Thursday, February 26, 2009

Inadequate writing - by me, by God

I don't know how long me and blogging will last. Number one, it's kind of a thing that everyone's doing, and I just don't do that very well (read: I am severely pop culture illiterate - music, TV, movies, etc. - despite my short-lived periodic attempts).

Number two, I start writing and often wish that I could lay it _all_ out there - not quite PostSecret, but maybe? Dumb idea, for many reasons, including that I might hurt myself, you, or at the very least be misunderstood. A conversation with each reader, face-to-face, would be so much more preferable. Writing (reading too) is just often inadequate, and I guess I didn't realize that until I started trying it. So we'll see.

So I'm thinking about all that, and I had a little epiphany this morning - writing gives such an incomplete picture of the author's mind - and maybe that is a glimpse into why the Bible also seems inadequate and contradictory. Before you heartily agree or disagree about the sufficiency or clarity of the Bible as giving insight to God, here are some further bits of thought.

Being honest, the Bible is a tough book. God's law as I'm reading in Exodus/Leviticus is pretty much blown by almost every character in the Old Testament at least (wives, gods, love, etc. etc.) Then there's Proverbs about the merits of wisdom and hard work, followed directly by Ecclesiastes, which existentially blows both of those nearly to bits. Or Esther, where God's name is never mentioned. That's just the tip of the iceberg, as the some of you could tell me.

So why so many issues in a text issued by God himself? I don't think it's so much the flawed people who wrote it and maybe messed it up. Maybe when God puts himself into writing he'd like to lay it all out there, like me but on an infinitely bigger and complicated scale. As it is, He exposes himself by putting anything in writing for us (because we proceed to pick it apart or have the final say on God). But if he laid it all out there, it might hurt us and it would definitely be misunderstood. A conversation will some day be so much better suited to understanding Him, I hope. His thoughts aren't flawed, but the characters are, both then and now. Is that some of the root of the contradictions?

It feels like I'm becoming more baffled by the Bible all the time - both as I read it and sometimes when I talk about it with others. God is BIG, and all I have is a tiny little book to explain His mind, plans, and 6000 years worth of stories. Maybe it's not so crazy that it seems like big chunks of God's thoughts are missing from the pages. I read this quote recently, and it challenges me to stay uncomfortable with what I find in God's writing.

"There is, in a word, nothing comfortable about the Bible - until we manage to get so used to it that we make it comfortable for ourselves... Have we ceased to question the book and be questioned by it? Have we ceased to fight it? Then perhaps our reading is no longer serious... Let us not be too sure we know the Bible just because we have learned not to be astonished at it, just because we have learned to not have problems with it." Philip Yancey quoting Thomas Merton's "Opening the Bible"

I'm just thinking out loud today, offering my opinions, severely lacking in knowledge to back it up. But whether you have seventeen Bibles around your house, or no current interest in ever owning one, maybe you with the most questions or discomfort might seriously have something right.


Erin said...

Hey Joanna:
Hope you are doing well, Your comments made me think of this verse... and wondering what you thought of this verse..
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you recieved the word of God which ye heard of us you recieved it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." 1 Thess 2:13
If we recieve the Bible as the word of God and believe it we gain understanding and not bewilderment.
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119.. There are many verses that talk about order and not confusion.. His word leads us through life...God's conversation is through His word. He has left nothing out. Read 2 Peter 1:3-4. He has given us all things that pertain to life and goliness....

"and the common people heard him gladly." Mark 12:37
Good Topic

Don said...

A fellow blogger, who posts on his own time schedule shared a quote by author James Baldwin: He was once asked why there was so much time between his novels and his reply was, "That's the kind of writer that I am."

You can give yourself permission to be whatever kind of writer you want!

Full post at

joanna said...

Erin - thanks for adding your thoughts! They got us going on lively discussion over dinner :). I agree with you about the truth and direction provided by the Bible. There is more than enough for me to live by in God's word.

But _God himself_ is less than completely expressed in the Bible, I think. And so if I start to think or claim too much definitive insight into God (or His word at times even), then maybe I'm putting God in a box or my own understanding on a pedestal.

I've been intrigued by the Old Testament lately, seeing person after person (could it be all of them?) express themselves "inappropriately" - angry, confused, begging, etc. - to God. And God often answers back, like he's OK with that. So I don't know, but I think maybe faith and God himself don't necessarily exclude room for bewilderment.

Lots to think about.