Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Burridge Day

The King's College London Richard Burridge day was a success. Throughout the day different speakers examined aspects of Richard's work and we together celebrated his reception of the Ratzinger Prize. Most of the papers examined his game changing monograph, What Are the Gospels? To this end Steve Walton did a very good job at showing just what an impact Richard's work has had on scholarship. Of course, it was pointed out that not everyone has been convinced by Richard's work, that they remain a minority. Andrew Lincoln's paper was perhaps the most meaty and well crafted, and raised some fascinating questions relating to the truth of John's Gospel and the synoptic birth narratives.

But rather than go on about the individual papers, something Chris Keith has nicely done already, I will simply mention a couple of highlights. It was, of course, great fun to sit next to and banter with Chris K, and I also enjoyed time chatting with Francis Watson about his book, Gospel Writing. I was left with a number of questions at the end of reading that book, and I tried as best as I could - with a head full of wine - to give some of my thoughts voice!

I also appreciated how Richard engaged with the critical aspects of the papers in the final session. In response to Watson's point that the Gospels are called euangelion, not bioi, Richard responded by speaking of the genre in terms of intersecting circles, and in the end Watson and Richard were in agreement. In response to Robin's question (the chap who chaired the first session - here was the schedule), Richard once again nuanced what his claim implies with regard to genre identification.

Prof Jan van der Watt gave a moving paper about the impact of Richard’s work in the South African setting, and one phrase stuck with me: “this vision [i.e. of an inclusive community ethic] works!”. I introduced that session by briefly summarising Richard’s book, Imitating Jesus with these words:

“In this section we look at Richard's important work relating to the ethical dimensions involved in his narrative biographical reading of the Gospels, with special reference to Imitating Jesus, short listed for another award, this time the Michael Ramsay Prize.

In this volume, in many ways, the rubber hits the road! Here Richard wrestles away the word "biblical" from exclusive fundamentalism, and negotiates a way forward towards responsible biblical ethics. But instead of capitulating to what he calls liberal Christianity, he encourages an ethic grounded in an inclusive and open community of Christ followers, one informed by his genre studies, and therefore richly christological. He poignantly shows how his approach would have refuted the painful history of apartheid in South Africa, precisely where people were claiming that pro-apartheid doctrine of separate development deserved the honorific label, "biblical". In Imitating Jesus, over against this, we find a deeply christological, and delightfully attractive ethical vision.”

The absolute highlight of my day, however, was to  have a seat at the "Dean’s Dinner" in the evening, where not only did Richard speak well, but I also had a great chat with Steve Walton.

Once again  congratulations to Richard Burridge for his achievements and Eddie Adams, Paul Joyce and the crew for organising a fine day.


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