Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On Conversation

During Briercrest's SERVE conference a couple weekends ago (podcasts here), Ray Ortlund quoted Spurgeon as saying:
An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living. . . . When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven, and feel at peace when they have anchored under the lee of his friendship. Such a man is hearty in private as well as in public; his blood is not cold and fishy, but he is warm as your own fireside. No pride and selfishness chill you when you approach him; he has his doors all open to receive you, and you are at home with him at once. - C.H. Spurgeon, "The Minister's Ordinary Conversation," in Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 169.

Around the same time I read a student exegesis paper on Colossians 4:2-6 and got to thinking, again, about what it means to "redeem the time" speaking words "seasoned with salt."
According to C.F.D. Moule:
"seasoned with salt" in Colossians 4:6 "may well mean 'witty', 'not insipid'.... If so, this verse is a plea to Christians not to confuse loyal godliness with a dull, graceless insipidity. If a Christian is ever difficult company, it ought to be because he demands too much, not too little, from his fellows' responsiveness and wit" - The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians and to Philemon (Cambridge: 1962), 135.
Over the weekend I read Robert Goldenberg's description of traditional Jewish study:
This mode of study, called in Aramaic havruta ("fellowship"), turns text study into dialogue and makes books into tools for overcoming, not strengthening, isolation. It makes the tradition of rabbinic learning a powerful source of community cohesion, a source of speech rather than silence. This activity was usually called not "study" but "learning," and in every Jewish community an invitation to fellowship could take the form of the proposal "Let's learn together." The life of the mind and the life of society were thus made one....It seems to me that solitary study tends to seek meaning, while study be-havruta tends to look for implications. When we read by ourselves, and we are satisfied that we have understood, we naturally move on. But when "learning" is a kind of conversation, then there is always more to be said. The rate of progress is more leisurely, the depth of analysis more penetrating." - Robert Goldenberg, “Talmud” in Barry W. Holtz, ed., Back To The Sources׃ Reading the Classic Jewish Texts (1984; repr. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 168-9.

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