Friday, 6 September 2013

The Gestalt or Essence of the Bible

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The Bible cannot legitimately be regarded as a set of inter-linked laws or regulations - but that is how many people read it. The implicit ideal is that a good Biblical Christian should know the whole Bible, sentence by sentence, and fully cross-referenced.

This is double nonsense - in the first place as requiring a cognitive capacity, time and resources grossly beyond the mass of humanity; but also because it is the wrong way to understand the Bible.

The Bible needs to be understood as a whole - that is, perhaps as a Gestalt (the sum being greater than its parts) or more helpfully as having an Essence - more helpfully because 'greater than the sum of its parts' still carries implications that all the parts must first be separately comprehended.

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If the Bible is regarded as having an Essence, this does not mean that the Essence can be defined: it cannot be defined.

What I mean is that the Christian relationship to the Bible should be one of Love - not of comprehension - the Bible should be loved in the same kind of way we love a person: Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter, Husband, Wife or dear Friend.

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What do we Love about a person? We love their Essence - that is to say, we do not assemble our love of a person from the individual loves of each of their parts separately considered - but we love that person, love their soul.

Even when loving their Essence, we may not love their parts - we may not love their habits, the way they sniff loudly or snore; we may not love their diseases, their cancers; we do not love their sins - but we do love them.

We do not love their perfection-in-every-detail - nor do we comprehend them - 'other people' are an insoluble mystery.

But we love them in their essential being.

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That should be a Christian's attitude to the Bible, I think. He should love its Essence.

In this sense the Bible is something with which we seek a relationship - and a relationship is something that can be mentally grasped whole and in a moment.

We are not required to understanding each specific verse considered separately - how could we possibly do this anyway?

Just as our love for a person is not affected by imperfections of incomprehension, love of the Bible should not be affected by an inability to make sense of or believe each bit of the Bible when it has been chopped up and presented for analysis.

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(...That would be somewhat like taking a camera and photographing each part of a wife's body at different levels of magnification down to the microscopic, and requiring that the husband not only recognize every photograph, but explain every detail of all of these pictures, and the inter-relationship of all of these pictures - and also regard every photograph as perfection, and that he must 'love' each and every one of them!)

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Fortunately that kind of thing is neither required, nor is it helpful.

I think we should read the Bible in the same spirit as we want to spend time with our loved ones. Of course we want to 'get to know them' better - but that isn't really the point, is it?

We want to spend time with them because we love them.

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