries, where every day 5,000 children under five die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water. Sanitation also provides dignity; inadequate access is a source of shame, physical discomfort and insecurity.

Monday 17 November 2008

Jeremy Begbie on Sentimentality

This is a slightly longer version of an article first published in London Institute for Contemporary Christianity’s Highlights (March 2008).

Jeremy Begbie sometimes lectures from the piano stool, but he’s just as comfortable behind the lectern, using slide presentation and recorded music to engage expert and novice alike in exploring the connections between theology and the arts, particularly music. Jeremy is the founder and director of the international research project, Theology Through the Arts. A professionally-trained musician, he also teaches theology at the University of Cambridge, and is the author of several books, including most recently Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music (SPCK, 2008). It’s mid-December, and he’s presenting to a full house at LICC on the topic of ‘Sentimentality in Christian Art & Worship: What’s Gone Wrong?’ Something tells me this is not the time to offer my solo rendition of ‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’.

Three characteristics of sentimentality
He begins by identifying three characteristics of sentimentality. First, sentimentality misrepresents reality through evading or trivialising evil; it is selective in what it chooses to notice (the world is a great place, really), and projects innocence where there is no innocence (she’s not so bad, really). Second, sentimentality is emotionally self-indulgent; sentimental art encourages an emotional reaction to reality that is shallow or one-dimensional. Jeremy referred here to Milan Kundera’s characterisation of kitsch: ‘Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.’ What really moves the sentimentalist is the fact that he’s being moved. Third, sentimentality fails to take appropriate costly action; the sentimentalist screens out darker dimensions, wants emotion without expense.

Insofar as Christian art and worship displaces honesty with niceness, wallows in self-indulgent emotions, refuses to face up to difficult issues, denies the reality of what is wrong with the world, deals only with what is comfortable, nice and builds self-esteem – to that extent, we have succumbed to sentimentality. Importantly, it’s not an issue of emotion per se, but whether emotion is theologically grounded, appropriately directed, expresses truth, and inspires us to engage with a damaged world.

Three days of Easter
In countering sentimentality, Jeremy encourages Christians to have ‘a three-days faith’. We need to experience the three days of Easter from an inside perspective: to feel the pain of Friday and the despair of Saturday before the joy of Sunday. Sentimentality skips over the tension of the story to the happiness of final resolution. But, by living inside the three days of Easter, pain is confirmed not erased, gratification is delayed, the tension is extended, and the true power of Easter morning is revealed.

Christian art and music must pause at Good Friday and not rush to Easter Sunday. In Rembrandt's ‘Crucifixion’, far from romanticising the scene, the light exposes the painful, ugly event. Jeremy related how works by the Scottish, Roman Catholic composer James MacMillan provide a Christian counter-sentimentality in combining two separate music ideas and layering them on top of each other to create a tension which is then resolved. Just as music moves from equilibrium to tension to rest, with the listener having to wait for resolution, so the biblical drama speaks of exile and return, of crucifixion and resurrection, of hope deferred and hope fulfilled.

The lecture was exemplary of the ‘Christian wisdom’ referred to in the subtitle of Jeremy’s latest book. Not only did it match LICC’s concerns that Christians be able to relate their faith to every aspect of their lives, it also provided a reminder of how theology nourishes the life of the church in its worship and mission to the world. A reminder that a Christian understanding of creation is significant if we are to celebrate as good all that comes from the hand of God, that a Christian understanding of sin is significant if we are to be realistic about the plight of the human condition, that a Christian understanding of church is significant if Jesus is not to become my personal possession, that a Christian understanding of hope is significant if we are to live with the tension between what is now and what will be. Theology which is embodied in life is inseparable from prayer and worship – thinking appropriately about God as well as engaging with God, as he has revealed himself in Scripture and through Jesus Christ.

An earlier version of Jeremy’s lecture was published as ‘Beauty, Sentimentality and the Arts’, in Daniel J. Treier, Mark Husbands, and Roger Lundin (eds.), The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts (Downers Grove: IVP, 2007).

Sunday 16 November 2008

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis on Total Church

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community (Nottingham: IVP, 2007), 203pp., ISBN 9781844741915, £9.99.

A stimulating reflection on ‘doing church’, theologically engaged and practically earthed. The two key principles are reflected in the subtitle – churches are to be gospel-centred (proclaiming the word to all nations) and community-centred (sharing lives together and providing a place of belonging). The first part of the book discusses gospel and community in principle, outlining the case for making these the two central pillars of Christian life and mission, while the second part explores the gospel and community in practice, showing how the dual focus applies to evangelism, discipleship, pastoral care, social involvement, etc. Far from church being an optional extra, it is at the very heart of God’s purposes for his people, providing a communal identity in Christ which shapes the whole of life and mission.

Friday 14 November 2008

Books on Christianity and Culture

There seems to be have been a recent flurry of books on Christianity and culture or related concerns, some of which I have read, others of which I am reading, including:

D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited (Nottingham: Apollos, 2008).
An important treatment, arguing that all the plot points of the biblical story (of creation, fall, the call of Israel, the coming of Jesus, the onset of the church, and the prospect of a new creation) need to be held together in order to think constructively and holistically about the relationship between Christianity and culture.

Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008).
A passionate but reasoned appeal for evangelicals to get involved in the process of ‘culture making’ – more artists, fewer art critics.

Colin Greene and Martin Robinson, Metavista: Bible, Church and Mission in an Age of Imagination, Faith in an Emerging Culture (Bletchley: Paternoster, 2008).
An exploration of the role of Scripture and the church in ‘radical cultural engagement’.

T.M. Moore, Culture Matters: A Call for Consensus on Christian Cultural Engagement (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2007).
An attempt to describe what a consensual approach to culture might look like, combining discussion of ancient and more recent Christian exemplars.

John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
A significant work, arguing for ‘Christian realism’, recognising the inevitable ambivalence and tension of living the Christian life in today’s world.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Charles A. Anderson, Michael J. Sleasman (eds.), Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, Cultural Exegesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007).
The lead volume in Baker’s ‘Cultural Exegesis’ series, it opens with a long programmatic essay by Vanhoozer, and is followed by essays on cultural texts and trends written by some of the students who took Vanhoozer’s Cultural Hermeneutics class.