Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Let the Gaps Remain

I came across a couple great quotes from the late Moses Hadas, professor of classics at Columbia University. Hadas was a gifted scholar and teacher, but the quotes that are passed around are mini-reviews of books that he was apparently asked to endorse:

I have read your book and much like it.

Hadas believed the proliferation of books held no particular benefit unless quality attended the writing.

Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I'll waste no time reading it.

My favorite quote, and the one that drew my attention, concerns our insatiable need to answer all the questions:

This book fills a much-needed gap.

As a student in my first year college Bible class, I appreciated the teaching of Dr. Curtis Mitchell of Biola University. Dr. Mitchell offered his approach to understanding the Bible: "If the plain sense makes good sense seek no other sense."

Makes sense to me.

I've developed my own hermeneutic over the years, drawn from that simple instruction, consisting of two rules. The first:

1. If God says it in black and white, you can't make it gray.

God makes a lot of things quite clear, and regarding them he leaves little room for fudging. You can generally say that the whole purpose of Scripture is God's intention to clear things up for us. God's communication is designed to give us "all we need for life and godliness."

The second rule, however, must also be applied to the Bible:

2. If God says it in gray, you can't make it black and white.

Jesus sometimes told his disciples that he was presenting truth in a way that was intentionally unclear in meaning. Why? I can't answer for him, but I trust his motives. God, like any good parent, keeps some things under wraps on purpose.

Heresy often springs from our attempts to, as Hadas put it, fill the gaps. But what if God intended the gaps to remain? What if the gaps have a purpose? What if the gaps are necessary to our trust?

As a father, I have sometimes left gaps for my kids. The gaps are not dangerous, I hope, and I have purposefully not filled them because part of growth and maturity is dealing with the vacancies. Some of the gaps can't be filled by anyone else but the person who faces off with them. Other gaps can't be filled at all, and shouldn't be.

Which turns me back to writing and books. How many books are published that try to fill the gaps?

My prayer is that God would enable me to write truth with passion and skill, using the gifts he has given to craft beauty and reveal truth. Sometimes that means I will expose the gaps. I pray that I can leave them unfilled, free to perform their own work of God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like what Dr. Mitchell had to say and I'll keep that one around, that is similar to what Prof. Raju Kunjummen, our Greek and Hebrew teacher instilled in us. Thank you for the post - it's great and the helpful tidbit for just this moment for me as one semester wraps up and another awaits at the door! -- Vera