of frogs, humour, magic tricks and the Bible

frogWhen I was at Bible College I wrote a dissertation: A Theology of humour – a serious look at the lighter side of God. I came across this quotation in my research about the nature of humour from EB White: “Humor (sic) can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”

I have a feeling that the same is true for magical illusions – they too are like frogs because they cease to be as wonderful when dissected. I was recently watching an excerpt from a magic show with someone who wanted to know how the illusion was done. I warned them that if I told them they would be disappointed, but they insisted. So I gave them an explanation. And they were disappointed. The method was clever, ingenious and succeeded in creating the illusion of something impossible having just happened. But it was disappointing to the person with whom I was talking to discover that it was not as magical as they had thought – it was simply clever use of lighting, props, timing and (well I can’t tell you the rest).

I love learning how a magical illusion is done. I love exploring the techniques. I love considering how to perform it. I love seeing other magicians perform and seeing their skill and presentational ability. I love all of the ‘innards’. But for most people seeing and exploring those things will be disappointing. While they may say, “Tell me how you do that!” what they usually mean is, “Wow, I have no idea how you did that!” They want the ‘wow’ moment not the scientific analysis.

I think that the Bible is like a frog too… you can dissect it but it dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind. The Bible is not a technical manual, it is not a text book, it is not even first and foremost a document to be studied*: it is an encounter with God. If you approach it looking to experience him you are far more likely to come away with a ‘wow’ than if you approach sceptically. Sometimes we can get distracted from the ‘wow’ by thinking that we want the ‘how’.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*That is not to say that it can’t be studied or shouldn’t be studied, nor that it can’t stand up to scrutiny. But if you approach it that way you may miss the encounter with God in it.

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