Parallels

When C. S. Lewis was beginning to make the transition from unbelief to belief in Christianity, reportedly one of the primary avenues for him was the mythological connection. Lewis found Biblical stories irritating in what they asked listeners to accept and believe, but very similar stories in other ancient myth cycles didn’t bother him in the least, though they were also accepted and believed by other groups of people in other times — rather, these other cycles appealed to him. Noticing this, Lewis’s friend J. R. R. Tolkien said something to the effect of, “Well, Christianity is just another mythology — only it’s one that happens to be true.” And (again, so I’ve read) a light began to glow for Lewis.

During the past year, I’ve started reading the Bible in a new way. Always before in life, I’ve read the Bible in bits and pieces — “lessons” — usually determined by the church’s lectionary calendar or the appointings of this or that devotional booklet. But it dawned on me that, as one who places such value on Story, I ought to explore the aspect of Scripture as Story. That is, I ought to see what might be seen from reading entire books in order, watching the events unfold naturally and cumulatively. One of my favorite college profs liked to point out that “history = His Story.” The Bible we have today looks like a book. It’s bound like a book. It fits into our bookcases. Maybe we keep it there. But oddly, we don’t usually read it like a book, starting at the beginning of a story and seeing where it leads us, appreciating the characters, what they do, and what happens to them.

I can see you all shaking your heads and slapping your foreheads, thinking, “Duh! It’s taken you more than four decades to get around to this approach?” Well, well, whatever. We’re never too old to learn. So anyway, I started with the four Gospels. I read John, then Luke, then Matthew, then Mark. Then I went back to square one and read through Genesis. (A pace that works for me is reading a chapter almost every night. If I’m too busy some nights to read a chapter, I don’t get down on myself. The book has been around for a long time — I know it will still be there the next night.) Then I went on into Exodus, and that’s where I am now, in the midst of the plagues upon Egypt. (It’s really making me want to rent The Ten Commandments, which I used to watch every year on TV when I was a kid. One network would put it on at Eastertime to compete with Jesus of Nazareth on the other network. I wanted to watch The Ten Commandments for the seventh or eighth time, and my parents wanted to watch Jesus, so we’d do a lot of switching back and forth whenever a commercial came on on one network. [Yes, in those days, homes usually did have just one TV set. . . .] How many of you used this line with your parents on a school night? — “Just let me stay up until the parting of the Red Sea!” — Bring back any memories? I won’t ask how many of you played The Ten Commandments on school recess. My friends and I did . . . probably convincing the playground teachers that we were insane. Of course, we’d conditioned them: in the years before The Ten Commandments, we played Planet of the Apes.)

Boy, do I digress! Here’s the point I set out to make: I’ve been noticing a fascinating parallel between Genesis/Exodus and Homer’s Odyssey. Let’s compare the Biblical Jacob with Odysseus. Jacob’s name means “He Grabs the Heel,” because he came out of the womb grasping the heel of his brother Esau. We’re told that Esau was a great hunter, a man of the open country, but Jacob was a quiet man who stayed among the tents. The Trickster is a common figure in world mythology, and I’d venture to say that Jacob is the closest figure the Old Testament gives us to The Trickster. He uses his head. He’s shrewd. He’s not above doing things that are, frankly, out-and-out dishonest. He skillfully gets his brother’s birthright. He deviously (in cahoots with his mother) gets his aging father’s blessing that was meant for Esau. He does something so tricky with the livestock that even I’m not sure I understand what he did, but he greatly increases his herds at the expense of his uncle and father-in-law Laban.

Odysseus is wily, too. That tricky hollow Horse was his idea. And how about how he gets his captured men out of the cave of Polyphemus, the Cyclops? After he’s blinded the Cyclops, he has his men cling to the bellies of the sheep as they leave the cave. Polyphemus touches each passing body and feels only the fleeces of sheeps’ backs. Isn’t that eerily close to that stunt Jacob and Rebekah pull in Genesis 27, when they put goatskin on Jacob’s smooth arms so that his father Isaac, nearly blind in his old age, thinks he’s feeling the hairy arms of his firstborn Esau? Odysseus is always coming up with clever ways to have his cake and eat it, too. He wants to hear the Sirens’ song, but he knows hearing it can be maddening and fatal, so he has his men lash him securely to the mast so that he can’t jump into the waves, no matter how enchanted he becomes. The men all plug their ears, and their captain alone gets to hear the alluring song. And when he comes home, he doesn’t do so with a fanfare; he comes home in disguise at first to see how things are going in Ithaca. It’s only when he can “scour the Shire” in one fell swoop that he reveals himself.

