Wednesday, February 02, 2005

second thoughts on the art/worship thing

maybe we should not let the truth be so simple. Sometimes we need complex art to contain the mystery that is God and life and the world. I mean, after all, the Bible is not always straightforward and clearly explained. Have you read the book of Habakkuk lately? How about Ezekiel? Jesus' parables are pretty difficult to understand. The sacraments are complex and rich and mysterious.

I think there is no reason for being intentionally obscure, but since God saw fit to give us the Bible in the language of literature and poetry and stories, I think responding by simplification is a poor choice.

This is not to say, however, that the church isn't a place for us all to work toward deeper understanding. If we all sat around talking about how we didn't really get it, that wouldn't do us any good either.

...truth in the sense of fullness, o fthe way things are, can at best be only pointed to by the language of poetry - of metaphor, image, symbol - as it is used in the prophets of the Old Testament and elsewhere. - Frederick Buechner


Aaron said...

But that is not to say that the Bible should ALWAYS be complex, or else it would not be accesible to the masses, jsut the intelectual elite.

Ron Rienstra said...

Aaron, Bethany,

Of course, for centuries it was an accepted truth of the Church that the Bible IS too complex for the "masses" to understand. Only highly educated clergy had a chance of glimpsing its meanings. Basic theology and stories could be communicated to folks in the pews, but keep the actual book out of their hands - a little knowledge is quite dangerous.

Obviously, the Reformation's response to what it perceived here as a bald power move was to thwart it at every turn: translate the Bible into the vernacular languages and make it as widely available as possible.

So here's the question: is there any truth to the "old" view, if you view it with as much generosity as possible? Has putting the Bible (and thus the opportunity, if not the power to interpret) into the hands of the laity been an unqualified success, historically speaking?