Friday, July 15, 2005


Holy Text

"Words are holy" writes Bill Tammeus in a recent column.

Every writer thinks about words. Every writer wants maximum impact from his words. But are words really "holy?"

Most people would agree that at least some words are. Disagreement abounds, however, as to which texts to accept as scripture - and which to reject.

But Tammeus does not mean "words are holy" in this way. He means it "metaphorically."

"I am the word" said Jesus. "In the beginning was the word..." Says John. Tammeus points to the Christian scripture and what it says about words.

Of course, "Jesus" is a word, a name; but also so much more than that. When He says he is "the word" He also speaks metaphorically. We cannot reduce him to merely "the word."

Words are themselves metaphors. They stand in place of things and ideas. Any thinking child knows that.

But all too often, adults make the mistake of taking the word for the thing.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him." John 1:1-3.

If we take the Bible literally, what are we to make of this? We cannot reduce God to mere words.

As writer Stephen Mitchell says, "Whenever God is presented as a character, that presentation is partial, and therefore false. Ultimately, God is not a character in a story. God is the whole story."

Words matter. Words, inadequate symbols poorly representing concepts, remain the prime tool of understanding. To express oneself clearly requires understanding. Through understanding, we can push back the frontiers of ignorance.

These words, written today, feel like solopistic soliloquies. But even if no one should stumble across them and go "Huh!" the rewards justify the effort.

p.s. -- Bill Tammeus will speak at St Paul's United Methodist Church in Lenexa, KS, at a date to be announced. (Postponed). He writes a weekly faith column for the Kansas City Star.

I just wanted to let you know that I've read basically your entire blog (never fear that your voice goes unheard!) and that I really respect your faith, your intellect and your compassion in the midst of this crazy culture war. It is so hard to integrate intellectual rigor with religious beliefs. I tried for a while to do it, but in the end, the intellect won out and my faith could not stand beneath its weight. I was starting to worry that there weren't any more people like you in the world--people who sincerely want to have open-ended dialogue about religion, science etc. Peace, and keep up the good blogging :) I'll be back to visit again!
Please forgive me (because I am sure you know this already but for the unitiated this might be helpful) when I say that Word translates as logos in the text you are refering to.

I do agree that unctritical, literal readings of the Bible can get us into all kinds of trouble.

I am very impressed by how your approach appears to have given Minerva21 reason to hope for better things from the faithful.

Keep up the good work.
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