Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Map Is Not the Territory - the Bible Is Not the World

Bibliomike over at Decently and In Order, my new interwebz addiction, pointed something out to me about the perennial homosexuality debate.

I've said it before, and it is not original with me, but it apparently hasn't been said enough: this has to be determined with theology, not polity

This, of course, sets off neurons firing over in my brain. As a Presbyterian, I find now that I must bow to a truth previously unacknowledged in my own mind. All of our polity, all of our business, has its roots in theology. The Book of Order did not spring fully formed from the forehead of John Knox, or of anyone else. It is a document detailing one church's attempt to make practical sense of our faith. Some of it is common sense - some of it historical tradition, and some of it is scriptural.

The problem is, of course, that there are things that go on now that Scripture flat doesn't cover. The Barkeep and I got into this the other night, as he pointed out that, as a Presbyterian and a Protestant, I confess sola scriptura. This makes me nervous from time to time, since I know some Christians who want to turn that into sola scriptura, non mundus.

I've heard a lot of words thrown around to describe the Bible. Inerrant, inspired, (never revealed, thank Him), divine, etc. I know some people take that to mean that the Bible overwhelms every other experience that we can describe. I'm nervous about that.

The language that seems to make most sense to me about the Bible is that of the guidebook, the owner's manual - or best of all, the map. Completely free from error - nothing on the map is wrong. The lands of Sin are clearly delineated, the wastes of the human soul, and the oases of Life are all marked down.

But an elemental truth awaits those who lift the text too high. The map is not the territory. The file is not the man. The Bible is not the world. We can't use the Scriptures to cover our eyes, denying the realities in front of us. The map is free from error, but it doesn't describe the whole of the earth beneath our feet. There are fossils down there on which the bible is silent. Are we to pretend that they don't exist?

We were put on this earth, with our living road map, to explore and discover, to worship and seek, and to love one another. God made the map, and he made the world. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd like to use them both as they were intended, and not make them into something they're not.

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