Then there are the gists of the stories themselves. Odysseus is proud of himself for that Horse innovation, and his hybris offends the gods. Poseidon decides to teach him a lesson; and thus, the Odyssey: it takes Odysseus ten years to get home — ten years, in which he’s tried and tested and subjected to all sorts of things before he comes again, at last, to Ithaca and his beloved Penelope. [He does some slaughtering of rivals who have moved in and are attempting to take over.]

Genesis/Exodus is also a coming-home story. It seems so easy for the sons of Israel to run down to Egypt again and again when they need to buy grain during those years of famine. Then they take up residence down there, and then they become slaves, and then God sends Moses to deliver them. But on the way home, they grumble and lose faith . . . and so Exodus becomes an Odyssey. The children of Israel have to wander for forty years in a wilderness that was so easily crossed before. But when they’ve learned their lesson, when they know that God is God, the promised land awaits. [Like Odysseus, they shed quite a bit of blood to reclaim the land.]

What’s all this doing in a discussion of the writing life? The point is, it pays to notice connections. There are truths, elements, and patterns that resound throughout history, throughout cultures, throughout diverse media. Look for the patterns. You’ll be a better writer for it.

I’ll go one final step and suggest that we pull back with our “Google Earth” buttons — zoom way back outward from Genesis/Exodus to look at the Bible as a whole. The entire Bible is a coming-home story: human beings wander away from God on a long, dark path, and God brings them home. Homecoming, reconciliation, redemption . . . all themes to keep in mind when we write our magnum opuseseses. They make great stories because they reflect the greatest story.

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17 Responses to “Parallels”

  1. Chris Says:

    At age ~40 I decided to sit down and read the Bible. I felt it was wisest to read it cover to cover, front to back. It was a story laid out in the order, so it should be read in this order. I did skip the Apocrypha.

    I remember nights sitting on the couch WILLING myself to make it through the bookkeeping parts of Numbers. FORCING myself to slog through countless accountings and trying to figure out why in Yahweh’s name the tabernacle had to be a specific size and specific color scheme.

    But I made it through in about 8 months. It was the last nail in the coffin of my waning faith. I had always thought the Bible, being the core of my ostensible life-long faith, must have some transcendence that was patently obvious to the reader. Instead what I found was a fully human work, drenched in all the human foibles and a few good points and some great wisdom and some astonishingly vile behavior.

    It was, as far as I could see, _just a work by human hands_. It was eye-opening and a revelation in itself. No varnish, no patina of great superior supernatural wisdom.

    I found some parts that I used to hate (the book of Job) to contain some stuff that I dearly love now. I LOVE the middle part of Job. Whoever tacked on the first part with God and ha Satan making a “bet” and whoever tacked on the petulant child-god in the latter chapters should be ashamed, but the middle part was a moving and well-written assessment of human suffering and sadness. How we understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people. It is the human condition.

    But overall I found the Bible to be very educational in that it started to look to me like what I had been suspecting all along; we are all trying to make sense of the world however we can. In the case of the Bible we see how people have done that since the dawn of civilization.

  2. I liked unmo, loved ootid Says:

    As Tolkien opined, this myth (Christianity) is true. I would argue that Buddhism is NOT religion in the theological sense. From the emergence of Christianity forward, all the other myths have died. And, unlike in early human history, the rising and falling of mythologies was farily constant — until now. Until God’s only begotten Son saved mankind with his suffering, death and resurrection. That occurrence has ended all the arguments from that time forward save for the Abomination and Lie that is Islam.
    For Chris I would say that I to, have what I will call ‘issues’ with some parts of the Bible, but where in the past I would try to rationalize those away, I now rely on faith, which, seen in a certain light, is, I admit, an absurdity.
    Those uneasy with the Bible should read the seven books that for almost 1200 years were unargued as inspired. Without reading 1 and 2 Maccabees it is impossible to adequately understand Daniel, and the lack of Wisdom and Sirach robs the good book of great poetry.
    There is more to Christianity than the Bible (as 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Tim 3:15) — there is also sacred tradition and the magisterium of the church.

