wikipedia and the bible

Recently I was engrossed in an interview on BBC's HARDTalk programme with the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales (04/01/08).

Wikipedia is very different from Encyclopedia, isn't it?

Then a question dawned on me. When it comes to understanding and intepreting the Bible how is such a process like the way Wikipedia works and how is it more like the ol' Encyclopedia?

nice chatting



Christina said…
Hi Paul,
What an exciting question. As you know I love seeing Young Adults getting into the bible for themselves, so I’m always thinking about ways to teach them more effectively. It strikes me that we teach as if understanding and interpreting the bible is encyclopaedia. Have you seen this YouTube about the ways students learn today:

I think it challenges us to that if we are really going to engage young adults (gen Ys) with the bible we need to be teaching it Wiki style, rather than old brown book (that’s what we used to call the encyclopaedias in my family) style. With young adults widely influenced and interested in the global world it would be a great way of interpreting and understanding the bible in what they understand as community (worldwide). Perhaps we should talk about setting up a wikibible I think it would be great fun!

Mark Maffey said…
Having tackled hermeneutics old brown book style, and done a lot of subsequent web based study/research in ongoing study I can see the benefits in a Wiki style process.

We live in an increasingly computer based environment and I wonder if a windows based drop down programme which enables not only youth but people of all ages to engage in Bible Study and understand how to get behind the written surface of the word and peel back and gain greater insight would be one process of doing it.

Bible software is getting better and better and many are unaware what is currently available.It may be that there are some youth based study options already available.
Youth are visual and Nooma study series by Rob Bell is one that I have been impressed with, more of this ilk is needed to impact our youth.

I must admit to still like being able to buy brown books and read them, but I suspect I am one of the declining 5% of Christians that buy such material. I hope there will be some form of co-existence between brown book and wiki world, but I suspect that we will move increasingly towards a net based existence.
Paul said…
That is a great clip, Christina
(I am going to use it in my preaching class this year as a discussion starter!)

Let me focus my questions a bit more - because this is huge issue.

To what extent is truth revealed and received (ie encyclopedia) and to what extent is the discovery of truth an evolving and collaborative exercise (ie wikipedia)?

Then with your question ... to what extent do we adapt things to fit learning styles today - and to what extent do those learning styles need to be challenged (and changed) as part of responding to the claims of the gospel?

Much is made of consumerism today and the way it makes us look at the world through our own needs all the time. This does become idolatrous far quicker than we realise. But let's not forget to add to this the predominance of reader-response approaches to determining the meaning of texts. This is equally strong and pretty prominent behind the scenes in the encyclopedia/wikipedia debate. The meaning of a 'text' has less to do with the intention the author had in mind for it - or even with what the words on a page mean - and everything to do with the response sparked in a reader. WOW!
Christina said…

After I posted, I thought it made me sound like a proponent of reader-response, (which I am very definitely not) but I thought I would leave it there to see if anyone noticed! Just to clarify, I was thinking that a wiki style would be a great tool to teach solid interpretive method. What excites me about it the most is that an important part of good interpretation is interpreting as a part of a community. I think in the individualised west we have neglected this element and although we have started to acknowledge it more and more I think our interpretive communities lack breadth, we may be missing some of the richness that the bible contains because of this. For example do we really have the same ideas of what it means for God to provide for us, when doing without means not getting the latest seasons shoes? But a global interpretive community can aid our understanding of some of these passages, and challenge some of our cultural assumptions.

Paul said…
Couldn't agree with you more, Christina. We are singing off the same songsheet - although my contribution to such a literal event would be forgettable.

I am not entirely dismissive of reader-response approaches. I reckon they have relevance with certain genre (like the parables where my research has been focused). And the book by Kevin Vanhoozer (Is There a Meaning in this Text?) is impressive in the way he makes space for author-centered, text-centered, and reader-centered approaches in interpretation.
Christina said…
I must admit to being a bit stumped on this question, “To what extent is truth revealed and received (ie encyclopaedia) and to what extent is the discovery of truth an evolving and collaborative exercise (ie wikipedia)?” Unusual for me!
I have been thinking about it though, and I keep coming back to the question what is truth? (just to clarify not challenging whether the bible is true or not, but what we actually mean when we use the concept ‘true’). I know that postmodernity is most often stereotyped as not believing in truth but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that is not the case. However they do offer a challenge to assess what our idea of truth is and where it came from. Do we think of truth as an abstract doctrine, or perhaps a scientific theory that we can provide evidence to support? Or perhaps truth not a concept or a theory but a person – (John 14:6, I am the way and the truth and the life”)
Paul said…
I heard Oprah Winfrey say just yesterday (during the Presidential Primaries in the US) something like she "followed her own truth"... personal? private? preferential? A great wikipedia statement :)

What about linking truth to the Word of God - focused on the person who is the Living Word (Jesus) and who is the focus of the Written Word (the Bible)? There is no need to drive a wedge between the two as many try to do. 'Without the Bible the remembered Christ becomes the imagined Christ' (John Donne) ... and without the Bible this imagined Christ becomes a Christ remade in our own image for our own needs and according to our own personal preference.

A couple of images help me.
The idea of the asymptote and our knowledge of truth is like the asymptote approaching the axis - it can get closer and closer and closer...
The idea of a spiral (rather than a circle going round and round endlessly) that spirals ever closer to a clearer and fuller understanding of the truth...

These images would suggest that we can know this truth truly and personally and clearly, if not fully and completely (which we can get very close to!) - or 'absolutely'?

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