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An Intimate Revelation

Intercultural Bible Reading with Adolescents

Taggert E. Wolverton

An Intimate Revelation chronicles an unprecedented multi-year research project that investigated what happens when adolescents from around the world read and discuss Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son together. The study gathered together adolescent participants, pastoral leaders, and theologians from several countries to read in conversational communities, and these groups then exchanged their interpretations with each other across cultural and religious distinctions. The result is a helpful step forward in understanding how adolescents make meaning when they read the Bible and how the intercultural reading process can spur participants toward spiritual growth.

The book begins by presenting thorough explanations of the foundational concepts of the project before then focusing on each of the groups’ specific experiences through a close examination of their transcripts and written materials. With that foundation laid, a critical analysis of the material investigates signs of spiritual growth as well as the adolescent participants’ ability to function in the process of intercultural communication. The participants’ hermeneutical interpretive grids are presented along with evidence of their ability to create theological applications, and finally the process of intercultural Bible reading is itself compared to the characteristics of effective youth ministry as a hopeful ally in the development of the next generation’s spirituality.

As a report on the only study of its kind to empirically observe adolescent Bible readers participating in an intercultural reading process, these pages offer insight and motivation to pastoral leaders, theologians, and anyone else questioning how to connect this globally aware generation to a vibrant faith.

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1 Understanding Intercultural Bible Reading


. 1 .

Understanding Intercultural Bible Reading

Hans Christian Andersen’s classic children’s story “The Ugly Duckling” is a well-known tale of a mother duck who decides that she must have hatched a turkey egg by mistake when she takes her first look at the gangly, oversized hatchling that emerges from her clutch of eggs. After a brief swim, though, she realizes the duckling (who is “not so very ugly after all if you look at him properly”)1 cannot possibly be a turkey. Once they arrive in the farmyard, however, the other animals so harass the ugly duckling that he flies out into the wild moor where he receives even more rejection from those he happens upon. At one point he watches swans take flight overhead and feels “quite a strange sensation,” but the moment passes and he ends up barely surviving through the winter by lying in the bushes all alone. When the spring arrives, he finds he is at last able to fly, and seeing swans once again he approaches them only in the hope that they will kill him and end his misery. Yet as he bends his head down to the surface of the water in anticipation of his death, he sees his own image no longer as a dark, gray bird, but as a graceful and beautiful swan. The story finishes with Andersen writing, “He did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet not at all proud. He had...

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