Whenever I get caught in some queue or other, and having nothing to read or otherwise occupy my time, I often turn to insoluble questions as a means to pass the time.
These questions or ideas if you will, have no answer, and aren’t meant to, but they give pause, and more than once,no doubt you have exclaimed, “I don’t have time to think about this now, but I intend to think about it some time!”
I’ve been reading about rhetorical criticism. It’s one of many many ways of examining scripture. If scripture has meaning, then surely it is important to understand what exactly it says and more importantly, what it means. Such is the province of the biblical expert. Now there are fifteen or more recognized exegetical methodologies around today, and no doubt there will be more, as we advance in learning.
Rhetorical criticism examines in part the difficulty in assigning meaning to words that we all commonly use, but which we undoubtedly interpret in our own unique way. Let me explain. Assume you are a babe, having as of yet no language. You hear the word Mama. Over time, you begin to associate the sound with the object. When you are older you learn that the odd squiggles of M and A also mean the sound.
Every time you read or hear the word mama from this moment onward, you bring to your “definition” all the experiences of the word you have encountered in your life. How you relate to your own mother, how you see others relating to theirs. It all impacts on your understanding of the word.
Now put that in a sentence, composed of other words, all with the same history of meanings overlaid by years of experiences. Now paragraphs. You begin to see the idea? Not a single one of us reads anything to mean exactly the same thing as anyone else. The saving grace is that the differences may be minor enough in most cases that we can function with each other, giving a relatively same meaning to most words.
But you can go crazy thinking about the possibilities, no?
Another idea I’ve heard more than once. Scientists in the arena of physics or quantum mechanics, or mathematics (not exactly sure which since I claim no scientific excellence), claim that every choice that can or could be made has been made in some alternate universe. This means that tomorrow, although I have several ways to get to church, I will choose one, and the others will play out somewhere else.
Think of all the decisions ever made, from the innocuous to the super important, and then rethink that idea. It happened that way, somewhere. And all the attendant consequences of that decision also played out. Mind boggled enough yet?
Just contemplating the size of the universe or the concept of infinity will also do it for you. Ditto thinking on Trinity (three in one, but not separate but not one? ) The possibilities are endless aren’t they?
Here’s one. Fundamentalists claim that the bible is the actual perfect and unchanged “Word of God.” Where does this notion come from? And some of those fundamentalists claim that they must not adulterate that Word by listening to “interpretations” no matter how learned, from others. God no doubt wrote or had written text that was understandable by at least most of humanity.
So the statement “word of God” doesn’t come from the bible of course. It could not logically, since the writings that compose the Bible were not canonized sometimes until millennial later, but at least centuries. It must have been the teaching of some person or church then. And doesn’t this then violate that the Bible stands alone without need of “interpretation” except by the reader him/herself with the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
So do fundamentalists think that this notion just “came” to them out of the blue? And if so, on what basis do they conclude that their conclusions are of God and not the result of a certain fallen angel? Given that reading the bible in a fundamentalist manner is categorically wrong by every rational and learned standard of today, and leads to incorrect conclusions and dangerous ones at that, one can make a strong case that such a conclusion is the work of the dark one, and not God at all.
Surely God wishes us to understand our faith, and our history correctly right?
So next time you are in a traffic jam or long line at the bank, just start to contemplate one of these beauties. The time will pass, and you won’t have solved a thing, but your mind will be ready for almost anything after battling itself with a quantum leap or two.
G’wan, you know you want to. Your spouse is used to that vacant stare anyway!