Now I Am Choosing My Own Adventure

You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you I have a load of deadly Zoomtards lined up. You go through phases, don’t you, when you just don’t want to write anything down. I think I am coming out of one of those now and I want to write everything down. Drinking coffee and listening to good music in my office (the public one, since I am so important I have two!) this morning I read Jaybercrow’s latest post. I know I am biased with Jaybercrow since he is a legend I happen to be friends with but I love his blog and this post of his perfectly demonstrates why. Its deep, its concise and its loving.

What he is talking about is the thorny issue of Biblical authority. Y’all know that Christians claim to hold the Bible “in authority”. Some of you might have an idea that there is a distinction between the Catholics and the Protestants. Or maybe you’ve heard right-wing loons make claims for evil, bigoted things on the telly by citing Scripture as their “authority”. Its a pretty obvious conundrum for Christians to resolve in their lives since it is a collection of books written over the span of 1500 years based on oral records that were at the start, already about 2500 years old. I have dreams at night where you (yes, you- I dream about you. Now just move on) stand before me and plead repeatedly “What relevance can they have? How can they have authority? Cut the crap Christianboy and tell us what you mean!”

Well I can’t do that. But Jaybercrow can.

…imagine that someone discovers a lost Shakespeare play, but that the fifth and final act has been lost. Rather than have someone write a fifth act, the existing parts are given to highly trained, sensitive and experienced Shakespearian actors, who are asked to immerse themselves in the story, and then work out a fifth act for themselves… [quoting NT Wright:]”The first four acts, existing as they did, would be the undoubted ‘authority’ for the task in hand. That is, anyone could properly object to the new improvisation on the grounds that some character was now behaving inconsistently, or that some sub-plot or theme… had not reached its proper conclusion. This authority of the first four acts would not consist – could not consist! – in an implicit command that the actors should repeat the earlier parts of the play over and over again. It would consist in the fact of an as yet unfinished drama, containing its own impetus and forward movement, which demanded to be concluded in an appropriate manner. It would require of the actors a free and responsible entering into the story“…

Jaybercrow goes on to work out a few of the improvements in the clarity and consistency of the lives we would live if we took this view on board and you can go read him or just try to suss them out for yourselves. I dealt with the same issue back in the Autumn but I took 3 times as long as Jaybercrow to deal with it, typically. Even my response to his initial post is likely to be longer than his post.

One of his commentators had an issue with the way Jayber insisted that this framework still claimed authority over our lives. This hesitancy is so easily understood because “the word [authority] has been damaged by bad experiences of forms of Christianity with an ugly and harsh view of God”. Often, authority has meant, “our interpretation” and instead of it being used as a measuring rod against which to moderate our own community, it has been used as a weapon to beat up other communities.

But for anyone who has this problem with the word “authority” and the connotations that it comes with, I would suggest that instead of reading the word to mean something like ‘domination’, consider the meaning ‘warrant’. There are too many cases through history when the first 4 acts of Scripture were used as the basis for humans to play out their 5th act with such little artistic credibility, aesthetic sense or moral courage (which is another way of saying aesthetic sense for Calvin, the first pomo Xian!) that we need to, as a diverse community, encourage faithful readings of our master’s work that inspire us to fulfill it to its utmost.

So what does the Biblical text warrant? What are legitimate responses? We know they will be pluriform. We know they will shift and change as time demands. But there must be, at the forefront of our minds, the ability to say to the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa in the 60s or the Free Presbyterian Church in North East Ireland today that you are reading it wrong. The text doesn’t warrant what you are doing with it. The effects of your readings are not just a bad night of theatre, but the destruction of people’s lives.

Did you ever watch The Streets Of San Francisco growing up? I used to go visit my crazy nanny every Tuesday night and she’d give me a big kiss and hug and a chocolate bar. We’d go sit in her stifling hot living room with her open fire, sitting under the gentle gaze of Pope John Paul II, ensconced in a gold-leaf frame and we’d watch Michael Douglas bounce his big huge cars around the hills of SF. At the end of every show, when the mystery had been resolved and the streets were safe again, there would be an “Epilogue”. It would be a 90 second scene where Douglas might go and visit the victim in hospital and jokingly reassure them that life was good again or maybe the distraught couple at the centre of the huge fraud that had been untangled would welcome the detectives into their home and enjoy a drink together. I propose that there will be a sixth act to our God’s story. Except the Epilogue we await is not just a tack on happy ending. It will dwarf all the previous acts in its beauty, its Gospel irony, its catharsis.

I know that ruins the Shakespearian allusions to the Wright-model of authority. Well, I didn’t know that but I am sure Neuro told me. But I do think it is important to remember that this story is more like a Charlie Kaufman (more like, not like!) screenplay than a Shakespeare play. When the ending came, one Friday, it was just the beginning. When the story finished one Sunday morning, it was just the beginning. When we hand our completed 5th Acts back to the Master, he will thank us, knit it into everything else and stun us with the twists he has in store.

Your Correspondent, He’s got his arm around every man’s dream

4 Responses to “Now I Am Choosing My Own Adventure”

  1. jimlad says:

    Only, even God’s Authority (never mind Christian misinterpretation authority (CMA) or Churchman’s agenda authority (CAA)) does constrict us. We are actually slaves to His Cross. We do actually have to act out of humility, faith, love etc. This means sometimes obeying rules that don’t make sense to us in the moment of strong desire or conviction. Wouldn’t a more complete freedom be better? Well no. We should know that by now; should never have listened to the snake in the garden, but we still want it. And yet Jesus (God) had complete freedom but apparently didn’t think it was worth all that. He tied Himself up with us in order to break the bonds that inevitably result from believing the lie that having complete freedom is better than having love.

    We need to bow to a higher authority in order to be truly free. There is no greater freedom, no complete freedom as it were, available to anyone who isn’t God. Every system contains inconsistencies, and so one element of the system will inevitably have to bow to another. We are the former element and God is the latter, except that God doesn’t even have to obey this logicical principle (I’d like to try and prove sometime that it is a necessity of all existance for something to exist that doesn’t obey logic). Maybe He simply appears to obey logic in order to interact with us. Sorry, getting sidetracked now.

  2. zoomgasted says:

    Jimlad, I pray that your comments are deeply thought-through responses. Because it would kill me if you could just happen to write with such clarity and courage just you know, off the top of your head, while you finished your sos beag.

  3. zoometic says:

    “You have freedom when you are easy in your harness” – Robert Frost

  4. at Zoomtard says:

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