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«THE COVERT MAGISTERIUM: THEOLOGY, TEXTUALITY AND THE QUESTION OF SCRIPTURE By David Dault Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate ...»

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David Dault


Submitted to the Faculty of the

Graduate School of Vanderbilt University

in partial fulfillment of the requirements

for the degree of




May, 2009

Nashville, Tennessee


Professor Paul J. DeHart Professor M. Douglas Meeks Professor J. Patout Burns Professor Leonard J. Greenspoon (Creighton University) Professor William Franke Copyright © 2009 by David Dault All Rights Reserved For Kira iii


I wish to acknowledge the funding from the R.C. Dougherty Fellowship for Graduate studies, the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, and two Dissertation Writing Fellowships received from the Center for Ethics at Vanderbilt University, for their generous support of my scholarly work over many of these past nine years.

I thank my committee: Paul J. DeHart, M. Douglas Meeks, J. Patout Burns, Leonard Greenspoon of Creighton University, and William Franke. They each in their own way have contributed to this project, through ideas and feedback, certainly, but also through example, hospitality, energy and pedagogy. Under their care the major errors have been eliminated; those that remain are all mine. I appreciate so much what each of these fine scholars have brought, individually and collectively, to the betterment of this project.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Jimmy Barker, Burt Fulmer, Alexander Badenoch, J.

Aaron Simmons, Kurt Schreiber, and David J. Dunn for their support, involvement and incisive criticisms at all stages of the project. Additionally, the Dunn family, Abigail Redman, Maria Mayo Robbins, Katy Attanasi Barker, Sean Hayden, Theron Welch and the Welch family, Robert Pound, the extended Hartger and Bandstra families, Bru and Thea Wallace, Alicia Ruvinsky Rojas, Richard Gross, S.J., William “Doc” Martin, Shane and Virginia Bartlett, Wilson Dickinson, Joshua Braley, Katy Scrogin, Jill and Doug Davis, Anson Mount and Jason Ingalls have provided love and much needed stability throughout the thinking and writing stages.

iv I thank my families: Allyn, Charles and Allyne Dault, and Susan, Harold and Phillip Hartger, for their encouragement and patience while I talk and talk through ideas at dinner tables and during vacations, and for loving me all the while.

For five years during this degree I was honored to serve as the pastor of Central Presbyterian Church, Culleoka, TN. I thank each of the congregants for their generosity, hospitality, and Christian witness. They gave me as good an education as I have received in any classroom. I am also thankful for the prayers and the people of Columbia Presbyterian Church in Decatur, GA, the Atlanta Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, and Christ the King parish here in Nashville.

I appreciate very much the support of President Forrest Harris, Sr., and the students, faculty and staff of American Baptist College, throughout my studies at Vanderbilt. I am also thankful for the active core of scholars in the Vanderbilt Graduate Theological Society, as well as my colleagues in the Graduate Department of Religion.

As this dissertation is the capstone of many years of education, it is fitting as well to acknowledge several teachers who, through the years, were inspirations and advocates for me. These include Sherry Garcia, Alice Anderson, Sharon Ellis, Richard Spencer Garrard, Brent Norris, David Owen Youngblood, Tina Cliff Epperson, Pat Coffield, Glenn Walls, Rick Roderick, Robbe Delcamp, William Garland, Ronald H. Cram, Rav Shai Cherry, George Stroup, and Walter Brueggemann.

I also thank Tim Beal, Jacques Derrida, Walter Lowe, and Peter Ochs for their availability and willingness to comment on my work through the years. I am thankful for the inspiration of my patron, Saint Genesius, as well as Myles Horton, John Henry Newman, Milton S. Mayer, and E.A. "Red" Schaal.

–  –  –

in particular John Cage, Aphex Twin, Collections of Colonies of Bees, and El Ten Eleven. They are not to be blamed for the results.

I wish to thank the staff of the Graduate Department of Religion and Divinity School, in particular Marie McEntire and Jimmy Byrd, for innumerable moments of help and care. I also owe more than I can adequately express to Ira Heldeman, Julia McAninch, the staff of the Vanderbilt Psychological and Counseling Center, and the men of the Belmont United Methodist Church Al-Anon Family Group.

After my defense, during the final revisions of this project, my mother, Ann Dault Thomas, passed away. Though she and I did not see eye to eye on matters of faith, I have no doubt that I am the better scholar for her fervent questions and skepticism. She was for me, throughout her life, a model of tenacious rhetoric and fearless inquiry. I salute her, and her struggles, and miss her very much.

I am no apologist, though if I were and wanted to offer proof of God's loving providence, I need look no further than Kira. Much better than I deserved, more amazing than I could have imagined, more loving than I thought possible: I am so thankful for you, my dear wife. Thank you.

–  –  –

1. Christ, Pantokrator

2. Hermeneutic Circle (as Spiral)

3. The Axes of Work, Text and Book

4. Leth at the Banquet Table, Falkland Road, from The Five Obstructions...........293

–  –  –





The Subject of the Present Work

Key Definitions of the Project

The Biblioplex

Methodological Assumptions and Framing Questions

Outline of the Project



Clarifying the Term "Clearly"

The Reification of Scripture

Kelsey's Formal Examination of Scripture


The Textuality of the Printed Artifact

Analysis of Textuality: The Matrices of Stability Along Three Axes...........115 The Axes of Textuality



Overview of Postcolonialism

Sugirtharajah's Project

Convergence and Divergence



viii The Milieu of Scriptural Reasoning

Scriptural Reasoning and Magisterial Effects

Reasoning Together: Reading as Ethical Embodiment



The Project to This Point

Wolterstorff's Nonfoundationalist Epistemology

The Argument of the Present Project, Briefly Restated

Shalom-Justice, Tikkun Olam and the Theo-Political

Ideology and Material Practice


–  –  –

The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

–  –  –

The first is The Golfer’s Bible. In it are articles and chapters designed to help the reader improve swing and technique, in addition to expert advice to aid in the correction of common errors of play, tips on the selection of new clubs, and “100 action photographs.”3 It is intended, according to the introduction, specifically for those “with the motivation to do what it takes to become a top-flight player of golf.”4 1 Carl E. Braaten, New Directions in Theology Today, vol. 2, History and Hermeneutics, gen. ed. William Hordern (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1966), 151.

