Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What’s Your Fallback?

When Moses failed to return in a timely manner, hisYou’ll_have_Something_to_Fall_Back_on_After_the_War followers decided to fall back to the way they knew, to a way that worked for them, or at least to a way that did not leave them searching.  Isn’t that what we do?  Isn’t falling back to a position that works the best way? 

The easiest fallback position in literature is literalism.  I see this frequently in Bible reading.  There is safety in literalism.  After all, if you want to know what to do, simply read the words.  Right? Instead of thinking through a problem, take the words literally even if it hurts.  How many people have cut off their right hands?  Ok, let’s make it simpler.  How many people limit their giving to 10%?  How many people read “day” or any multiple of days and treat them like 24 hour segments? (and this in an epoch that did not measure time in hours.)

The danger of literalism is that, like the Israelites who made a literal god to follow, we too create something with no truth.  We waste our time fashioning our own golden calf which has no power, no energy, no value past our own materials and labor.

Truth requires labor, but labor of a different sort.  You must exert effort in waiting for that moment of truth and pursuing it with all your heart and mind until you capture it.  You must persevere even though no hope of success is in sight.  You must guard yourself from falling back into literalism.  And finally, you must exercise grace to accept your own and others’ errors while searching for what is truly true.

Note:  some things are meant to be literal.  It is part of the work of reading accurately to discern what is literal, what is metaphor, and what is indicative of a certain style of literature and must be read according to that style’s guidelines.   The Bible is a book of stylized narrative history, poetry, prophesy, letters, and apocalyptic literature and each type must be read according to its own internal rules.

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