Interview with Amy Erickson
Amy Erickson is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Iliff School of Theology. She did her MDiv at Columbia Theological Seminary, where she studied with Walter Brueggemann, and then went on to earn her PhD at Princeton Theological Seminary. See her full faculty bio here.
Dr. Erickson recently revised, updated, and wrote a new introduction for Brueggemann’s The Creative Word: Canon and Christian Imagination, and she has answered some questions about the book below.
When did you first encounter Walter and his work?
I started my MDiv at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1997. Although I was a complete literature geek, I hadn’t read past Genesis. Because I had only encountered the Bible through bad sermons, I assumed the Bible was preachy and theologically conservative.
Walter Brueggemann quickly and forcefully disabused me of my assumptions. Known for throwing himself against blackboards, shouting in a knowingly un-academic way in class, mischievously translating the Old Testament’s more vulgar expressions into the vernacular, and gleefully announcing that he was heading home to do exegesis in the same way one might proclaim, “I’m off to Hawaii!” Walter embodied his bracingly invigorating approach to the Bible and I was hooked from Day 1.
How did this project come about? What was interesting to you about this particular book?
Since the publication of The Creative Word in 1982, scholarship on canonization has exploded. A whole host of biblical scholars, using a variety of methods and aided by a range of extradisciplinary theory, has weighed in on the development and function of the canon as a whole and of particular canonical groupings.
This work has pushed the field in a number of exciting directions; and yet, few have addressed the topic of canon from the standpoint of education for and in the mainline church, and none have done so in a way as compelling and accessible as Brueggemann has in this book.
What is it like to work with Walter’s material?
Intimidating! I have not just been reading Walter’s work since the late 1990s, I have been deeply formed by it – not just by his ideas and the way he approaches a text but by the cadence and force of his writing. Bringing myself to mess with Walter’s particular use of the English language was the most challenging aspect of the entire project.
How do you hope this book is used?
I hope it won’t be confined to religious or Christian education classes and circles. There is so much wisdom in this book – for teachers and pastors alike. So many mainline churches are struggling to articulate (and put into practice) their identities.
In my experience, church communities tend to organize themselves like cable news stations: the MSNBC church, the Fox News congregation, and the Al Jazeera community. Modeled as such, “church” becomes familiar, bland, and so utterly predictable that there is little room for growth or change.
By insisting that the entire community appreciate the various modes exemplified in each of the three divisions of the canon, Brueggemann not only exposes our tendency to become settled and to silence or marginalize the voices that threaten to disrupt our narrow but secure perceptions of truth, he also offers church communities a way to imagine how they might educate their members into a different way of being and invite them into an alternative world. The diversity in the canon becomes a model for the community in the church.