Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Side Issue

We live in the Bible Belt, but fairly insulated from the "redneck" sort of religion for which it's famous. However...

A lady in Atlanta went to her bishop discontented with her pastor. "Bishop", she said "he doesn't even believe that Eve came from a rib of Adam." Bishops don't get to be bishops for nothing: he replied, "Madam", he said, "that's a side issue".

I heard that story forty or fifty years ago, but it's one of the kind that you don't forget. This morning, reading Genesis 2, in a moment of enlightenment it came to me that 'a side issue' is a pretty good principle of interpretion.

Like the time God made the sun stand still for 7 days to give the Hebrews a chance to slaughter their enemies: that's a side issue, or the time that man of God, Elisha, caused iron to swim (II Kings 6:6): a side issue.

In seminary we were reading the Book of Jonah, and one of the 'less gifted' theolgues burst out in a moment of passion: "If Jonah didn't spend three days in the belly of the big fish, then there's no basis for my faith". (He was trapped by a side issue.) A more enlightened colleague said:

"Whether or not Jonah spent thee days in the belly of a big fish, I don't know, but (quoting John 9:25) 'Whether he [Jesus] be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see'. That's the basis of my faith."

I lived much of my life in the South, among fundamentalists of every strip. Although very liberal (by my lights) I managed to get along with most of them. No need to let a side issue interfere with the Lord's command that we love one another.


Jon said...

Well said. We all have our heads filled with (more-or-less) stupid stuff about God, who is beyond our minds.

A lot of my spiritual work in the past was trying to reduce the stuff or the stupidity of it.

Now I think I'm just ready to get down to work and love.

anonymous julie said...

No need to let a side issue interfere with the Lord's command that we love one another.

That concept is of primary importance to me :) Well said!

Merry Christmas!