Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

expressing the truth

Can you imagine, for example, a modern economist articulating truths about our standard of living by reciting a poem? Or by telling what happened to him during a late-night walk through East St. Louis? Or by offering a series of proverbs and parables, beginning with the saying about a rich man, a camel, and the eye of a needle? The first would be regarded as irrelevant, the second merely anecdotal, the last childish. Yet these forms of language are certainly capable of expressing truths about economic relationships, as well as any other relationships, and indeed have been employed by various peoples. But to the modern mind, resonating with different media-metaphors, the truth in economics is believed to be best discovered and expressed in numbers.

- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

If, in Postman's quote, you hear echoes of Marshall McLuhan's aphorism, The medium is the message, it's because Postman was a disciple of McLuhan. But regardless of how the media might affect our thought processes, I think it is obvious that the modern mind does not look for truth in the same way ancient people did.

How does this affect our understanding of the Gospels?

In an era where rhetoric was considered as important as logic, Jesus was a skilled rhetorician. But to us, does it really matter whether he made the Pharisees look bad in conversation?

In age of low literacy rates, Jesus was a master storyteller. But today, do the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son have any resonance? What does it mean to us that God's kingdom is like a mustard seed, or like a net full of fish?

In a time when the universe seemed capricious, Jesus was said to have power over wind and waves, and to be able to cast out demons. He was said to be able to feed large crowds with a small amount of food. Do these stories have any meaning for today?

In the 21st century, are the Gospels relevant? Or is our world so different from first century Galilee that we can't really understand them even if we try?

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At 10/10/2007 6:42 AM, Blogger Steve Hayes said...

When post-Enlightenment missionaries came to Southern Africa in the 19th century, imbued with the spirit of modernity, they translated the Bible into local languages, and the local African Christians found they were a lot closer to the world of the New Testament than the Western missionaries were.

Maybe that's who there are more than 10000 African Independent Churches.


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