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31 March 2009

The Bible: Either/Or? No.

This morning, a friend of mine asked a very interesting question. He asked how we can say Paul was speaking literally when he said that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved when we might also say that a seven day creation is not literal (from a human perspective). Hence, either the Bible is to be interpreted literally or allegorically. Either/Or. Such an equation of interpretative method and assumption between a passage in Romans with a passage in Genesis struck me. It hit me hard that this is likely something that most guys in the church struggle with. Especially at churches where pastors build their sermons off of a topic and then jerk verses from all over the Bible to support their thought. Sound familier? It doesn't take long for the parishioner to assume that all Scripture is interpreted the same and identical in audience, time, culture, language, and writing style. If there is the intellectual observance that this is not true, it still often rests as just that: an intellectual observation. Rarely does proper hermeneutics invade our Biblical reading and interpretation. Now is not the time to go into this in the fullness it deserves, but I do think at some point in the future, it might be beneficial for those interested to pursue. For now, let me just say this.

The Bible is divided into many literary genres, inclusive of, but not limited to:

Historical Narrative

I think the idea that the Bible is one packaged gargantuan book is because we are constantly reinforced that idea through...well, it's packaging. Today, we have the Scriptures nicely bound into one convenient book; however, it is not one single book. The Bible is merely the canonical compilation of 66 books for Protestants and an additional 7 for the Catholic. It is important to remember though, that these are all different books. Many of the authors are the same, as many of styles and languages are the same. However, as a whole, it is a combination of literary styles and authors spread over thousands of years written to different audiences and contexts. This last part is paramount, especially concerning culture and assumptions carried within; however, it is also important if the writing is intended for an individual or a community, and secondarily, the question of for the community at that specific time or a teaching or promise more universal. Combine all of this with the fact that these texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine; and further, consider that the New Testament writer is largely writing in his second language and relating to the Old Testament through the Septuagent, which is Greek translated Hebew texts, and things get really, really interesting. It might almost be easier for us if we still had all those separate scrolls and actually read Scripture as they were intended: letters, stories, prophecy, etc...not just jerking a verse from each like they are merely from different chapters from Moby Dick.

So, here is the point.

Q. Is the Bible interpreted allegorically or literally?

Not one or the other, but Yes. The real question regards what book or section of book are we talking about.

Q. Is a Pauline Epistle interpreted allegorically or literally?
A. Literally.

Within narratives and most other genres, a book will have both allegorical and literal. Remember that one of God's favorite ways to teach His people is through stories. Think of Christ's own teaching during His ministry; He largely used Parables. We see this in both
the Old and the New Testament writings.

Furthermore, there is a very distinct separation of assumption between the way we read things and the way the ancient Jew read things. This sounds really strange to us, but the ancient Jew really wasn't as concerned with detailed facts. Truth is not communicated through the specific numbers of army personnel or a literal number of days of Creation (Aside: which itself requires our own interpretation shifting from God's perspective to that of man, based on a unit of time tied to the Sun, which wasn't even created until the second half of the process - the fourth day...if we're being literal...), etc. The point of such stories is that God conquers for man when the situation is impossible for him and that God created everything. Again, this was story telling. Think of every culture of oration. One generation would tell the story to the next, and they would pass those same stories to their own children. (Aside: remember how Israel would fall away because one generation didn't pass on the stories of their fathers to their sons...) These stories were not recorded until much later than their origination. This is just a small part of the context. It is one of story telling and the truth being larger than the details or specifics...these merely set the stage to communicate such truth. It is very difficult to communicate how different ancient Jews (and all peoples) would look at truth and avail themselves to it compared to us. It might be easier for us to return to parables. Is the truth communicated within stories of The Good Samaritan or The Prodigal Son found in the specific historical referents? We certainly hope not, but we also know not. It seems incomprehensible for us to say there is not the truth of God in those stories because they didn't actually happen in history. These are perhaps the two most preached stories of the New Testament! Think about it. There is not historical basis at all for these events, yet the truth is so powerful that we preach these stories more than the rest. Still, we are able to muster so much angst over mere details of Old Testament stories told to the ancient Jew. Amazing. God story-tells both through Christ and His Spirit, each read within Scripture.

