I’ve opened this space to Transit Lounge reader, Mickey Grooters, so her response can be part of our conversation as her blog is currently under construction. So glad to have her crack open her heart here and share some discoveries, questions and hopes.
Often I get caught in black/white dichotomies. Which is better this restaurant or that? Which book contains more truth – this one or that one? Which person has acted more nobly in a given situation – this person or that person? To recognize paradox, and to affirm it, and live within it is hard for me. If X is right, then Y must be not right. I tend to lurch from one side of a paradox to the other, depending on heart, knowledge, and situation. But paradox, is at the heart of my understanding of Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation.
One side of the paradox is the analogy that God, is incarnated in the Bible, as God is incarnated in Christ. Enns’ language for this, is at its most powerful here: “In fact, it is precisely by having the Son become human that God demonstrates his great love. Is it so much of a stretch, then, to say that the human nature of scripture is likewise gift rather than problem… For God to reveal himself means that he accommodates himself. To be understood, he condescends to the conventions and conditions of those to whom he is revealing himself.” I love, love, love that. It is framing language. It will inform my reading and understanding of scripture. It speaks to both to my mind and heart.
I want to live here. I want to write high school lessons based on Enns’ book so that students are not “shocked” to find Enuma Elish or Gilgamesh when they get to college, and find that it destroys their notion of the uniqueness of the Bible. I want to hand that chapter on diversity to that person in our small group who wonders why early in the Gospel of John, Jesus drives the money changers out of the temple, while that scene is later in the other Gospels. I want to laugh at the way I puzzle over the utter contradictory advice in Proverbs letting Enns remind me that in real life wisdom and discernment sometimes lead to opposing thoughts and actions depending on context. He gives me a new way of reading! Yea Enns! However, I know too, that even these are a bridge too far for some. How does one build scaffolding for Enns. And yet for others, the bridge is not open enough. But the incarnational language – one side of a paradox.
But. . . the other side of the paradox is Enns’ acknowledgement that the incarnation of Jesus – fully human, fully divine – is at its heart, mystery. I read: “I only mean that the incarnate written word (Scripture) is, like Christ beyond our ability to grasp exhaustively: we can speak of the incarnate Christ meaningfully, but never fully.” So he says that the incarnational analogy is problematic on a certain level. Can you have an analogy when half of it is mystery. Maybe a better word is “parallel” says Enns. Nuts.
Suddenly, I know that I am doing it again – I want either/or answers. And either/or does not even include a huge “third” thing – that God has addresses this word to me. . . a reader who reads limited in time and space, limited by history and theology, and limited by discovery and purpose. How IS that word incarnated in me?
And now I ponder about Truth being whole. A wide circle holding within it the paradox, or paradoxes; Enns’ suggests that that elastic word is “provisional.” My reading of scripture has a “provisional” element – or should. I can almost hear the angry arguments against the word from some of my friends.
I am still frustrated by paradox, yet I understand that Truth holds paradox-so where am I left as I put down this book, and turn again to my latest mystery.
I am left returning once again – reminded by Enns – to the disciples on the road to Emmaus – to the Christ who opens their eyes, and I renew my commitment to ask for the Holy Spirit before reading scripture – yeah – I knew that; I knew that; I knew that, but I forget. . .I am left with a resolve to read recent Biblical scholarship with an open mind; I am left with the challenge that the Bible is whole and that each part casts light on the other . . I am left with –as I am tempted to argue about the Word and gnashing my teeth over YOUR boxed- in non incarnational approach. . . Enns’ question “how and why” I am carrying on the conversation and what is the role of love there.
I am left with the utter need for community to aid my understandings of the Word – community that includes theologians like Enns’, theologians who might disagree with Enns, people like Kelley who called us together, and the person sitting next to me in our small group who fears and is put off by the idea of a“provisional” reading.
I am left affirmed that questions are important. I am left with an image: the smallness of my boat and the hugeness of the ocean that is God and a desire to navigate that ocean just a little more – with humility, love, and patience. Thank you Kelley, and thank you Peter Enns.