Sheldon, Lucy, and Hermeneutics
I love Sheldon Cooper. The way he approaches the world creates some of the most hilarious comedy you will find anywhere these days. For those unfamiliar with the star of The Big Bang Theory, he is the polar opposite of Lucy Ricardo but just as hilarious. To Sheldon, the whole world can be understood by applying a scientific theory to every situation. Relationships, workplace etiquette, entertainment, and many other things all are put into a formula and the end result is so awkward it’s hilarious. Lucy Ricardo was known for having absolutely no boundaries, she thought very little through. The world was a canvas and she was painting it with Lucy all the time.
Every Bible student has to establish a hermeneutic. For many of us, we were unknowingly given a hermeneutic long before we knew what a hermeneutic was. A hermeneutic is simply the framework in which you read scripture. Some read through a framework like Sheldon - if put into a formula, you will find a solution and thus find scripture’s modern application. It’s an all science approach. Some read through a framework like Lucy - put it on a canvas, get the big picture, and just hope all the details fall into place. It’s an all-art approach.
I would suggest the proper way to read scripture is not to read it as a science textbook. I would suggest the proper way to view scripture is not as you would view a modern art piece where meaning is found only in the eye of the beholder. I would suggest that there are better alternatives.
I graduated with a degree in social work. One of the great debates in the social work field is whether or not a social work degree should be a Bachelor’s of Science or a Bachelor’s of Art. When you enter in and invest into people’s lives, you realize that the field is both equal parts science and art. There are some guides that are universally applied to every family you work with but there is also a feel for aiding a family that can only be known when you know the comprehensive picture of what is happening in that family. There is truth in both the science and the art but they are not mutually exclusive.
If we want to get our hermeneutic correct, we must acknowledge the facts of scripture - some things are very clear in God’s words and should be considered immutable facts.
If we want to get our hermeneutic correct, we must acknowledge the story of scripture. There is a story taking place that is 66 books long written in different styles, to different people to teach us how God would redeem his people from the plague of sin. It teaches us that God is Love and that he desires to redeem his people.
The Churches of Christ
The Churches of Christ have become notorious through the years for our great knowledge of the scripture. We have conducted experiment after experiment on the texts of scripture to come to a hermeneutic we feel that we can teach, distribute, and people can apply and come to the same conclusions. We are a divided fellowship in many ways because we can’t consistently apply the traditional hermeneutic we have developed. It is an all-science hermeneutic taken to scripture.
Some, generally outside of our fellowship, have taken an almost all-art hermeneutic to scripture. The general concept is that God is love and everything that is done or said should be interpreted through the lens of what we believe love is. This leads to issues like improper teaching about prosperity, skewed views on homosexuality and ultimately to complete uncertainty of what God expects of us. The Churches of Christ have generally combatted these types of issues by becoming more knowledgeable and more scientific.
Not Either/Or but Both/And
May I suggest that the truth is not in either science or art but rather in both science and art? The story of scripture is a story of how God creates, interacts, and ultimately redeems mankind. It is a beautiful story about a family with a lot of information/data to collect along the way. When one gets through with God’s story and how he deals with people, they should be perplexed as to whether or not they have earned a proverbial degree in science or art.
It’s notable that we can know some things about God because of who we are. Being made in his image- We know God has both a “left and right brain”. He is infinitely knowledgeable but he is also just as infinitely artistic and good- The God who wrote Leviticus also wrote Psalms. The God who wrote the history of Genesis also wrote the Song of Songs. He has crafted a story out of facts so wonderful that man would have to see it as a document by one Holy Spirit author telling one story. With the right lens, it will be both marvelous science and beautiful art.
Sheldon has gradually through the years learned that there is an art to dealing with people. Everything can’t be put into a scientific formula to produce the same result. He’s a better person than he was 9 seasons ago. When we learn to craft art into our hermeneutic, I believe we will stand better prepared to tell the wondrous story of God and his people. We’ll be better people because of it.
Daniel Courington is the preaching minister for the Palisades Church of Christ in Homewood, AL. He likes bobbleheads, cheesecake and all things Auburn.
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