As such, our current age bickers about and attempts to reconcile points of the Old Testament that don't add up or are merely controvertible, and we try to explain them away. Well, they're there, and to be honest, they don't matter. It's the truth behind the story that matters. Much of this tension is also seen between different camps of interpreting Revelation, which again is missing the point largely. Sadly, few people, including many pastors, have been educated and trained in this and other parts of Biblical Hermeneutics and Bibliology as a whole. So, we get bent out of shape and take our eyes off of what matters. We preach sermons that if you don't believe in a literal 7 day creation then you don't believe the Bible is true, and then logically, you can't trust when Paul says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. We're back to either the Bible is blankety allegorical or literal. Either/Or. There were exactly "x" number of troops in the Israelite army, or Christ really didn't rise from the dead...he was just maybe asleep or something. This is the horrific tragedy from pastors who don't know or at least don't consider at all how the Scriptures relate. In their irresponsibility or mere ignorance, they cause their parishioners heartache in having their foundations of faith rumbled every time someone questions Jonah or asks if Adam had a belly button or enjoyed the massive incest to populate the earth. You see it not only in direct sermons on topics such as above but also in how they search for biblical support for their whimsical sermons. Such is a great hardship on the Body of Christ. Let us then hope for better effort and teaching from our pulpits and lectors, for so much that is truly consequential is subconsciously communicated and ingested into the parishioners' basic assumptions by way of merely the manner of argument in which the cleric sermonizes his thesis, if such thesis is itself not disastrous.

28 March 2009


There is a band you must check out: MGMT. What I am about to write is a pretty big endorsement.

First, let me give you a brief history:

In 1993 Sting released Ten Summoners Tales, and I met a musical mentor and friend who to this day continually makes me shake my head in inspiration and amazement. Sting is simply the best and to be most respected and honored popular musician of our time, in my humble opinion. Factoring his development of song writing, breadth of instrumentality, depth of lyrical and literary significance, seemingly unlimited versatility of genre, collaborative genius, incorporation of music and sound from all continents, and ability to translate and merge music into present relevance that originated hundreds and hundreds of years ago, it is very difficult to argue for anyone else. To be sure, there are many who are perhaps more historically influential as their vision and talent came at a time when music itself was redefining itself through the jazz, R&B, rock, hip hop movements. As a person who can fit together all this work gone before him though both in mind and practice, Sting is the greatest.

I remember the first time I heard Jeff Buckley in 1996.  It was in my bedroom when a friend of mine gave me a tape (yes a tape) to listen to for inspiration of a song we were working on. Basically, I was supposed to learn from how Matt Johnson supported the song by letting his drumming sit within the tune.  Though I probably acquiesced a little, I'm pretty sure I still played my usual Carter Beauford style which was way over the top and "hey, look at me." While it took a little time to mature and thankfully balance in my appreciation between guys like Johnson and Beauford, I instantly recognized and fell in love with the genius of Buckley. Whenever I listen to Buckley, I am haunted by his ever present yet never fully seen ghost. His grandness of capability in both his voice and guitar is almost impossible to measure. Tragically, the world was only revealed a glimpse of his talent, and we will never know the fullness of his potential. His brief life left this world an amazing gift; however, one cannot help but imagine what was to come and mourn such a treasure lost. (For whatever, it means, I don't own their first or latest album...though I like this last one very much.)

I also recall the first time I absolutely fell in love with Coldplay, which was actually later than many, in 2002.  I was in a Virgin Megastore listening to In My Place, and the last minute of the track hit. I will never forget the particular shiver that I felt in my spine and how my heart swelled inside me. It was sacred, a marked means of common grace in the Divine gift of music.

I could write about many others: Ryan Adams, Taylor Swift (yeah, seriously. Pure, simple songwriting developing from adolescence to maturity before our ears - take it for what it is and appreciate what should be an insightful journey), Radiohead, Lyle Lovette, and even Timberlake (again, seriously. The fusion of an actually talented songwriter who can actually play real instruments, actually sing without real-time pitch correctors, and actually package it to a generation who tragically doesn't even appreciate or see what he does really well. Actually true.)

So, after all this, here is my point. Ever since I heard and bought MGMT's new album, Oracular Spectacular, I have paused listening to all of these and the others and exclusively played, and replayed, and replayed this Brooklyn duo.  If I am driving in my car, taking a walk, reading a book, washing the dishes, relaxing in my house, or whatever, I am listening to MGMT. Will I at some point cease this absolute commitment to the band and reintroduce my normal favorites into my listening? Definitely. However, the more I listen, the more I love, and it seems doubtful that this will end anytime soon. I cannot yet relate them to Buckley or Sting, and they would have to work an almost divine miracle for me to; however, be clear that I am not attempting to. Simply put, the best endorsement I think I can give is to tell you that they have momentarily made all other music silent to me. They are great, and the more you take them in, the less you'll want to give them up. Take my advice: buy their album and don't worry about needing to again update your iPod or whatever anytime soon.

Around the World.

Undersea eruptions near Tonga. Click on the photo above for an amazing photo set.