  3. Chris Says:

    I will definitely have to go back and read the Apocrypha. Who can pass up a book with a title like “Bel and the Dragon”?

    As a protestant the designation of apocryphal books was my first clue that the canon was a human choice and might be worth understanding better. I recently read Bart Ehrman’s “Lost Christianities” about the various apocryphal gospels, forgeries and pseudepigrapha. Very interesting to read about how we got the books of the Bible as we ended up with them. And how the faith evoloved.

    I suspect I would have been a marcionite in the second century AD! But even then the problems incumbent upon that “choice” are astounding.

  4. Eunice Says:

    The Bible will always remain a closed book to any who don’t see in it the overall story of God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Thank God that you see that, Fred! And thank YOU for sharing it with us with intelligence and sensitivity.

  5. Baron Thredkil Says:

    Eunice said: “The Bible will always remain a closed book to any who don’t see in it the overall story of God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”

    I have heard this said many times or certainly variants of it. To which I must respond that, like a textbook, I would hope that the Bible would be open to all who read it. Open in message, open in meaning, such that none who come to this most important topic could ever experience “hearing that they not hear or seeing that they not see.”

    No opacity, nothing but clarity. Start to finish.

    Granted my reading of the Bible came very near the end of my walk of faith, when I was leaving it after 30+ years as a believing Christian. So perhaps I did read it at the ‘wrong’ time, but can there ever be a ‘wrong’ time to read Truth? Can the reader not see truth no matter what color glasses they wear? Can the reader not discern transcendent all-powerful truth?

    How could it ever be thus?

    For me reading the Bible did hold those “transcendent moments”, but they were buried in an overall matrix of material that looked alarmingly human. Human wisdom contains both the sacred and the profane. We are capable of all the material and excesses and sublime greatness in the pages of the Bible. I didn’t see the need for God to have inspired anything in its pages.

    But that’s just me. Unpaid volunteer spokesman for the EAH (Evil Atheist Conspiracy).

  6. fsdthreshold Says:

    As a rule, I try to stay away from leaving comments on my own blog; I see my job as writing the postings, and allowing readers to speak freely as they will. (I’ve got my hands plenty full just trying to post with some regularity–but I do enjoy and appreciate the comments you are all leaving. It’s very nice to know it’s being read and that the topics stir enough interest to lead people to comment. So, thanks to everyone who has commented thus far!)

    But now and then I’ll break my rule briefly. In response to the Baron:

    In “The Boxer,” Simon & Garfunkel sang, “All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

    Atheists, particularly the scientific variety, like to see themselves as being completely empirical, analytical, and having wide-open minds. In many cases [present company perhaps excepted–only you can be the judge of your own thinking, Baron]–in many cases, nothing could be farther from the truth. In my experience, atheism is precisely the sort of “religion” atheists profess to abhor. To maintain their fierce stranglehold on disbelief, atheists have to ignore the constant hammering of God at their doors. They have to turn a deaf ear to the shufflings behind the walls; they need thick earplugs and the darkest sunglasses they can find to help them ignore the “problem of good”–the footprints of the Divine stamped all over everything.

    The core message of the Bible is absolutely clear and transparent. As for all the rough edges and mysteries, I submit that they are a far more powerful argument for truth and authenticity than for forgery and falsehood. Wouldn’t a human attempt at a Divine Book have all the loose ends tied up? [In _The Name of the Rose_, Brother William says, “Adsol! If I had all the answers to everything, I’d be teaching theology in Paris!”] The Bible is abundantly clear in its message, yet it’s also full of the echoes and wonders and conundrums of Something much Bigger than we can comprehend.

    As a side note, consider a textbook of higher mathematics. It contains nothing but truth, right? Everything in it works out. There are no gray areas. It’s a book of absolute truth. Is that absolute truth clear to me, with my “words-not-numbers” mind? No. About all I understand are the title page and copyright notices. The problem is partly my lack of education, partly my lack of intelligence, but mostly my mind’s open hostility toward mathematics. I learned very early in life that I “hated math,” and now nothing in the world can help me past the emotional barrier I’ve built up.

