Monday, March 19, 2007

Dialectical Biblical Interpretation?

One of the most useful principles I know for understanding and applying the Bible is to ask: "If this is the truth, what is the lie?" From thinking about the lie, we can see more things about the truth. This might sound vaguely like Hegel (or Marx?), but it came in handy as I looked at today's reading from the Psalms:
My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
Psalm 62.1
If that's the truth -- that rest for my soul comes only in God, then what's the lie? That rest for my soul (or "salvation") can come from anywhere else.

We believe this kind of thing all the time, you and I. At least a part of us believes it. "I'll be glad when..." and fill in the blank. When I've made $X, when I've had my big break, when I'm famous, when I've met somebody, whatever. Haven't we all thought something like that, at least for a while (before we came to our senses)? It is, of course, a crock. Why are so many celebrities in rehab programs? Why did Howard Hughes meet such an ignoble end? Why are there so many divorces?

Because fortune, achievement, fame, companions aren't powerful enough, or benevolent enough, to bring significance, satisfaction (OK, salvation). But in contrast, if we look down a few lines, we see this:
11One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
12and that you, O Lord, are loving.
from Psalm 62.11-12
Well, I think the little dialectic "trick" worked; without it, I don't think it would have occurred to me how to tie verses 11-12 with verse 1.

In any case, whenever I'm tempted to think, "I'll be happy when..." (or "My life will be complete when..." or some variation) -- when I catch myself thinking those kinds of things, this psalm is a good reminder to wake up and come back to reality. Because none of those things are strong and loving enough; they aren't powerful and good enough -- to bring peace and hope. But the good news is that God is, and he will, and he's available when we call on him.

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