Sunday, September 16, 2007


Okay, so I'm supposed to make my "big" return with the promised review of our hellish double feature, and I will in just a few days now that the work crisis is becoming manageable. But I'm suffering from blog withdrawal (Is that normal?) and happen to have some old writings lying around. All I really need is an excuse to throw something quick together in order to get my blog fix.

Well, what do you know? Today marks the 18th anniversary of my wedding date, which is momentous enough. But my wife counts everything by our first date, which means yesterday was actually our 20th anniversary. (Using either date, that's really not enough time yet to have spent with this wonderful woman.) A few years back the folks who run my parish's religious education program asked me to write a little something about biblical interpretation which they could use as a starting point for further discussion. For some reason, I decided to approach the subject using the story of my first date with my future wife. It was meant to be a very basic introduction to the subject rather than a end-all be-all survey of biblical study. And that's all it is. But they liked it and they keep dragging it out every year, so I thought I would post it here in honor of this date and of the woman I'll spend the rest of my days with.


There are a number of schools of thought when it comes to interpreting the Bible. There is the Historical-Critical Method, the Literary Analysis, the Canonical-Traditional Approach, and so on. And we're going to discuss every single one of them. Just kidding. Actually, before we even look at the Bible, it might be helpful to see what happens when we apply different methods of interpretation to other things in our life. For instance, let's talk about relationships again, in particular where they start. Let's try some different methods of describing that all-important first date.

THE HISTORICAL APPROACH: Shortly before lunch time on September 15th, 1987 I arrived to pick up my date. She was ready to go. She wore a pair of shorts and a top in the style appropriate for the time period we lived in. It took roughly forty-five minutes to drive to Zoo Atlanta, the location I had selected for our first date. The early fall weather was suitable for walking and the venue allowed for conversation. We made an effort to see all of the animals, although she was hesitant about entering the reptile house. On the return trip, my date informed me she had to be at work soon, but asked me to call her the next day, which I did. We were married two years later.

THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH: On the way to the zoo my physiology had already started to change. As she walked next to me my pulse rate increased and my palms became sweaty on the steering wheel. As we talked, her face and chest area flushed, producing a rouge-like effect. Her pupils slightly dilated. Entering the reptile house, her heart rate quickened. By this time we were both secreting pheromones, sending unconscious signals to each others brains about our general fitness. Our minds were also registering visual clues regarding physical symmetry. After two years of dating rituals, we made the decision to form a lifetime pair bond.

THE "SPIRITUAL" APPROACH: By the time I arrived to pick up my date, I was little more than a shell. After years of wandering through the wastelands that was dating in the 1980's, I was ready to call it quits. But as we wandered amongst the animals, something odd was occurring. Surrounded by beasts, my own humanity was resurfacing, and there was only one reason. The girl walking next to me, the one whose hand had slipped into mine unnoticed, she was the cause. There wasn't enough time that day to explore this new found love, but somewhere deep inside, we both sensed we had started a journey that would take the rest of our lives to complete. We told the rest of the world that very thing two years later.

The first two approaches give us some useful information. The historical facts provide a stage for the characters and set up the situations while the scientific facts let us know something is going on internally. But for most of us there's still something missing. Left with the first two approaches we're somehow…unsatisfied.

It's the third approach which more closely resembles how we actually communicate things to each other. There are facts, yes, but there is also exaggeration, symbolism, and even a little bit of bad poetry. Everyone knows that a person can't literally be a shell, but the phrase adds meaning in a way the historical facts can't. Humanity resurfacing is just imagery, but it tells us a lot more about what's going on inside the narrator than the list of bodily functions provided by science. Despite its apparent scientific "errors", the third way of describing the event somehow ends up being intellectually and spiritually truer than the first two approaches.

A knowledge of empirical facts is important, (Forget the anniversary of your first date and you'll find out from your significant other just how important.) but there are some things for which they are just insufficient. As human beings, we need those other modes of communication in order to reach greater truths. Is there any reason to believe that the God who created us wouldn't understand this and account for it the Bible? This is the context we should read Holy Scripture in, not as some historical or biological textbook, but as the inspired human effort to communicate the greater truths behind science and history.


Ahhhh, sweeeet. What do you want, I love my wife. For those who made it this far, thanks for bearing with my sentimentality. Our regularly scheduled programming will return in just a few days.

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