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Madeleine on Unbelievable?

May 5th, 2011 by Matt

Recently we posted a link to an episode from Justin Brierly’s Unbelievable? show on the UK station Premier Christian Radio which featured a podcast of Paul Copan and Norman Bacrac discussing Is God a Moral Monster? Yesterday we were alerted to the fact that at the end of the Unbelievable? episode of 23 Apr 2011, “Rob Bell defends ‘Love Wins’“, Brierly had a  follow-up feedback session where he played calls and read out emails from listeners commenting on the issues raised in the Copan and Bacrac show. Several people were clearly confused by Copan’s argument and we were pleasantly surprised to hear Brierly positively offer a short hermeneutical piece written by Madeleine on the Unbelievable? forums as a response to the concerns of his listeners.

To listen to the whole follow-up feedback session on the Copan Bacrac podcast click on Rob Bell defends ‘Love Wins’ and skip forward – just drag the slider forward – to 1:06:21 and play from there. (The section relating to Madeleine starts at 1:11:43.)

We have had several requests for the text of what Madeleine wrote that Brierly read out, so here it is below:

It does not follow that just because there is good textural and cultural evidence to read specific passages this way that all passages must now be read that way.

Chocolate Cake

If I wrote a book of memoirs of my life that included a poem I wrote to be read out at my wedding, my favourite recipe for chocolate cake and my first hand experience of surviving an earthquake do you read the part of my memoirs recording my experience and observations of the earthquake as a poem? Do you take the chocolate cake recipe as historical narrative of a natural disaster? Do you assume I am an idiot for mixing my genres in a single text? Of course not! you can recognise the different genres as you read your way through the book and strike them – doing this is easy when we are reading texts from our own culture and time but when we talking about another culture and time written in another language, it is a lot harder but it does not mean that the we stop looking for genre and context clues and we start saying if we are to interpret passage x as rhetorical flourish then we have to interpret everything as rhetorical flourish.

It never ceases to amaze me that people fail to get this point which Madeleine makes in a far more pithy way than I could.

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  • Indeed. That mistake would be a clear-cut fallacy of composition, reducing the genre of the whole document to that of a particular passage. As you make clear, a single “genre” can not always neatly be assigned to a whole document. Or if in your example “memoirs” counts as such, this allows a given passage to participate in multiple genres.

    It can be difficult to resist the temptation to ascribe a single genre, motive and intended meaning, but resist that reductionist tendency we must, since both communication and communicators are more complex than that. Nonetheless, a singular goal is often had, and therein lies the rub.

  • Interesting and I would agree with most of what Maddy has to say.

  • Speaking of Rob Bell, goodness gracious me! what a storm has been created over his book.

    I am halfway through it and have some serious concerns over the way Bell is ‘conversing’ .

    I can appreciate his desire to combat the extreme ‘hell fire and brimstone’ type of Christianity, but perhaps not quite the way he is going about it!!
    If he was after notoriety, mission accomplished!

  • Madeleine on Unbelievable? | MandM…

    I’m still not sure if I’m convinced I mean why not just go with what the text says and understand that God had good enough moral reason and authority to command what God do/does and do/allow what God does? If we disagree – we are wrong. Be-that-as-it-may, I found Madeliene Flannagan’s expressions well-worth reading and she summed up the position in a very compact way. …

  • Brightly, beautifully, very much all is correct!