August 2-4: Summer Institute 2018

2018 Summer Institute


Register Here

The old saying is unfortunately true: You can use the Bible to prove anything. People have always disagreed strongly about what the Bible means. Those disagreements arise because people have different ways of reading the Bible.

  • We each bring our preconceived ideas to the Bible.
  • We each have our own way of deciding what the words of a text mean.
  • We each come from traditions that have explained the Bible to us in various ways.

Sometimes it feels as if we are each reading different Bibles. In such circumstances, can the Bible communicate to us? Summer Institute 2018 intends to explore this important issue:

With such a diversity of perspectives,
can the Bible really speak,
and if so, how?

Summer Institute is always an exploration, a sampling of writings and ideas; we seek to provide an experience with some of the flavor of a Gutenberg College education. The Institute is not the sort of conference that provides a systematic, comprehensive set of lectures on a particular topic. This year, to explore the question of whether and how the Bible can communicate, we will read and discuss significant ancient and contemporary texts, including passages from the Bible. And speakers will present their own reflections on some of the issues raised by those readings. We hope to provide varied and stimulating sessions relevant to the topic of how we read the Bible.


Institute Details


Thursday night, August 2, 5:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Friday night, August 3, 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 4, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


Gutenberg College
1883 University Street
Eugene, OR 97403


(includes dinner on Friday night; continental breakfast on Saturday morning; and lunch on Saturday):
Before July 1: $85 (Individual); $110 (Family); $35 (Student)
July 1 and after: $100 (Individual); $125 (Family); $40 (Student)

Stream the lectures live: $15**

* Financial Aid: Limited financial aid packages are available for those who wish to attend. If you wish to apply, please contact the office.

Volunteer opportunities: We can also offer reduced costs for volunteers. If you would like to volunteer, please contact the office.

** Online Streaming:

  • Only lectures will be streamed. Discussions will not be streamed.
  • A PDF of the reading material will be provided to streamers to read.
  • A recording of each of the lecture videos will be available online for a month after the end of the conference.


Limited lodging at Gutenberg College is available. Cost for lodging is $30 per night for a single room and $45 per night for a double room. Please email the Gutenberg office if you are interested in staying at Gutenberg. Space is very limited.


  • Go here to register online for the Summer Institute. Or call the Gutenberg College office: 541-683-5141.
  • Go here to register for streaming.

Childcare: If you are interested in childcare, please email for more information.



(See details of readings and lectures under Format below.)

Thursday Night

5:30-6:15 p.m. Check In
6:15-6:30 p.m. Welcome
6:30-8:00 p.m. Discussion of Reading One
8:00-8:15 p.m. Break
8:15-9:00 p.m. Lecture 1: Chris Swanson

Friday Night

5:00-6:00 p.m. Dinner
6:00-7:30 p.m. Discussion of Reading Two
7:30-7:45 p.m. Break
7:45-8:30 p.m. Lecture 2: Charley Dewberry & Chris Alderman


8:30-9:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast
9:00-10:30 a.m. Discussion of Reading Three
10:30-10:45 a.m. Break
10:45-11:30 a.m. Lecture 3: Eliot Grasso
11:30-12:30 p.m. Lunch
12:30-2:00 p.m. Discussion of Reading Four
2:00-2:15 p.m. Break
2:15-3:00 p.m. Lecture 4: Ron Julian
3:00-3:30 p.m. Q and A


Format: Discussions & Lectures

Gutenberg College Summer Institutes are an opportunity to explore a topic while getting some of the “Gutenberg” experience. That is, we discuss readings from important works in our culture and also listen to talks related to the topic. The presenters/discussion leaders are listed below. A reading packet (PDF) will be emailed to participants.

Thursday Night

6:30-8:00 p.m. Discussion of Reading One: “How Have We Read the Parables?” A collection from church history of various approaches to interpreting the parables.

8:10-9:00 p.m. Lecture One
Chris Swanson: “It’s All Greek to Me: How Byzantium Reformed Reading”
After the fall of Rome, medieval thinkers preserved Rome’s twofold legacy, Greek philosophy and Christianity, through a synthesis of faith and reason. One of the key ways they combined the two was through allegorical interpretation of biblical passages. In the early Italian Renaissance, interest in Greek and Roman writings was revived by classical scholars, who set out to bring home and translate newly discovered ancient Greek texts. That interest was enriched by the arrival of noted Greek scholars from the East around the time of the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The combination of Greek textual tools and the Italian enthusiasm for classical origins laid the groundwork for an entirely new approach to biblical interpretation, which was later taken up by the Reformers in northern Europe. This talk will explore medieval and Reformation approaches to biblical interpretation and the fascinating story of how the East reformed reading in the West.

Friday Night

6:00-7:30 p.m. Discussion of Reading Two: A section from What is Postmodern Biblical Criticism? by A. K. M. Adam

7:40-8:30 p.m. Lecture Two
Charley Dewberry & Chris Alderman: “Author, Reader, Text: Postmodern Challenges for a Hermeneutic of Faith”
Beginning with Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1880s pronouncement of the “death” of God, modernity has rolled out of bed each morning to find another big name in the obituary column: the Author, metaphysics, the Work. Have reports of their demise been greatly exaggerated, or does the “hermeneutics of suspicion” spell the end of biblical interpretation as we know it? Join us as we explore some of the challenges, epistemological as well as hermeneutic, posed by the work of the major postmodern thinkers.



9:00-10:30 a.m. Discussion of Reading Three: A section from Kierkegaard’s For Self-Examination.

10:40-11:30 a.m. Lecture Three
Eliot Grasso: “Music and Interpretation: Prescription and Description”
Listening to and performing music is like pursuing Christianity in this critical way: in both cases, a reader/hearer must decide what actions to take and how to take them. To live well before God, Christians are faced with this question after reading the Bible: What should I do? The Bible offers prescriptions and descriptions. Some sections prescribe actions to pursue or to avoid, while other sections describe historical circumstances. But how do I know what I should do? This talk will investigate the parallels between understanding music (both performance and listening) and the prescriptive and descriptive ways of understanding the Bible.


12:30-2:00 p.m. Discussion of Reading Four: “How Did Jesus Read the Bible?” Several key passages where Jesus speaks to the issue of reading the Scriptures.

2:10-3:00 p.m. Lecture Four
Ron Julian: “Are We All Reading the Same Bible?”
This conference explores approaches to biblical interpretation in church history, in postmodern thought, in the writing of Kierkegaard, and in the teaching of Jesus. This final talk will pull these themes together and will make a case for the power of the Scriptures to communicate to all, in spite of the differing presuppositions with which we start.


Speakers / Discussion Leaders

Chris Alderman
Chris Alderman (M.A., Language and Literature) is a tutor at Gutenberg College and the self-published author of two collections of poetry.

Charley DewberryCharley Dewberry (M.S. Stream Ecology; Ph.D. Philosophy) is the dean and a tutor at Gutenberg College. He is the author of Saving Science and Intelligent Discourse: Exposing the Fallacious Standoff Between Evolution and Intelligent Design.

Eliot Grasso
Eliot Grasso (M.A., Ethnomusicology; Ph.D., Musicology) is the provost and a tutor at Gutenberg College. He is also an internationally known musician.

Ron Julian
Ron Julian (M.A., Religion) is a tutor at Gutenberg College, the author of Righteous Sinners, and a co-author of The Language of God: A Commonsense Approach to Understanding and Applying the Bible.

Chris Swanson
Chris Swanson (M.S., Physics; Ph.D., Physics) is the president and a tutor at Gutenberg College.


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