Saturday, June 4, 2011


 A theme, if you will, that I have been thinking and reading about recently has been an emphasis on specificity and narrative, rather than abstraction and data, or rules. This train of thought actually started in the Christian theology class I took this spring, which really emphasized the interpreting the bible in light of the whole narrative arc, rather than by using “proof texts” to make specific points. A key component of this is understanding context.

I am always excited when I find that the intellectual journey that I seem to be on is mirrored by others, so I was happy to find that Patrol has a wonderful, insightful piece by Jonathan Fitzgerald on The Beautifully Ambiguous Bible. In it, he talks about how he wanted to get past all the stories in the Bible so he could find the rules. He talks of how he has grown past that and appreciates the stories and the ambiguity that comes with narrative. When we realize that the vast majority of the Bible is composed of stories, and not lists, or rules, or formulas, it may not change how we believe we ought to act, but the focus of our lives shifts. Tony Woodlief, in a piece from Image Magazine, tries to explain why Christian writing is so bad, says,
“I think we might craft better characters if we accept that every one of us is journeying the path between heaven and hell, and losing his way, and rushing headlong one direction before abruptly changing course to dash in the other, and hearing rumors about what lies ahead, and hoping and dreading in his heart what lies each way, and grabbing hold of someone by the arm or by the hair and dragging, sometimes from love and sometimes from hate and sometimes from both.”
Rather than a strict dichotomy that comes from rules, we can accept the varied richness of experience. The neat tidiness of most modern Christian fiction that is judged “by criteria like message and wholesomeness and theological purity” does not reflect either the working of God in creation or ambiguous nature of the stories in the Bible. Woodlief again astutely points out that “wholesome” art is not not what it claims to be, “because insofar as art is stripped of the world’s sin and suffering it is not really whole at all.”

The books and movies, or paintings for that matter, that have had the most impact on me have always been messy. Even something like The Lord of the Rings, which has very clear distinctions between good and evil, is not cut and dried. Characters struggle with themselves, and even when good has one out, there are still consequences of evil that are not completely rapped up.

I don't really have a point I am trying to make, I suppose this is just something I have been thinking about and felt the need to express it. If you have any thought on the subject, feel free to comment.

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