Thursday, October 20, 2011

Confucius vs Homer

A fundamental aspect of our approach to reading and understanding Scripture is the assumption that the entire Bible has a larger, coherent meta-narrative.  In other-words all the parts are understood in the light of a coherent linear whole.

However I've discovered during church ministry in parish-land, many people approach the Bible either consciously or, as is more-often the case, unconsciously, in a episodic fashion. They read it as though it were a whole collection of sayings and stories all coincidently contained in a single book. A classic example of this approach is represented by that chart purporting to show all the contradictions in the Bible.

As Christians we approach the bible in much the same way most people approach the Odyssey by Homer, the adventures of a man returning from war. We read all the sub-plots in the light of that one overarching journey. This core Christian presupposition is not like way many in the west treat the work of Confucius, a chocolate-box full of sayings, where we pick and choose between proverbs.

6 comments:

Alex Smith said...

Amen. One of the things I like about Parry's approach is his desire to show a meta-narrative, rather that just pick out "chocolates". I'm not saying "chocolates" aren't good too, but I think they shouldn't be eaten at the the exclusion of a healthy meal of meta-narrative!

Alex Smith said...

Wow, that chart is visually impressive, however, I wonder about it's accuracy. For example, looking at the first "contradiction" (jn 15:26;jn 14:26), that's actually not a contradiction if you take into account the Trinity...

I can't see any contradiction in the 2nd one?? (Lev 20:13;1 Kin 15:11-12)

Additionally, I assume we should expect some "contradictions" in the eye witness accounts, as that actually shows they are genuine and not copied.

What do you make of the chart?

Luke Isham said...

The chart is clearly an example of reading the Bible like you'd read Confucius. A collection of sayings and stories that all just happen to be all contained in the same book.

Jon said...

That's an interesting thought, Luke. I actually think the chart is a result of reading on the surface - reading like a believer in the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy where every tiny detail is assumed to be factually correct. This misses the point of, as you say the "metanarrative" and also the narratives that make it up, and the debates within that narrative. The difference, though, is that the Odyssey at least (not sure about Confucious) is the product of a single author, editing his sources into his narrative, while the Bible is the product of a number of authors writing at a number of different times, building on and responding to each other and to the Spirit.

Luke Isham said...

Hi Jon, I mean a step back even from that. If God exists and he had something to do with the Bible, a meta-narrative of some sort exists. This is quite different to the idea I've frequently encountered over the last two years that the Bible is a collection of unrelated stories and comments coincidently contained in a single book.

This is before we even get into what the meta-narrative is about or which bits of the narrative are important, just the fact one exists!

ish said...

A Story ... vs. none? To be bereft of The Meta-narrative seems about the bleakest thing i can imagine.