Friday, August 12, 2005

Jacob's wrestling

"Our English word religion most likely derives from the Latin reli-gare, 'to bind.' Accordingly, religion is commonly thought to be a state of life to which one is bound by certain vows, duties, rites or obligations. By definition the Christian religion thus came to mean - particularly as the Church strayed more and more from its Jewish roots - a particular system of doctrine. In brief, religion was primarily seen as a body of beliefs governing worship and behavior.

To be sure, theological truths are important in biblical teaching. Nevertheless, the Hebrews did not view a life of true piety and godliness as an impersonal relationship to a structure of thought, but as a personal relationship with the living God. Its true locus was not found in an array of dogmas or cultic regulations, but in the response of one's whole person in love and total obedience to the Creator.

In today's Church a similar danger exists. It is sometimes labeled 'bibiolatry.' Christians must take heed that they do not esteem to the written truth of Scripture that they become blind to the actual worship of the living Word behind that Scripture. The biblical heroes of the faith did not live primarily to extol a creed; they sought to walk daily in close fellowship with their omnipresent Lord."

from Our Father Abraham, by Marvin R. Wilson, pp. 319, 320.

May those with ears, hear. With our eyes open only to the no-thing of a written word, we are blind to the actual presence of God in the moving air which is spoken verse. God spoke the world into existence. He did not write it down.

There's a story in which colonial British man sent grapes (among some other things) to a neighbor via a primitive native American Indian. Included in the package was a letter saying how many grapes (and how much of the other stuff too) was included in the package. During the journey between neighbors, the Indian ate some of the grapes. When he arrived, he handed the package over the the other colonial Brit, smiling as the Brit grabbed the grapes and began reading the letter. Suddenly, after finishing the letter, the Brit began mercilessly beating the Indian, to the Indian's dismay. The Indian did not understand why he had been beaten. He eventually ascertained that the Brit had found out that he had eaten some grapes. But how did he know? Suddenly, the Indian remembered that the Brit began beating him as soon as he finished reading the letter. The Indian was astonished at the mystical power of the white paper with strange black figures on it, grabbed it from the Brit, and bowed down to it in worship.

This is not just a story about a stupid primitive Indian who didn't know how to read and write. The ancient Jews had scripture memorized in their very souls (in their minds) due to continual repition into the ears. Their access to the scriptures was not via the literally written word, but by its actual spoken sounding.

What is lost in a society in which, not only is everyone literate, but in which everyone is only literate? Is - such a society - Real? My illiterate cousin is much smarter than most people I know.


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