A Few Thoughts in Response to Peter Ochs

David Ford
Cambridge University

First, I would like to say, generally, how fruitful I have found the approach of SR. The most striking instance was when Ochs and I gave a joint paper to the opening conference of the new Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations in Cambridge. The response was very moving many saying that this was the sort of approach they had been looking for. A very different context was a review of the curricula for state examinations in religious studies in Britain, where the idea of “conversations around texts” proved to be helpful in handling both the interreligious issue and the polarizing of “study of sacred texts” versus topic-centred ethical/religious discussion. And so on!

I think the most basic theological statement derivable from Ochs’ paper for summing up SR is this: the desire to take part in God’s compassionate redemption of modernity (including our universities and their disciplines) and of our religious traditions and communities (I) (F) through conversations around scriptural and other texts (i) . I would, however, probably want to see the “taking part” as somewhat less problem-centered (without denying the huge problems) (5) . Joy as well as suffering!

I find most of what Ochs says congenial, and also most of what Dan Hardy said in response, and I am particularly interested in Hardy’s critical questioning of the focus on “texts.”

” We can be led in our work ultimately by listening alone, ” says Ochs (C) . That fascinates me, not just as a fundamental challenge to develop new practices of listening and theologies of listening. But what if God as listener is made fundamental? How would Barth’s CD I.1 and all the rest read if we had revelation defined as ” Dei audientis persona ” alongside “Dei loquentis persona ” ? Does a listening God not help us rethink the “powerful initiative-taking speaker “? A God whose revelation occurs as God listens attentively to our interpretations of texts, drawing out of us (as the best listeners do) a word which is as deeply ours as God’s? And then we imitate God.

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