Summary: How we often miss the point arguing over what isn't the main thing.
Yesterday at church we sang Indescribably by Chris Tomlin (check out this video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmTxZAl7ceU&feature=fvsr ). I confess that I like this number very much, both the lyrics and the music however, something didn’t seem right. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It started with an uneasy feeling first in my gut then in my head. I got distracted. When we repeated the second stanza I became consciously aware of the source of my conflict. Here’s how the second stanza reads, “Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go…Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow.”
When I sang that first line of the second stanza the Greek and Norse mythological figures of Zeus and Thor came to mind and Jack Frost during the second line. Why should this matter? It’s a great song. I realize that song writers exercise poetic license when composing songs. They're just creatively describing some complex reality from an artistic perspective. Problem is that some people get their theology more from the songs they sing than they do from Scripture.
Some Christians really do believe that God chooses exactly where every lightening bolt lands, hand picking each tree, each cow, each golfer who will be “electri-fried”! Blindly singing this song can actually reinforce such theological belief.
I don’t know about you but I can recall zealous Christians acting and thinking stupidly in science class, Sunday School, Seminary and in Pulpits. Taking what was intended as poetry and blindly and ignorantly creating rigid dogma that confused and hurt so many and in fact kept them far from God. I’m guessing most of us, if we stop and think realize that God doesn’t roam the clouds with a quiver of lightning bolts over his left shoulder (we all know God is right-handed…right?) nor does he have an invisible logistics network of snow warehouses supplied by his snow factory at the north pole where he hand crafts each individual flake (and you wonder why he doesn’t seem to hear your prayers) but in the past many did and sadly some still do today.
In the Church, when we fail to see poetry, whether in our hymnals, on the giant screen up front or in our Bibles, for what it is, a creative expression of a complex reality, then we end up in mindless debates and at worst burning people at the stake or at best sounding ignorantly arrogant.
God created this world we live on with awe inspiring beauty and the ingredients for hair-raising climatic conditions. When a cold front meets a hot front you can be sure that as day follows night or night follows day (depending on which shift you work), that bolts of intense energy and ear cracking sound will result.
I checked online and found the following. “Snow is frozen precipitation in the form of white or translucent hexagonal ice crystals that fall in soft, white flakes… Snowfall tends to form within regions of upward motion of air around a type of low-pressure system known as an extratropical cyclone.” That was rather boring, at least to me it was, I prefer “heavenly storehouses laden with snow”.
Ok, so what am I getting at? We need to be ever so careful with our thoughts and understanding of theology and science. One is the discipline which attempts to explain and understand the Creator and the other is the discipline which attempts to explain the Creator’s artistic expressions from our finite perspective. Both, if they are truly honest, arrive at places where they must confess “I don’t know”, “I’m going on a hunch”, “if A and B are “this”, then following what we know, C is most probably “that”. Faith and Hope are required in both disciplines. None move forward and closer to truth without them.
When we look at scripture we must do so with caution. Too often we approach it as we do the morning news, information out of context, or the daily horoscope or fortune cookie.
Here's a Scriptural example of all I've mentioned to this point.
2 Timothy 2:11-13 reads as follows:
11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
This text is believed to have been a hymn (a song) or poem which was in circulation during Paul and Timothy’s day. So once again we have poetry possibly set to music and we need to keep this in mind lest we rigidly and dogmatically extrapolate an unintended meaning from the text.
I find it interesting that in the various commentaries I picked up there’s little or no discussion about the oddity of 12b.