I’m not that great with subtlety. If somebody says something to me directly, I’m more likely to understand what was wanted and to take action right away. If something is indirect, odds are I’ll miss it entirely and then hear it at length later on that I didn’t do what I supposed to do when I was supposed to do it. I think that might be because I’m a product of my culture.
When I read the Scriptures, there are instances of indirect metaphors and multi-meaning turns of phrases that often often confuse me. I know that most people would prefer to believe that all verses apply equally all of the time. But what if that’s not how the original hearers would have understood them? What if they accepted ambiguity or their lot in life that some ‘were more equal than others’?
One of my favorite passages goes something like this “There is a time for … and a time to do the opposite …” For pretty much every circumstance, it suggests that each thing has its season. Which means that just as much as there is a season to take the Bible literally, there’s a time to take it figuratively. As it turns out, Christians tend to accept the figurative use of language when: the passage suggest immoral behavior when taken literally or the passage suggests absurdity when taken literally. That means that there’s a realm of figurative words and phrases that we’re missing because it’s neither immoral nor absurd when taken literally. We’re just predisposed to want to read everything literally all the time and so that’s what we see – which is why we miss out on so many passages with double-meanings; to us the literal reading is always the correct one.
But there’s also a tendency to think that ‘Well, if we deny this part, then we must be denying the whole thing.’ That’s our inability to accept the ambiguity that ancient cultures lived with day in and day out. That logic just doesn’t fly, after all, many people who disagree with one part of the constitution of the States tends to agree with pretty much the rest of it. One person who disagrees with one part of a book, song, or movie might very well enjoy the rest of it. And yet, when it comes to the Bible, for some, nothing less than complete adherence to it’s texts literally is acceptable – and yet, there are a few areas where it just doesn’t work. So they don’t really deny those areas, they just ignore them. In a “I’m not saying ‘no’ but I’m not saying ‘yes’ either” sort of way.
There is one thing I did learn, having spent a lot of time learning the Bible under a particular emphasis is really difficult to unlearn. One year is not enough to undo many years worth of focus on a particular subject. But I can take solace in that all things have their season, and that one day I’ll be able to read scriptures clearly and freely. And that is something to look forward to.