April 26, 2010
i suppose before i start, i should qualify the following remarks with a bit of autobiographical framing:
i am religious, yes. jewish to be exact. however, my type of jewish is an odd duck to hunt and then mount. it’s rigorous, but it’s leftist. it prefers the ecstatic fervor of the hasidim, but (and!) it is radically egalitarian. it is clearly un-orthodox. you might even call it heterodox.
so, this brings me to my musings.
the one thing that bugs me the most about the theological debate as it stands is the pathological obsession with biblical inerrancy. first of all, the idea of the bible as lynchpin of faith is a distinctly protestant notion. it is clear to anyone with the barest understandings of interpretive history that there is not really any such thing as “biblical literalism.”
even the debate surrounding this principle has ceded ground from the outset to this ridiculous position. to be forced to represent yourself as “not believing in a literal interpretation of the bible” already positions you as a weak-tea version of the true religionist who has enough strength in his convictions to override modern lily-livered qualms and put the whole world in G?d’s hands.
the jewish (and catholic and muslim and even protestant) traditions have a long and rich history of biblical interpretation. but not only that. there are whole scores of religious literatures which make reference to the bible and are grounded in it, but serve their own function as well. in fact, the study of the bible in the world of the yeshiva (advanced jewish study academy) has relegated the bible to a distant fourth behind the talmud, jewish law, and ethical texts. the bible is present, of course, but it functions more as the ground whence texts bloom than the dominant focus.
now, all that being said, i want to acknowledge the feeling of needing perfection. the books of psalms tells us, “the Torah of the Lord is perfect.” (Ps 19:7). i want to propose a radically difference understanding of perfection. from plato on down, we have felt compelled to understand perfection as implying stasis, wholeness. i want to suggest a more fluid understanding of perfection. it is an organic perfection, one emerging from the amazing adaptations happening around us all the time. michael jordan was perfect in that game, because he was able to provide what was needed at the time. the clash was perfect because they were able to create the most wonderful friction.
the Torah is perfect because it is able to provide us with what we need in every time. the bible is perfect because it will never stop being an incredible textual resource and framework.
we must loose ourselves of this silly notion of “biblical faith.” all faith is “biblical” in some way. we are always conditioned by the externalities that help form us into the people we become. our bible hums around us at all times.