Wednesday, 18 February 2009
Did Childs achieve what he was aiming for?
This was a criticism made of Childs in the comment thread of a recent post by Halden on The not-so dangerous theology of Walter Brueggemann. Here's my response:
I’m not sure Childs thought that he was cut out to do what he was calling for either! Theological exegesis is a project very much in progress, rather than a praxis based on firmly established principles. At the end of his Isaiah commentary, Childs expressed frustration about his commentary. It didn’t get him to where he wanted, so he went on to write his fascinating Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture. Even at the end of that work he closed with pointers and suggestions about where we should go next. His entire career is marked by a ceaseless drive to keep pushing the boundaries.
However, Childs' broader theory still shines through in his practice of exegesis and I still find plenty in Childs’ work which signals ways forward, especially in his Isaiah commentary. In fact, recently, someone commented on my blog that he was disappointed with the Isaiah commentary because it still focussed so heavily on historical critical issues, rarely ever getting to the substance. My response is here (where I also have the quote on his frustrations with his Isaiah commentary). I agreed with him, to a degree. Childs’ problem is that in his desire for thoroughness and his respect for the literal sense of the text, he pushes only very slowly and carefully through the text to its reality. One often feels like he’s still standing on the boarder of the promised land, yearning to dive into the “mystery of Christ” yet wanting to give the path there its full due. As such, his exegesis still has the function of a Wegweiser, a signpost for us, the later “generation of the faithful,” to follow. His canonical approach is a challenge to keep going and to continue the “struggle” (a favourite word of his).
That’s what I wish to do in my doctorate. Having spent the last year and a half reading Childs, I’m now attempting a theological exegesis of Psalm 24, one that goes beyond anything Childs himself actually did, though an exegesis which, I’d like to think, he himself was pushing towards.