making sense of the Bible

Cowboy Bebop Plays His ComputerDon Boudreaux observes that theories are narratives that we tell to make sense of the data. This is true for any discipline:

Each semester I teach my freshman students that theories are simply stories that we tell in order to make sense of observed reality. And if story X does a better job than does story Y of making sense of reality, then story X is the better theory of the two. Compared to story Y, better-story X makes those who hear it go “Ah, yes! That makes sense! Now I understand reality better than I did before!”

This definition and function of “theory” holds regardless of discipline. It’s true for physics no less than for biology; it’s true for chemistry no less than for economics. It’s true for the most formal, purely mathematized story no less than for the most casual, purely verbal story. A theory that does not cause Jones to sense that she better understands reality is not a theory that Jones accepts. Put differently, for Jones to accept a story as a valid theory of that aspect of reality that the story is meant to explain, Jones must like (by her own lights) what she perceives to be the correspondence between the story’s logic (and its implications) and reality as Jones understands reality.

Boudreaux goes to quote an author who attempts to explain the origin of Facebook “likes”:

So in spite of its interactive patina, the digital economy continues the industrial practice of preventing real people from participating in the growth economy – at least as its beneficiaries. We still get to work, and we still end up living and socializing in a landscape that feels more like business than pleasure. There’s just no money.

In fact, the digital landscape so effectively monopolizes economic activity that most people have almost nothing left to be extracted. That’s why in order to maintain some semblance of growth, Internet companies had to find a way to monetize something other than cash from its users. Something measurable, countable, and attractive enough to shareholders to justify their real cash investment in the companies’ stock.

That’s right: “likes.” ….

Likes are a new way to stoke that growth furnace.

Boudreaux responds:

The above quoted passage is stuffed with error enough for several long blog posts. But I’ll content myself now only to ask if you find Rushkoff’s theory of “likes” likable. Does this story he tells make you go “Ah ha! Now I get it! Now I better understand why ‘like’ buttons exist and why so many people like (!) to use them”? Does Rushkoff’s theory of ‘likes’ cause you say to yourself “Until now, I thought that ‘likes’ emerged in order to, or because of [fill in the blank]. But now I see that, as Rushkoff explains, ‘likes’ instead are the last possible crumbs of value that digital monopolists such as Facebook can extract from ordinary people – ordinary people who have been utterly impoverished by the past couple of centuries of industrial capitalism. Rushkoff’s explanation has torn the blinding curtains from my eyes! I see now that clever monopolists are raising the market values of their firms to astronomical heights by getting the impoverished masses to ‘like’ in droves the monopolists’ webpages and web-featured products. I like that explanation!”

The same sorts of questions should be used for Biblical interpretation. Does the story have explanatory power? For example, when a Calvinist explains Exodus 32,Genesis 18 or Genesis 22, does a reader jump out of their seat and proclaim “Ah ha! Now I get it! Now I better understand why the text was written like it was”?

Here is Matt Slick on Genesis 22:

Since we can see that it is not consistent with Scripture and logic to say that God did not know what was in Abraham’s heart and that God did not know what Abraham would do, we can conclude that God was speaking to Abraham in terms that Abraham was familiar with. This is not at all foreign to Scripture. In Gen. 3:9, after Adam’s sin, God calls to Adam and asks, “Where are you?” Are we to say that God did not know where Adam was in the garden? Of course not. God makes statements often designed to reveal to us a truth that needs to be presented. In fact, God often asks questions He already knows the answer to. In Adam’s case, the “where” was dealing with spiritual condition, not physical location. In Abraham’s case, God was simply relating to Abraham in terms consistent with what Abraham would understand, particularly after the actual event with Isaac on the altar…

God was doing two things. First, God revealed the gospel in hidden form. Second, God was speaking for Abraham’s benefit, that is, it was Abraham who needed to hear that God was acknowledging that Abraham feared Him. The test was not for God but for Abraham, and the words, “Now I know,” were not for God but for the man who needed to hear God affirm His faithfulness. Abraham is a man locked in time. The act of sacrificing Isaac was important prophetically, but it is also important to us as a testimony of faithfulness to God.

Does a reader automatically respond: “Now it makes much more sense!”?

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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3 Responses to making sense of the Bible

  1. Dave says:

    Absolutely NOT in fact here we have the typical Calvinistic sleight of hand the Adam event cannot be used in this manner it is a category error

  2. Tom Torbeyns says:

    “The test was not for God but for Abraham” How do Matt Slick and others ever possibly get this idea from the text? I think it comes from man-made tradition. There goes the sola-scriptura principle. :-(

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