26 March 2009

Random Pet Peeve.

You're in a restaurant lavatory and dip your hands under the faucet when you suddenly feel the brush of a cold hard surface as your hands hit the back of the sink.  I hate that feeling.  It seems gross to me and makes me attempt to wash my hands that much more thoroughly.  Yet again, I have found myself trying to wash my hands in a sink where the faucet has been placed too far back in relative position.  It doesn't happen often, but I do see it more than I think I should. Maybe I am hyper observant, or perhaps I have ginormous hands.  I am doubtful on both.  I do believe, though, that there should be a standard minimum distance between the flow of faucet water and the back of a sink.

24 March 2009

Thankful for Old Friends.

Today I went to Waco and had the opportunity to hang out with a couple of old friends. Such friends are a wonderful gift to me.  People who have known you longer than your immediate context are often able to see and communicate to you in ways obvious to them but forgotten to yourself. The further in your history these friendships go, the more, of course, they are availed to speak such truth to you.

I think I often struggle with Identity; in that, I define myself too closely to current activity. If that is work, for instance (which it regularly is) then I consider my worthiness based on my career, and my emotions dive and resurface according to how I satisfy those worldly views of success. One of the greatest blessings of fatherhood, however, has been the challenging of this indeliberate yet highly consequential assumption. Progressively since the birth of Caroline, clarity has emerged in seeing my identity assigned to the stewardship of my family. (To be clear, I'm speaking at the moment to identity respective towards a vocational slant. My identity as personhood is unwaveringly centered in Christ and inclusion within His Body. At least cognitively - I'm still working on living this out, as evidenced by what I am writing now.)

So, with regard to the success of my life, I now more clearly see it related to how I am leading and loving my family. To the extent that I am able to present Katie as holy and blameless, to care for her and protect her in the love of Christ, in His provision and grace, is the measure of my husbandry. Similarly, to raise Caroline in Christ, modeling for her the love and wisdom of the Father, echoing to her as best I can the grace and provision of Her Creator, represents my call in fatherhood.  The combination of these two represent the major thesis of my life. (Obviously, appendices exist inclusive of stewarding relationships entrusted to me within the Community of Believers as well as declaring the Gospel to the outside world. In sum, faithfully living in community within the Body of Christ and representing to a groaning world its Savior).

Thus, my career, which seemed to so severely define my life, is now placed in a supporting role as a provision for the call of my life. And so, I return to friendship. Old friends remind me that I am larger than my job. I am an adopted child of God, procured in Christ and sealed in the Spirit. My calling in life finds definition and meaning in this - not my W2s and 1099s. Before I do what I do now, and before I did what I did before, these comrades and sages knew me...and knew me well. So, when I am blinded by my circumstance, unsure of the future and anxious about the present, old friends provide me perspective and assure me of hope in the future. Specifically, they remind me that God has always been faithful and will continue to be. Further, my calling in life is larger than my current occupation or what I will do in the future. My career is, of course, a ministry to those placed within my sphere, and I must work as to honor God; however, my work is not my determinant of joy and meaning. My occupation will most likely change and my circumstances will surly traverse through many seasons. My identity and my calling, however, are consistent and secure in my Savior and in being created and redeemed in His image to be a light in a dark world.

21 March 2009

Coming back.

For the last few months, I have not only neglected posting on my own blog but also reading the words of others.  If you are reading this and yourself have a blog, most likely I haven't seen many of your posts in a while.  The posts I have made on this blog have consisted mainly of photos of Caroline - which is probably the best thing I have to put out there anyway.  Furthermore, I have watched many friends' blogs turn into photojournals of their own children, so I'm definitely not going to apologize for this.  I am sure that as I continue to throw up albums on MobileMe, I will promote them here.

Still, I miss the blogosphere of words.  Very little, I miss the useless and harmless of what I often randomly throw up here.  More than this, I miss the opportunity to update friends and family with the goings on of the Moore household, which has changed greatly of late. Very much, though, I miss the most remote of my posts: the well thought out and meaningful script that leads to outside discussion and the occasional conflict resolution. Without a doubt, most of my 2.0 time has been spent on facebook, which is fine, but I don't want it to serve as a replacement for this site, intertwined with those of you, my friends.  My blogroll is lengthy, yet I have until recency been faithful to read through the vast majority with honorable consistency.

So, all this to say, I shall return.  I will begin again to post here, and I will regain consistent readership of your own blogging.  I may not work though all that I have missed, but I'll at least get back on the horse from where we are now.

15 March 2009

Bows & Piper.

Here's a new album, entitled "Bows & Piper" ... neither of which are in this picture.  Click the photo to see the full set.

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