Carved in Human Flesh
We know of the God of the Hebrew Tanakh through a book, but he is no writer, at least not in the way we have come to think of one. It would be strange if He were, as much of His story was told before mankind had developed the tools to write it down.
His stories were passed orally for centuries, but God is not a public speaker either. He does not sit around a campfire telling tales. He rarely gives a series of statements or an action item list.
He never preaches.
He is no toastmaster.
Recently, some have said that He tells tales with dramatic fashion like the way that one writes a play or makes a movie. This appears to be the most accurate of the three analogies. Yet, the story of God is more than a play or a movie. Its scenes do not take place in the comfort --and distance-- of a drama. He is not confined to acts and interludes, stage and seats, backstage and stage front. There are no barriers between audience and actors.
And He is not just a director;
he is in the play
and the play changes him.
His stories were written not with chisel and slabs of stone, or reed and papyrus, or pen and ink; He does give us His story through a sermon, or a speech, or a series of statements; He does not remain behind the scenes directing.
No, He carves his stories from human flesh.
He writes with the lives of men.
The stories of God are beautiful, inspiring, strange, and exceptional, but one must remember they were stories only after
After they were lived.
So, I set out to tell the stories of God anew -- with their familiarities removed, their contexts changed, calling into question, or removing all together, our foreknowledge of their script or setting. I hope you can read these stories again, for the first time.
We have sadly been allowing:
- shocking stories to become routine,
- stories with obvious, pregnant, illustrious meanings to those who actually lived them to become analogies for things nothing to do with their message,
- the redefinitions of a later era to replace the original meanings,
- single statements by peripheral characters never intended to stand alone to become the emphasis of a passage,
- and even statements made by the prophets or even God, himself, to become more important than the deep truths He demonstration, for which those statements simply set the stage.
In short, we have been reading the whole bible the way we read the proverbs. We must remember that although they were stories were meant for readers, yes, but were so only after they were for those who lived them.
So I boldly say, what stands at great odds with much of the world of organized religion, that a theologian cannot explain to you the meaning of a story. Only the artist, armed with the context of history, the insight into humanity, and the knowledge of the character's cultural influences can. And thus all theologians, if they are to discuss theology at all, must become artists.
This of course means theologian-artists must abandon the interpretations of the pre-enlightenment, which said that whatever the priest or pope (or pastor) willed the passage to say was whatever it meant. We must abandon the arrogance of modernity, which said that we can discover with a ruler and a dictionary and a stethoscope the meaning from a story as if were some frog to dissect. We must abandon post-modernism too, because despite being a story, the story of the bible is not but a story, and its characters are not only characters.
We must dig deep and uncover the story's meaning through their eyes of those who lived it.