Conversation as Faith

Currently listening to: Demolition by Ryan Adams

There is a certain beautiful appeal to the hermeneutical (essentially, this term means how we understand and use texts–including but not limited to the Bible) approach traditionally employed by Jewish rabbis (an approach known as midrash).  Midrash is a derivative of the Hebrew word darash, which means “study,” “investigate,” or “search” and is an approach to biblical literature that is quite unlike that employed by those of us in the West.  Quoting from A Short Introduction to Hermeneutics by David Jasper:

The Jews did not so much seek meaning in words, but rather saw in words a form of conversation, which is endless and reaches no conclusions… There is no closure to text, but endless repetition and refinement–not even necessarily agreement among interpreters, but discussion in the “space” provided by writing. (pp. 19-20)

I am particularly taken by the concept of studying the Bible (or any sacred literature) as a form of conversation.  In my tradition and my own personal scholarly history, the goal of interpretation (and religious life in general) was to discover the meaning of a text.  As Westerners, we are often consumed with a need for results, conclusions, and tying down loose ends.  Thus, our faith is seldom comfortable with ambiguity, mystery, and uncertainty.  In fact, faith for many is about removing doubt!

Perhaps a revitalization of faith, and a deeper discovery of who God is, should focus less on answers and more on questions.  Perhaps, what is needed most in this world of shallow faith and superficial religion, is a return to the awestruck celebration of mystery and a return to conversation as a way of faith.  Perhaps, it is not in the solutions that we will find the deepest meaning in our lives, but in the mutual exchange with others.

Perhaps, faith too reaches no conclusions, “unless it is finally enclosed in the silence of God with which everything begins and ends.” (Jasper, p. 20)

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~ by eternaldode on 28 August 2009.

2 Responses to “Conversation as Faith”

  1. I hope that I can seek God with all that I am. Not to seek doctrine or 3-step faith programs but really seek God.

    • Obviously, if you’ve read any of my blogs on this site, I believe that truly seeking God means giving up the illusion of getting answers. Now, I think that faith should make life different, more cohesive perhaps; but the journey into God is a journey away from certainty, away from solution, away from the need for definitiveness. It is the movement into the Radiant Darkness that is God (i believe this phrase “Radiant Darkness,” was coined by one of the great church mystics, but I am unable to locate its source).

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