Friday, July 01, 2011

A Virtuous Reader


1. Love
           In, reading we encounter the other. When we read the Gospel of Mark, for example, we don’t simply encounter ourselves, and so become authors. Mark is, or should be, speaking. In the end, being willing to encounter the other is a matter of loving our neighbor by not silencing them. It is also a matter of doing to Mark what we would have done to us. Herein lies the universal ethic of readers: read as you would like to be read. In this sense, “the necessary condition of good reading is to get ourselves out of the way,” as C.S. Lewis put it. We may to Mark and use it for our own purposes, to support our agenda, and so we must get ourselves out of the way and receive what Mark has written.

2.  Just
            We acknowledge our prior commitments. We acknowledge we ALL have a point of view, a perspective, a way of seeing. This may mean we have biases; if so, we need to lay them on the table -- or else, be guilty of being a prejudiced reader. We know as we read Mark that we are not “entirely disinterested.” 

3. Hospitable
            We strive to be receptive when and where we find good. This is a matter of hospitality, of being considerate. I must be willing to hear what Mark has to say and give him a fair hearing: even if he contradicts my views. 

4. Attentive
          This means looking for details. 
5. Obedience
           We must be obedient to the author: obedient in the sense that we adopt the appropriate genre. It would be wrong to read Mark as poetry, or as if it as a were a letter of the apostle Paul. Mark is a historical narrative,  “a mix of Jewish history and Roman Biography." But Mark is also “within a unity of a higher order.” It is part of a larger canon. This is helpful when we get to difficult passages in Mark because it allows us to go elsewhere in the cannon to find answers. It is also within the cannon that much of Mark is interpreted. 
6. Proactivity
This is the commitment "to be answerable to the text" while taking pains to be hospitable. When Kevin Vanhoozer suggests we be answerable to the text he means that we must resist the temptation to mold a text into our own presuppositions. We must take the text, as it stands, and stand against ourselves when we do otherwise.

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