prooftext postcodes

8 09 2010

Like many over the summer I found myself driving in unfamiliar places. Like many I didn’t research my route in detail beforehand. Like many I turned on the SatNav and followed the blue line. Like many I ended up sinking in a lake. Ok, I didn’t. But I did a few dodgy routes and wrong turns and wished afterwards that I had an actual, old-fashioned map that showed all the roads, not just the one I’m on.

in sweden, all signs are this funny

The problem with satnavigation is not usually the accuracy – it does normally work in the end – but the context. Simply following the blue line to my friends in St Helen’s was fine, except that I realised when I got there that I had no idea whereabouts in St Helen’s they lived. I couldn’t name their road, because all I used was a postcode. I was in their house, but didn’t know if it was north or south of the town, surrounded by woodland or a dense urban sprawl; when they spoke of the East Lancs road that cuts through their neighbourhood I realised I didn’t know what it was, even though I had driven on it.

I think this is something like how many of us read the Bible. We zoom in to the text like it is a postcode on a SatNav. I would like to go to… women in leadership please, or homosexuality, or creation, or tax avoidance. Our super-speedy internet sites like Bible Gateway help us out – there’s your key word, there’s your proof text. Blindly we follow the blue dot to our destination. So when someone says, how did you get that meaning from that passage, we say isn‘t it obvious? When they say no, not really if you look at the context, we say but it must be true it says it on the screen. It’s a bit like typing High Street into your SatNav and following it to the first one it finds. They are all the same in name, but entirely different in context.

told you

We need to take the time to get the map out. The map that shows us the big picture, the entire road network, the shows us where we are and where we are going, the map that gives us the information to decide on the quickest route or the most interesting route or the one that avoids the High Street.

We need to read more of the Bible, not just the proof-texts; we need the big picture, we need to understand why things are said and where they are said and sometimes more importantly what is not said. We need to interpret the Bible as an inspired work of art, an anthology of poetry and prose and thoughts and prayers and longings and desires and we need to notice all these things as we pass through them to our final destination. And sometimes stop and get out and look and have a coffee. Enjoy the journey. See the trees. Catch the view.

Otherwise we are in danger of ending up in the wrong place, with no idea of where we are or how we got there. And then it gets cloudy, the satellites give up, the batteries die and we wish we’d brought the map after all. Except it’s at home. And we don’t know how to use it.




5 responses

8 09 2010

I don’t really like maps. I definitely don’t like sat-navs. I see the practical value in them, of course, but they are somewhat limiting and conventional. For me there is often a delicious element to being lost and trying to find out where I am; or in just exploring and discovering what is around the corner or off the beaten track. I love wandering and having to rely on my sense of direction to get me back home again. usually!
Which is probably why I wander through the Bible asking questions like “I wonder what’s happening here” rather than trying to find answers like “so that’s where we are.”
Maybe it’s just me though?

8 09 2010

Indeed – and wondering “what’s going on here” is very different from thinking you know everything about a passage because you’ve read it. And maybe you are only able to wander and wonder because your framework of background understanding is already there…

Without wishing to make you sound conventional, of course.

8 09 2010

Spot on. We really do need to see the wider picture, things that look important in close up shrink when you look at the whole picture and we do tend to look at the bible only through a magnifying glass and only at the bits we think are interesting.

The other thing about StaNav is that it decides the route you take. I know people who blame the satNav because it didn’t tke them the way they would have liked to go! We need to take responsibility for the direction of our lives, having looked at the big picture, and not just go the way everybody else does. God calls us to think for ourselves and to work out our own routes as we each make our own spiritual journey.

9 09 2010

Of course the problem with any map, any set of directions…or any Bible for that matter – is that you need to READ IT! Note my cautionary tale of my foolish journey on yesterday’s blog:

9 09 2010

We’ve all done that I’m sure…! As for listening to my own sermons, I’ve never tried that…

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