Learning to See Blind

No, you’re not seeing things and this isn’t an administrative glitch. I published a post earlier today as is my habit, however extenuating circumstances have required I post another. “Exactly what circumstances”, you ask? Tony Jones over at Theoblogy has issued a challenge for liberal theo-bloggers to write a post that talks about God outside the context of Christ, and today is the deadline. Initially, I thought I totally had this covered. My posts tend to be far more God-centric than Jesus-specific. It was only after pouring through my archive that I began to discover something…

It’s actually pretty rare that the focus of one of my posts is on God, and not my interactions with him. This isn’t altogether a bad thing, I don’t think. The entire point of this blog is to chronicle our journeys as we try to find God in everyday life, so looking at him and describing him through the lens of our own perspective and experiences makes sense. I think problems arise, however, when we grow so used to the way God looks through our own lens that we refuse to believe that he might look different in someone else’s.

Humans are ethnocentric; we assume that if something is true for us then it has to be the exact same way for everyone else. I’m not fully convinced that’s accurate. Let’s all imagine that we’re looking at God through sunglasses. Actually, scratch that. Let’s go with Geordi La Forge’s infinitely cooler VISOR. We’re all looking at the same thing, but seeing it completely differently. Some of us may be viewing God’s electromagnetic fields while others are looking at him on an infrared frequency. Others might be looking at God on a microscopic level. Or, for the non-nerdy inclined, some of our perspectives might cause God’s Grace to resonate more strongly with us, whereas someone else finds their thoughts focusing on God’s Authority. You can see this in action when two people read the same verse and come away with two completely different interpretations. (Hopefully at least one of them has employed decent hermaneutics.)

But here is where I think things could get a little tricky… What if God chooses to present himself to different people in different ways? That is to say, what if we’re not looking at exactly the same thing? I could totally see God choosing to reveal only certain aspects of himself to someone to encourage their growth in a particular direction. Once they’ve learned the lesson he wanted to teach, he begins to show new aspects of his personality.

Why? Why all of this confusion? Why all of the perspectives, why all of the varying shapes of God? I think it might be because God is infinite and ridiculously complex. I’m not sure one human can hold all of God in their brain and not explode. (Metaphorically speaking… Maybe.)

I remember hearing a story when I was a kid. Three blind men approach an elephant and each try to describe it. One at the trunk says, “It’s like a snake!” One at the elephant’s side says, “It’s like a wall!”, and another at the tail says, “It’s like a rope!” All of them we’re kind of right, but it’s only after engaging each other in conversation that they began to piece together their findings to get an accurate idea of the Truth.

So it is with God. Maybe we’re all seeing pieces so we can help create a more vibrant picture when we come together. I guess the take away here, is don’t be quick to judge other peoples’ perception of God. Take some time and try to add it all up in your head. In fact, the next time you stumble across a God Epiphany, take some time and ask if there’s an ongoing pattern to the pieces you’ve been discovering. Who knows? Maybe you have someone else’s missing piece.

Photo Credit: Ultra-Yak
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8 responses to “Learning to See Blind

  1. Pingback: Has the problem of missing God’s goal for our life been solved for good? « Michael Wilson's Blog·

  2. Paul, what is your definition of “liberal theo-blogger”? Specifically, what is your definition of liberal?

    • The definition of “liberal” is a little tricky, as evidenced by the fact that this is about the eighth time I’ve tried writing this sentence. I suppose I would put myself in the “liberal” camp largely because I feel like my own philosophies, ideas, and understanding of the Bible tends to be the antithesis of what I feel like conservative Christianity has come to represent.

      I think we’re probably all aware of the stereotypes that tend to follow evangelicals. While I know that there are always exceptions to every rule, I guess I believe that it takes a lot of work and consistency for a group to become laden with said stereotype. My decision to label myself “liberal” rests largely on the fact that who I am, how I behave, and the image I want to get across is the very opposite of that stereotype.

      Less relatively, I feel like the big questions in my life kind of plant me in the liberal world. I think I believe that you can be in a gay relationship and still love Jesus. I’m not certain that there’s a hell. I think we tend to oversimplify Christianity into black and white when it’s really all about the grays. While there might be conservative Christians that feel the same way, I’ve found that others that are in the same boat with me tend to call themselves “liberal” as well.

      I know that I’ve mostly just shared with you a perspective instead of a hard drawn line in the sand, but I think that’s probably because in my life there aren’t a lot of lines… Only ideas that need explored.

      • Thank you for taking the time, thought and effort to answer me. Hearing your perspective is good; no need to draw lines where there are not any.

        I would agree that you can be a in gay relationship and still love Jesus. I could be in an adulterous relationship and “still love Jesus.” For that matter, I know a child molester who “loves Jesus.” By your statement, do you mean that you believe God does not care if people are in gay relationships?

