Continuing with Theological Libraries Month... Because of our long standing institutional membership and subscriptions to ATLA databases, ATLA offered a loyalty benefit which enabled me to attend the annual conference in Louisville, Kentucky at no cost this year. I attended presentations and panel discussions about providing relevant library support to online graduate ministry students, developing effective search tools, and making book acquisition budgets stretch in troubled economies. And in the exhibit hall I learned about products and services to consider implementing at Hope (and picked up some freebies!)
One of the interesting and thought-provoking messages I heard there was an address by Dr. Susan R. Garrett of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary on "Biblical Studies and Real World Hermeneutics."
The main point of her message was that while students who study the Bible can understand it, they often do not have cultural context to interpret world events and to understand other views.
She talked about “real world” issues that cause divisions such as abortion, homosexuality, Sarah Palin, Harry Potter, and creationism. She advocated an approach to biblical hermeneutics in which "contextualization" gives at least enough validity to other viewpoints so as not to dismiss them as evil, stupid, or insane. Otherwise, there cannot be a starting point for meaningful dialog.
On the one hand, this resonated with me because librarians are taught to provide equal access to all sides of an issue. However, when it comes to biblical interpretation and making choices of eternal significance, as a Christian, how “open” should I be?
At Hope, the Literary and Exegetical Analysis course is a graduation requirement of all Pacific Christian College students. In it, students are introduced to effective tools for studying the Bible such as concordances, lexicons, and commentaries. With these tools, they begin to gain a perspective on what the words meant in historical context to the original readers and what that might bring to bear on what this means for us today.
This course is a prerequisite to the capstone Professional Issues in Biblical Perspective course in which students do an exegetical study on a scripture passage apropos to their major and apply it to a critical issue in their career field. The exercise is meant to challenge students to develop a Christian world view -- a value system to enable them to think like a Christian in a “real world” context.
In broad terms, my Christian worldview informs how I practice being in the world but not of the world. But, specifically integrating faith and librarianship takes a lifetime of learning. There are passages about books and reading, but none about how to balance what it means to "keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27) and not causing anyone to stumble (1 Corinthians 10:32) with the principles of providing open access and encouraging freedom of expression (ALA Library Bill of Rights).
Oh, I also enjoyed a Louisville Bats minor league baseball game and a visit to the famous Churchill Downs. Admit it. You wonder what that must have been like with a group of theological librarians.