Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Brief outline of Tim's proposed paper

This paper would have three sections, (despite the fancy titles for them I still have no overall title!):

The return of the Rabbi

This section will argue that characteristic features of electronic media in particular its ubiquity, cheapness of delivery and cost of production will have a profound impact on all education and that Theology will not be different.

Ubiquity of access combined with low cost of delivery will make quality teaching available fronted by well-known names. The cost of production for these quality materials will impact on the current egalitarian nature of web publication creating once again an “unequal playing field”. Thus when Walter Brueggemann hosts Introduction to the Hebrew Bible on the Harvard Channel there is likely to be small market for Tim Bulkeley’s lectures on similar topics.

However, there are in all religious traditions models of education, that are better suited to the new environment than is the “sage on the stage” of the traditional “lecture theatre” for the delivery of education that moves beyond the communication of ideas. The rabbi or guru provides a model for personal communication and shaping in understanding and wisdom that information transfer alone cannot achieve. [Cf. much contemporary pedagogical thinking.]

Out of the Ghetto

Yet, at the same time (but not really paradoxically) web publication is extremely cheap, if one does not require high production values in the multimedia components. This “cheapness” (in terms of both cash and effort expended) combines with ease of access to ensure that theology cannot remain a largely closed activity preaching only to the converted.

In an electronically mediated world theology must leave its (self-imposed) ghetto and return to the market place. [Cf. the Public Theology movement.]

But Back to Shul

The locus of theology is a community. Again this heading has a back to the future feel to it. And, again to multiply the inversions, contrasts or paradoxes, at the same time the possibility of creating communities of education that share common culture assumptions and heritage can occur in new ways. Instead of a shul (a Yiddish word that means a local meeting house including its associated educational activities, but that to Anglophones suggests primarily education) that is local – because of the need to be within a Sabbath’s walk from all its members homes – one can have a community producing theology that is not localised.