20130903

Getting The Units Wrong

I got into an internet debate today. Yeah, i know, it's mostly a waste of time. But i did enjoy the process of sharpening my own thoughts. At one point, the opponent rephrased my words "follow Jesus" into "follow the Bible 100%". Some who agreed with me accepted the rephrasing and ran with it. It bugged me immediately, but it took a while for me to articulate why.  Here's what i concluded:

We don't follow an "it"; we don't measure salvation in percentages. We are called not to comply with a rulebook, but to follow a divine Person, revealed in creation, history, community and, yes, scripture. These scriptures were given in pieces over time to differing cultures and situations, and they are a true story far, far more than they are a factual textbook or rulebook. To speak of percentages implies a measurable equivalence between any one part and another, something you might get with a dictionary, but never with a story, never with religious texts. All parts matter, but by no means in equal measure. So when we emphasize that we follow Jesus, the Son of God, revealed in all of the Bible, it is because saying something mathematic like "follow the Bible 100%" utterly fails to describe the lifelong (and then some) process of interpreting everything contextually (big picture always trumps cherry-picked text), culturally (in light of people to whom it was given), literally (in proper "literature" sense, as many genres are found in the Bible), and relationally (it was never given to be interpreted in isolation). It is pharisaical to try and handle the Bible (or any story) like a series of manageable numbers/facts/rules, and i'm sure you're aware of what Jesus thought of the Pharisees. 
Anyone handling theology or scripture MUST maintain a sense of humility and accept a certain degree of mystery, because every idea you grasp of an infinite, creator God is, by definition, simplified or wrong in some way in order for it to fit into your finite, created head. Any other approach to God inescapably means you've a priori concluded that either your own understanding is infinite or else God is finite/non-existent.


Yeah, i'm pretty happy with this coming out, regardless of the likely fruitless outcome of the debate.  Gosh, are internet debates even worthy of the word "debate"? Probably not.
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