One of the occupational hazards of writing frequently on biblical subjects is the fact that one’s writing attracts a great deal of commentary from people who have not even bothered to read what is written but are simply looking for a place to post their own thoughts and opinions. For example, I found much to my amusement this morning that someone had replied with an invitation to his Christian blog a post that criticized other writers, and perhaps myself, for writing our own opinions and presenting them as the way to biblical truth. The author made the strong claim that: “Would not wisdom dictate that using the Bible and the Bible alone would be the way to find the absolute truth? So-called new revelation and opinions of men are not the avenues to God’s absolute truth!” The dictates of candor require it to be stated that the author is making here a claim that is undercut by its existence, in that this claim is the author’s opinion, and is certainly a revelation, if it is such, that cannot be found or taken from scripture itself, but rather the understanding of the author. Therefore the author condemns personal opinions while making personal opinions and then further compounds his error by inviting the reader to his Christian blog where he spouts more personal opinions, apparently unaware of the contradiction of the claim he is making and his own behavior, which is of the same sort that he criticizes.
Why do I bother to mention this, other than to have sport at those who I happen to interact with and come into contact with over the course of a life that lacks certain kinds of interaction that I would greatly enjoy having? The ironic blogger who invited me to his blog did not see the difference between his own thoughts and opinions and the dictates and behaviors of God. On his blog, for example , the author makes the claim that Jesus Christ didn’t drink wine because it would have been sin for Jesus to drink wine because of the biblical condemnation of drunkenness. Here we see an example of a fallacy of equivocation, in that the Bible demonstrates on several occasions that Jesus Christ drank moderately with others and was accused of being a winebibber, and that he furthermore commanded believers to drink wine in remembrance of him and also made wine at a wedding at the request of his mother in order to save the wedding party from embarrassment for having run out of the fruit of the vine. The author has a doctrinal position that is contrary to scripture, and as the author cannot conceive of any distance between God’s Word and his own practice and understanding, he presumes to speak ex cathedra. His other writings are of the same sort of type, to the point where he denies the existence of any requirement for interpretation, thinking the Bible mistakenly to be so entirely straightforward that it frees us from any sort of thought and wrestling, and leaves us merely to accept or deny, when the truth is, as it often is, far more complicated .
What sort of being is God? If we are part of a large story in which we are minor characters, if major in our own mind, what is the nature of God as an author? Perhaps we may better understand this if we look at human authors and then argue, albeit imperfectly and imprecisely, by analogy from the human examples we may find. It ought to come as no surprise to readers that I am a fan of the writings of Jane Austen . Jane Austen was a romance author known for her biting sense of wit and irony, and for being at least moderately cynical in that while she disposed of her heroines by marrying them off in all of her complete novels, she did so in a process that was often stressful and that in no way assumed that the world was just, even if her main characters ended up being generally fortunate. Her heroines in general marry men wealthier and of better social position than they are, although in all cases both the heroine and her hero are members of the gentry. As Austen was herself on the lower rungs of this world herself, like not a few of her heroines (the Dashwoods and Fanny Price come to mind here), it is little surprise that she would stick to writing what she knew, and to writing in her stories a happier ending than she herself knew in life.
When we look at the romantic comedies of the Bible, a few examples stick out to demonstrate the sort of author that God is. The book of Ruth is a classic example of such a love story . From the book of Ruth, we can see that God too has a taste for happy endings and a taste for ironic and witty humor. We also learn that God has a taste for melodrama, for stacking the deck against his heroes or heroines. This can be seen clearly in the three main heroes of the book. Ruth herself is a young widow struggling with poverty in an unfamiliar land. Naomi is in an even worse position–she is embittered by the loss of her husband and both of her sons, and is destitute and unable to do the difficult gleaning work that is necessary for people in her position to survive. Even Boaz, who is wealthy, suffers for being a shy and possibly awkward sort of single guy, which is not particularly enjoyable in most civilizations and contexts, especially where it is thought to be one’s own fault. Yet God makes things work for all of these people in a way that serves also to make other people look ridiculous and selfish and in a way that brings a bachelor and a foreign widow into the family line of our Savior. Everything works out as well as it could have, when we look at it from the benefit of hindsight, which we do not have at the time when we are wondering how things will work out for our benefit.
When we look at how God reveals in scripture, there is a lot that we can learn about what sort of Author He is. He delights in quirkiness, in wit and irony, He delights in testing us, and He ultimately works things out better than we have any right to expect until it happens, and He works things out without taking away from us our own freedom to choose or our own responsibility for our thoughts, words, and deeds. If we are not always the best sort of characters to write happy stories for, and I will freely own that I am not the sort of person nor have I lived the sort of life of which happy endings come easily and naturally, we have an Author whose sense of the ironic is higher than we can often understand. What does that leave us to do, but to live our lives the best we can and to be kind to others who are involved in their own stories, of which we are a part, in a complicated way we often do not understand until long after the ink is dry and the story is done, and our stories are no longer ours to live but are others to read and reflect on as they live their own stories, hopefully less troubled and stressful than our own.
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