2 I am adopting an intentionally personal, less “formal” voice in this dissertation. While I realize this is not a traditional academic style, the enactment of the personal nature of these analyses is important to the function and understanding of my project as a whole. Because I am writing specifically against a form of theological universality (or, perhaps better stated, “neutrality”) that does not configure the commitments of the subject in its self-understanding, the placement of my “literary self” into this present writing seems methodologically useful and, therefore, though unorthodox, defensible. In taking this position I am following, among others, the assertion made by Korean-American theologian Jung Young Lee: “Theology is autobiographical, but it is not autobiography…Telling my story is not itself theology, but a basis for theology, indeed the primary context for doing my theology…If theology is contextual [as I will here argue it is], it must certainly at root be autobiographical.” Jung Young Lee, Marginality: The Key to Multicultural Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1995), 7.

3 Frank Kenyon Allen, et al., The Golfer’s Bible: Revised Edition (New York: Doubleday, 1989).

4 Ibid., page unmarked.

The second is also The Golfer’s Bible. It contains the 66 books that are normally contained in the Protestant version of the Scriptures that are collected under the name “Bible,” as well as a back section of inspirational devotions and other aids to study, which include an outline of the “Plan of Salvation” just after the table of contents.5 The indicia on the back of the four-color gift box indicate that this, too, is a book specifically for motivated golfers, reminding us that “[l]essons we learn on the golf course can make us better people, better spouses, better workers, better friends, and better followers of Christ.”6 Juxtaposition of these two extant, physical versions of The Golfer’s Bible against one another leads us to note the intrusion of an interesting set of perplexities. The “Bibles” are both, explicitly, intended for “golfers,” but do they serve the same

–  –  –

affirmation of one of these as a “Bible” belie the possibility of the other one being a Bible as well? Is the authenticity of their respective “Bible-ness-es” to be determined between them, or by comparison to some other standard of “Bible-ness”? (What standard, then, would we choose? For example, both a “Catholic” Bible and an “Orthodox” Bible present more than 66 canonical books. A “Gideon New Testament and Psalms” Bible, by contrast, presents far less, as does Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible.7 None of these versions, however, will help you correct common putting errors.) 5 HCSB Golfer’s Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003).

6 See box cover of HCSB / SPECIALTY / COMPACT version of the HCSB Golfer’s Bible with Slide-Tab Closure, ISBN 978-158640323-2, my emphasis.

7 Or, at least, it presents certain of the canonical books (Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation) as having a very secondary status. See n. 49 of Philip Blosser, “What are the Philosophical and Practical Problems In other words, is there yet some form of “the” “true” “Bible”—Platonic or otherwise—that might be invoked? Is there a form that transcends and adjudicates such accidental aspects of audience and canon? With all this confusion before us, simply as a

result of setting these two books side by side here on the desk, we may ask the question:

to what extent is the inclusion (or not) of those 66 books reasonable grounds for calling one of these books a Bible (or not)?

There is a set of correlating—and no less pressing—perplexities here, as well.

These are perplexities that are raised with regard to the matters of audience and identity.

I will mention the most obvious of these perplexing matters of identity, regarding my relationship to these two objects named “The Golfer’s Bible,” first: even if you charitably credit me for a few failed attempts to join my father on the links in early adolescence, the simple fact of the matter is that I am not, in any respect, a golfer. Moreover, I lack both the skills and the interest even to become a golfer. I do not currently, and probably never will again, play golf. Am I thus disqualified as a reader of either of these (quite specifically) Golfer’s Bibles? And if disqualified as a reader, how much less am I qualified as a judge of whether the (again, specifically invoked) community of golfers might rightly or wrongly point to either of these extant copies and claim it as their Bible?

Without belaboring the perplexities on both sides, it should hopefully be becoming clear that these questions are both numerous and serious. Indeed, substitute the label “Christian” (or “Catholic,” or “Protestant,” or “Mormon,” or “Gay / Lesbian,” etc.) in the place of “Golfer” in the above paragraph and the perplexities shift from humorous to poignant. What is (or is not) a Bible? Who is (or is not) a qualified reader or judge of with Sola Scriptura?” in Not by Scripture Alone: A Catholic Critique of the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura, Robert A. Sungenis, ed. (Goleta, CA: Queenship, 1997), 54-55.

the Bible? There is no trick involved in making these questions suddenly present and insistent; indeed, it will be claimed that “the trick,” if we are to speak of one, might arise rather in the fact that so often such questions seem to be hidden from our view, or are simply not mentioned.

I have set these two “Bibles” on my desk because they can function for us as a starting point for thinking through the connections and implications that arise from a series of what, at first glance, seem to be unrelated theological questions about Scripture.

These questions are posed by Michael J. McClymond in a recent article in the journal Theological Studies, and by Christian philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff in his book Reason Within the Bounds of Religion. We will examine each of these questions in more detail momentarily, but first, some general statements about the present project should be made.

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