The Anchored Argosy

Back at the end of September, Susannah and I decided that, as a content-producing married couple, we needed our own Substack newsletter, so we created The Anchored Argosy, which we introduced in this post.

Posts are somewhat irregular, but generally come about once every two or three weeks. Each one contains a mix of new material, notes on our reading, links to the material that we’ve recently produced, pictures from the last couple weeks, updates on our doings and happenings, and notes about events and other things that are coming up soon.

We’ve now posted five instalments. Here are some teasers of material from each.

From the first:

‘Interpretation’ language can easily imply an inert and mute text that needs to be given voice and life by its interpreters. The differences of readings between interpreters can then serve practically to negate the text’s authority and be used as an excuse for ignoring it. Indeed, a lot of ‘interpretation’ seems to be designed to obfuscate and sideline disputed texts from the field of Christian discourse.

My approach to ‘interpretation’—and I think Webster is articulating some of the underlying issues with clarity here—has long been that our task is to be attentive hearers of the word, to hear with understanding and to see with perception. In interpretative practice, this means that I spend most of my initial time with a text trying to downplay my interpretative agency and to exercise my attentive reception. I shelve my questions and try to hear the text—once, twice, three, four times.

From the second:

The historic development of the map from prior itineraries is analogous in certain respects with the evolution of other sorts of texts. Even by the thirteenth century, some time before the advent of print, which would accelerate and more firmly entrench the development, books were already evolving from texts designed chiefly for communal oral performance to texts designed more for the private silent reader. As part of this development, texts that were formerly conceived of as more akin to ‘itineraries’ of communal reading designed to form wisdom in a realm of reality through familiarizing performance, started to be regarded as more akin to ‘maps’ of a territory of knowledge.

Books began to be produced with a burgeoning array of navigational apparatus and paratextual tools and the formats of texts also changed (many older texts in the West did not even include spaces between their words). Chapters, verses, page numbers, indices and tables of contents, paragraphs, section headings and divisions, front matter, mises en page, etc. are all examples of things that were developed, elaborated, or otherwise transformed. Such additions allowed for different forms of engagement with—and conception of—texts. Former modes of reading faded, while others rapidly gained prominence.

Such developments encouraged discontinuous, de-temporalized, and spatialized modes of reading. They made it easier to conceive of the text as a mapped-out territory to be mined for information, with the reader able to jump directly from one passage of interest to another, without following any temporal itinerary through the text.

From the third:

[T]he sort of church order that typically develops in societies for which the automobile, mass media, democracy, and the free market are the more powerful socially organizing principles will be distinctive and susceptible to specific problems. As Lewis appreciated, without commitment to a robust parochial order, people are likely to affiliate on ideological, socioeconomic, temperamental, factional, generational, political, racial, or other grounds, in ways that are quite divisive of the Body of Christ. As such division resides in the very manner of the generation of such churches, it can continue to be operative even when people don’t leave or divide from the churches that they join.

In such an environment, the organic connection between a community firmly collectively grounded in a physical place and the church’s ordained ministries can easily become attenuated and the weight of the concept of ‘church’ can come to rest more heavily upon its ordained ministries, informal congregational life being limited in its scope. Rather than being a thick and concrete reality into which the ministries of the church operate, ‘community’ must increasingly be ‘astroturfed’, being an ersatz sociality generated by the church to attract potential congregants. That such a form of church order would be more susceptible to personality cults developing around leaders should also not surprise us.

From the fourth:

While the ‘good works’ of ancient society were chiefly the civic acts of the rich and powerful, in Titus and elsewhere Paul teaches that the gospel creates a whole community of people who are zealous for ‘good works’, who eagerly want to find some fitting outlet in which they can show goodness, grace, material benefit, and open-handed forgiveness to others as God has shown that to them. The point of such ‘good works’ is not merely to be obedient to commands narrowly considered, but to be free and fruitful participants in a new society defined by giving to others without demand of return. This vision is inherently outgoing and creative, giving to those from whom we have received nothing, making neighbours of strangers, and seeking any openings to give of ourselves, even to those who could make no claim upon our concern. One of the consequences of such good works is that they naturally produce a strong and loving community.

From the fifth:

The story of Noah is structured as an extended chiasm, with the Lord’s remembering Noah at its heart. Within the literary chiasm, there is a numerical chiasm of days to be observed: 7, 7, 40, 150, 150, 40, 7, 7. In Exodus 24:15-18, there is once again a period of seven days, followed by a period of forty days.

Noah’s Ark was a three-storey covered structure, its three storeys perhaps recalling the three-storeyed character of the creation—the sea and the realm below the earth, the earth, and the heavens—and the ascending levels of the tabernacle—the courtyard, the Holy Place, the Most Holy Place. The dimensions of Noah’s Ark have several points of resemblance with those of the tabernacle and its furniture. Noah’s Ark (300 x 50 cubits) was the exact size of three tabernacle courtyards (100 x 50 cubits) laid end to end. The breadth (50 cubits) to the height (30 cubits) of Noah’s Ark had the same ratio (5:3) as the length (2.5 cubits) to the height (1.5 cubits) of the Ark of the Covenant. Presuming Noah’s Ark’s three storeys were of equal height, they were each ten cubits high, the same height as the tabernacle. Each of these storeys (300 x 50 x 10 cubits) would have been able to contain the tabernacle proper (30 x 10 x 10 cubits) exactly fifty times over.

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About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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1 Response to The Anchored Argosy

  1. Cxzsdf says:

    No more doing? No more begging for support from atheist leaders in the uk? No more noticing since you live in the fascist UK under the nose of threatening organizations like hope not hate? Or are you still begging for scrapes? What a useless post. Stick to your begging and threatening other Christians, it’s all you’re good at.

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