        The reason I would say it is not okay to be in a gay relationship is because of the Bible. That would be my standard on a lot of issues. Would that be a standard for you too? Sometimes, not at all? If sometimes, how do you pick what issues you are going to go with the Bible on and what you are going a different direction on? If not at all, how do you decide what is right and wrong?

        And, from your perspective, how does the power to change come? Is there power to change? I would presume that the child molester referenced above realizes that it is no good to do what he does. How would he change?

        I do take the Bible at face value on a lot of subjects, divorce and homosexuality among them. When I say face value, I mean face value. I am not so sure that a spouse’s adultery is the golden ticket out that a lot of conservative pastors hold it out to be. And it would be easier, much easier, to pick and choose, not only for myself but for the people I come in contact with. I don’t want to have to tell a woman in a crummy marriage that I think it would be God honoring for her to stick with it. I just have faith that God is going to bless that woman for her faithfulness and that God will be honored in the end by her conduct.

        I read a book called The Tools recently. I really liked it. It is by two therapists who use these spiritual “tools” to help their clients live better and overcome their problems. It is a self-help book that espouses a spirituality for everyone no matter their belief systems or lack thereof. Their idea is that in the future spirituality will be more open and free, not segmented into religions. I thought the book was great and I thought maybe I should try this. Why be bound by all these beliefs and practices that I hold myself to when I can be free?

        I tried it. Stuck my big toe in the waters of “freedom” and really feel like God is say no to that for me. I feel as if he has called me to this path of being a Christian and following the Bible, even though it is not easy. I do get tired and want to quit but I am called back. (By the way, the “tools” themselves work great for someone who is following the Bible at face value.)

        I am really just curious about what you believe and how you got there. Sounds as if you started out fairly “conservative.” I am honestly not trying to be divisive.

      • I’m always happy to answer questions that are based on genuine curiosity and respect, so taking the time was absolutely my pleasure.

        I think you really struck on one of the key issues that would make me think myself to be more liberal than conservative… While I absolutely believe in the words and ideas conveyed in the Bible, I never take any of it at face value. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in it, or that I think it’s false or erroneous… I just think that there is ALWAYS more to the story than what’s written on the page…

        I feel in order to truly understand any passage in the Bible, you have to really dig into it. You have to take some extra time to understand the context of the story being told or the words being spoken.

        As an example, I don’t necessarily believe that the Genesis account of creation was ever meant to be understood as a literal event. The style of writing the author used was most commonly used when one was relaying a myth or legend. The original Jewish community used to tell stories in order to provoke thought about a particular truth… It wasn’t until the age of enlightenment thousands of years later that people decided to do away with the notions of Christian Mysticism and begin explaining the events as literal. Further muddying the water is the fact that the Hebrew language relies on very subtle differences to alter the meaning of words. When the Bible was first translated into English, the scribes did the best they could but I do believe it’s possible that they may have missed some of the finer points. As an example of the latter, there are some very solid arguments that when the Bible speaks of homosexuality, it’s actually referring to pedophilia. The original translators were in a similar ball park in that they understood the subject to be regarding two males, but they missed the fact that the original text could be referencing a man and a child.

        With that said, do I believe that the Bible is infallible? Ish? I believe that if somebody digs in to the Bible, they will be better because of it. I believe that exposure to the Bible can help make us more like the people that God wants us to be. I believe the Bible is a love story about God trying to win his people back, and if we’re willing to listen to the Holy Spirit as we read it, it can absolutely change us. For me, believing that the Bible is not necessarily meant to be understood as literal, or that it’s more gray than black and white in no way inhibits its power to change us for the better.

        When I said that I think you can be gay and still love Jesus, I think I may have simplified it a little… I think you can be gay and still pursue a meaningful relationship with God. And because God pursues us, we’ll find and meet him. What gets said when the two meet, honestly, I’m not sure. If what the person is doing is a problem, I trust God and the Holy Spirit to let them know.

        Regarding how I got here, it was a long process. I guess the reader’s digest version is that when I went to Bible College, I learned about hermaneutics (how to study the bible in its original context). More and more, I found myself unable to simply believe without questioning. As I prayed, I felt like God was encouraging me to move forward in that direction, which… Is a heavy burden. I find I have a really hard time just picking up the Bible and reading it these days. There’s definitely something to be said for people that can whip it out, find a scripture and derive meaning from it, but for me it’s kind of an endeavor. I guess I feel like this is what God has called me to and it’s just my job to try to make it work.

        P.S. Thanks so much for starting this conversation. I feel like I haven’t had to ask myself these questions in quite a while.

  3. This is a good conversation. Despite the fact that we would label ourselves differently, and approach the Bible differently, I think we probably agree on quite a few things. Shalom, my brother.

  4. Pingback: Into the Clearing « Hunting for God·

  5. Pingback: A Christmas Confession « Hunting for God·

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