About two years ago, I wrote a series that began with a post called “Connecting the dots“. While I would probably say some things differently today, I still think this is an important topic for discussion. In many areas of life, Scripture does not always “connect the dots”. The question, do we exhort people to live according to the “dots” of Scripture, or to the way that our tradition connects the “dots”? (There are links to the others posts in that series at the bottom of this post.)
Have you ever completed a “connect-the-dots” picture? Usually, the dots are so close together that the final picture is fairly obvious before you even begin. Thus, you know the picture is a rabbit even before you draw a line from dot 1 to dot 2.
Sometimes, studying Scripture is much like connecting the dots. The biblical writers did not write complete theological treatises to their recipients. They wrote occasional letters to deal with specific problems. True, some of the books are more general. However, Scripture does not give us a complete picture of many aspects of living the Christian life.
Through exegesis (see a post by Steve, at “Theological Musings“, called “Exegesis vs. Eisegesis“) we can attempt to understand what the authors of Scripture were teaching in a certain passage. This understanding becomes our point of reference. This point of reference is based strictly on the the text of Scripture, not on what we believe, but on what the text actually says.
By exegeting other related passages we can begin to add other points of reference. But, once we have exegeted all of the passages of Scripture related to a certain topic, we have many points of reference: some fairly close together, others are not as close. The question now becomes, how are we going to connect those points of reference? How are we going to connect the dots?
For example, my favorite topic is the meeting of the church. What should happen when the church gathers together? There is no book or even chapter that tells us exactly what should happen and how it should happen, who does what and who doesn’t, where can we meet, when do we meet… None of the biblical authors wrote a complete description of the gathering of the church. However, we do have points of reference. As we exegete 1 Corinthians 14, Hebrews 10:24-25, several passages in Acts, etc. we find points of reference about the gathering of the church. Now, what do we do with these points of reference?
How do we live in the space between the dots? I’m not talking about the points of reference themselves. If Scripture speaks to a certain issue, then we, as servants of our Lord, should obey. So, I am not talking about living around the dots; I’m talking about living in the space between the points of reference – in the spaces where Scripture does not specifically speak, or if it does speak, it seems incomplete.
It is normal for us to draw lines connecting the dots. We like to have everything spelled out for us. In fact, for the past two thousand years, many systematic theologians have attempted to do just that: connect the dots. Many of these systems have been very complete, spelling out exactly how a believer should live and believe in any circumstance. Many of these systems are also quite true to Scripture: that is, where Scripture speaks to an issue, many systems intersect Scripture. But, what about an issues where Scripture does not speak? Or what about the spaces “between the dots” where Scripture speaks?
My next post will continue to examine this issue of hermeneutics. In the meantime, I ask you, how do we live in the space between the dots? How do we live in the areas between the points of reference that Scripture gives us? Or, are there no spaces between the points of reference?
“Connecting the Dots” Series: