Preaching as the Proclaimed Word–Day 5

Today the class session was only in the morning and yet was still intensive.

We talked about the way that oral, literary, and electronic cultures shape the way the Word of God is shared. We used Walter Ong to frame the conversation.

Oral Culture

We utilize sound more than any other sense.

From voice to the ear.
Time and space bound
Community and tribe building
Learning becomes a shared event

Knowledge is connected to the experience of the body and person. Memory becomes a marker of wisdom. Communication happens in memorable forms of narrative and image.

Limits in oral cultures exist in the demand of time and experience. It takes time to listen to someone and hear them share the information in a memorable format. Sound and space is local and so learning exists in a local context and can struggle to move beyond that local context.

Literary Culture

Two eras 1) Papyrus (handwritten) and 2) Moveable Type (quickly formatted writing)

Literary culture especially uses the the eye. Eyes to the page.

Time boundaries are variable. You can go back over the same page.

Learning is individual/solitary.

Community that is built in the literary culture builds through who shares the book, not through who shares the space. You can build a communal connection to people across time periods by sharing their book

The alphabet captures the sound and the idea. Narrative takes place in time and reading occurs across time. The page breaks the constraints and allows ideas/constructs/logic to be put down apart from the narrative.

Knowledge is not found in memory but accrual of information.

Individuals learn in silence, thought goes silent. Information exists beyond a person’s death.

The book is given reverence. Who is the writer writing to? The audience is diffuse in space and time. The presence of information exists beyond time/space.

Electronic Culture

In this culture we are hearing and seeing. Time constraints are back but not space constraints. Information exists strongly in a particular time context, although information does not disappear in the same way it did in an oral culture. A picture/video online has sticks around. We can be present anywhere in the world through electronic media but can’t affect what we see. Multi-tasking, fast changing technology. The information on paper had a weight to it because it was on paper. Electronic Culture information carries no importance because of what it is written on, but because it is shared. Is a tweet a tweet if it is never sent?

Knowledge does not require memorization. How important is it to memorize the capital of the states in America? You can just look the answer up on your smartphone. Knowledge is searchable and can be from around the world and from anyone. The weight of information becomes equal without preference for who uploaded the information.

Communication is in images with and without sound. Videos allow a person to be present in the story of another person.

Information and knowledge are divided. Wisdom is measured in the ability to bring together information from multiple stories and shape the information into a narrative.

Electronic culture is limited by the absence of a physical neighbor. Can we be human without memory and touch with another?

What are the implications for the church? We live in all three cultures in the church. Oral, literary and electronic cultures affect life in the church unlike they do in any other community. We speak/sing the liturgy and it is a shared sound (unless the liturgy is frequently changed ((which is a result of a fear of the oral cultural memorable forms))). The Scripture readings are read aloud but are also recorded on paper for people to follow along. Media includes art, screens, and video clips.

We can be in touch with people but not necessarily in community. A church though has the power to bring the being of the body of Christ into each cultural framework.

Indeed we live in a time when the forms for public discourse are diverse.


2 thoughts on “Preaching as the Proclaimed Word–Day 5

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  1. I am intrigued by your statement: “Individuals learn in silence, thought goes silent. Information exists beyond a person’s death.”

    “Information exists beyond a person’s death”~ Does this mean that information we have learned continues in the world’s mind after our death, or are you saying that we take information learned during our life here on earth on to our Eternal life?

  2. When a person tells a story, the story and its information exist in the telling of the story. When the storyteller dies, the story continues but now becomes the information and story of the next person. The next person owns the story in how they share it and with whom they share it.

    In a literary culture a person writes something done on paper. Now the information exists on paper apart from the existence of the writer. When the writer dies, the information is still on the paper in the same form it was before the person died. The death of the person did not change the information on the paper.

    So between an oral culture and literary culture the information changes in ownership. The literary character of Scripture is good in terms of authority. Because authority now goes forward beyond just the first witness to the next witnesses but with the same authority of the first witnesses.

    The Scriptures are very interesting because they contain the residual character of an oral culture but they also gain the timelessness of the literary age. So when sharing the Scriptures I am sharing a truth that exists beyond just the words on the page.

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