Last winter, Elsa Marty, a fellow Div School student, approached me with a strange request. “Michael,” she said, “I’m working on a dictionary and I need some help with a few entries. You’re taking a hermeneutics class, could you do some related entries…?” I agreed and after about a day or so of brushing up on “Hermeneutics,” “Friedrich Schleiermacher,” and “Liberal Theology,” I submitted my thoughts and forgot about the whole endeavor. Then, this summer, Elsa found me again to let me know that my entries were accepted as part of her edited volume A Dictionary of the Philosophy of Religion. She told me I made the acknowledgments page: “Michael Swartzentruber, University of Chicago Divinity School.” The book came out just this month, August.
I couldn’t believe it. I was “published”… okay, pretty meager stuff–but very cool to me, especially since I wanted to taste the feeling of academic success through writing. Then, in an instant, I went into freak out mode: “Wait, I’m published? What the heck did I write? Did I get it right? Is my writing too technical? Did I forget something important? Oh no… I’m exposed and vulnerable….”
After reviewing my entries, I realized that, yes, they sound pretty technical and, unfortunately, not many people will care too much about the work I submitted. But, all in all, its decent stuff–and I surprised myself with how thorough and knowledgeable I was (emphasis on was) about the topics. In fact, in a strange way, I taught myself in re-reading my own entries. I found myself saying, “huh, really? I never knew that… oh, wait, I did. I guess I just forgot…”
In the end, I don’t recommend this little collection to the everyday person as arm-chair reading. It’s mainly for students and scholars; and probably more for students, those trying to situate themselves in the swirl of philosophy. But, if you do have an interest, I recommend the entries on Hermeneutics, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Liberal Theology…. just sayin’.