On Tuesday this week I spent the day with my good friend and incredibly talented joiner, David. We were working together to create a prop for the Magic Show I have been mentioning rather a lot in my bloggages.
The prop is my design of a classic of magic (you’ll have to come along to see it). David has helped refine the design so it packs down flat for transportation and storage. It was all going well until we got to a point where we were going to attach the hinges to the lid of the box (yes there is a box involved).
At this point we reached a snag because the hinge we had bought did not work in the design. We had overlooked an apparently minor fact which turned out to be very significant. No matter how we looked at it, talked about it, bent bits, dismantled and reassembled the hinge back to front and otherwise fettled, we could not make it do what we needed it to do.
We finished the day feeling somewhat deflated that we had been defeated by something as minor as a hinge and arranged to have another go at it next week.
The following morning I woke up rather earlier than usual with an idea about how to solve the problem. It was bouncing around in my head so I decided to come downstairs and send and email with that possible solution in it to David. As I was typing the email two other possible solutions also presented themselves to me. Suddenly it became obvious how we could resolve the problem (although don’t celebrate just yet as we have not completed the build).
I felt rather pleased with myself that I had been able to think around the problem and (literally) tackle it from a different direction. I was also rather impressed with my subconscious mind that, while my body was kipping, was busy nerdling away at a solution. As I say, I am not celebrating just yet as we have not applied the solution to the problem, but it looks more hopeful as at least there is one way of solving it – there may be more!
And that’s an approach I have sometimes applied to understanding difficult things in the Bible. I may not have come up with THE correct interpretation or answer, but if there is one that works it means that there is AN answer.
DISCLAIMER: At this point please note that I am not making a case for a literal or a metaphorical understanding of the Bible. The example I am using is intended as an illustration of the principle I outlined above. I have a view but will not be letting you know what it is because some of you would not read on because you would disagree with me.
Think about the flood in Genesis and the narrative about Noah (I don’t like calling it ‘Noah’s flood’ as it wasn’t his! There was an interesting interpretation of it on BBC TV at Easter). What actually happened? Was it possible? I read a theory a while ago that has been reported here which suggested that there was a catastrophic flood in that region about 7000 years ago caused by melting of polar ice caps and the rising sea levels overwhelming the land mass in a sudden surge. (Other cultures in the area also have stories of overwhelming floods.) Now listen very carefully. I am not saying that this is exactly what happened, but it is possible -Noah’s inland boat building exploits fit with that explanation of what happened. Because there is a plausible possible explanation I don’t have to worry my brain about what happened.
The question “Did it happen exactly as the Bible said it did?” (bearing in mind that ancient history was not recorded in the same way that we record it today) can be answered: “it could have.” Hopefully both sides of the argument can agree on that and then they could get together to work on the more important part of it – what does it mean?
Because there is a possible plausible answer it also means that we can concentrate instead on what the narrative means for us today: it speaks of God’s concern for what the world he brought into being, perhaps even having something to say about rising water levels caused by global warming; it speaks of God’s sorrow at human behaviour that excludes him, and the inevitable exploitation and violence that comes from greed and that has consequences for us; it speaks of the contrast between people who seek to honour God and those who don’t care about him; it speaks of taking God seriously; it speaks of God’s promises; and (if you read on into what happened when they had disembarked and started again) I wonder if it also speaks about the human struggle to understand what has happened in the face of natural disasters (Noah became unhinged and got very drunk).
What does it say to you?
Be blessed, be a blessing