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September 2017
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In part 1 and part 2, I wrote about the changing character of my theology of scripture, specifically scripture as comprehended in reading. It remains to ask what the parallels might be between listening to music and reading scripture.

Reading scripture is usually for the purpose of trying to receive something from or through it. It is impossible to finally adjudicate what counts as a religious or spiritual or theological intention toward the text “going in,” and the same is true with what is taken away “going out.” There are too many possible readings and readers, too many angles on what counts as the theological material of the context, the intention, the experience, or the reception. This is not the same as saying that every possible act of dealing with scripture is the same as any other, or that theology contributes nothing to the figuring and the comprehension of such acts.

What reading scripture and hearing music have in common is that they are situated experiences: ancient, yes, in their pedigree, but also shaped by style — such as musical genre or religious tradition, racial-ethnic identification, sexual self-cosmology. What they further have in common — theologically — is the multivectored forms of sense-making that can be attributed to them: there is theological material in the testimony of the reader(s)/hearer(s), in the reading/hearing practices of reader(s) and hearer(s), in the interpretation of their act suggested by a tradition (religious or otherwise) taken to be authoritative, and in the interpretation given by scholars or others with an acknowledged special attunement to the practice at hand. What we are left with, I think, is back-and-forth — that is ever unfinished, and in principle unfinishable — about how reading and hearing are forces on identity contingent on (a) claiming power.

This is how I think of what theology can contribute: bringing this question and this form of analysis to practice. Taking it to hearing music helps with making theological sense of scripture-reading, and the reverse is true as well. “Claiming power” is the term I use for “God” “Gods” or “the sacred” or “divinity” here — or whatever name is given to a force of ultimacy.

Tommy Beaudoin, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York


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