    Baron, you say that you read the Bible near the end of your 30-odd-year period of Christian belief. Just how open were your heart and mind to what you might find in those pages? Did you give it a sympathetic reading, or did you go through it collecting nails to hammer into God’s coffin?

    You wrote, “Can the reader not see truth no matter what color glasses they wear?” The answer to that is “Sometimes no.” I certainly can’t see the truth in the math book. And also this: faith itself is a gift. It’s _not_ something we can arrive at by ourselves, with our finest logic or our greatest discipline. That’s what separates Christianity from all other world religions (including the religion of atheism). Christianity is the one that requires you to check your pride at the door. And pride is that one commodity that atheists just can’t do without.

  7. I always upheld "The Tradition" Says:

    So well said, Fred. As for ‘The Boxer’ —

    he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
    til he cried out in his anger and his shame

    And that is, I think, the place many atheists are coming from. In some capacity or at some moment or in some way they believe God has failed them, and since they instrinsically long for a loving and just God they cannot explain this “failing” to themselves, and so they ‘cry out in their anger and their shame’ to punish God by turning their backs on their Father.

    Baron is looking for Truth in the Bible. The Bible is not the Truth for one simple reason — Truth is Eternal and it is Christ Himself. The Bible is simply the inspired writings that reveal the Truth to us.

    And no, that Truth is not clear to all, as Christ Himself often points out. The sheep know the shepherds voice because they are already His (by the gift of grace). The goats hear the voice but do not know it for what and who it is.

    In my experience atheists are almost always Humanists, following in the firststep of that first infamous humanist, Lucifer. “I will not serve” has become “I will not believe”

  8. Baron Thredkil Says:

    I am glad that Fred has responded! Part of the fun of this is to also get the input from the original author.

    One thing Fred said that bears some additional comment is:

    “In my experience, atheism is precisely the sort of “religion” atheists profess to abhor. To maintain their fierce stranglehold on disbelief, atheists have to ignore the constant hammering of God at their doors.”

    The “ideal” of the analytical skeptic is a full-time job. I will be the first to admit that indeed I have to work to maintain a sense of skepticism of unverifiable claims. It is a human trait to see “mystery” when no immediate answer is forthcoming.

    But I will caution that this is not religion per se. Since I am an atheist and we atheists are an unfriendly lot 🙂 I’ll throw some semi-mathematical “logic formalism” down that underlies my personal “Weak Atheism”. Don’t worry, it looks like math because it sorta kinda is. Like I said we atheists are mean.

    I’m what is called a “weak atheist”. Not because my “atheistic convictions” are weak but because I do not support the defense of a universal negative. It is illogical to claim “There is no God.” That is undefensible.

    As a Weak Atheist I merely “Fail to see sufficient evidence to believe in God.” That’s technically different. Here’s how it works in statistical hypothesis testing:

    Null Hypothesis: There is No God
    Alternative Hypothesis: There is a God

    Based on the sum data from my experience on the planet, there is no reason to believe I would be doing anything more than making a Type I statistical error in rejecting the null hypothesis. So I “Fail to reject the Null”. That’s my atheism in a nutshell.

    You claim there is a constant hammering of God on the door and shuffling behind the walls. But couldn’t the shuffling behind the walls be nothing more than our imaginations? Just as it was for Peter Lorre in that 1960’s film based on Poe’s “The Black Cat”?

    I don’t want to be dismissive of anyones religion. That is not my goal nor my hope. My own “walk of faith” wound me up here. It wasn’t the bible that caused me to leave, it wasn’t any _one_ thing. It was all things, and learning the discipline of skeptical inquiry.

    I would no more want to eliminate anyone’s faith than I would want to cut off their arms. I gladly talk faith issues because I find them fascinating. But, in proper skeptical fashion, I would hope that anything _I_ proclaim would be investigated by the reader or looked at in depth.

    Anyone who would listen to me without verifying for themselves is a fool. I don’t want to be one who listens to anyone without always keeping a skeptical view out.

    Just to make sure those “shufflings behind the walls” aren’t just…mice.

    Oh, and one last thing. You say you learned early on you didn’t like math. I too suffer from not having a “hard-wired math brain”. I too struggle with math. But part of my wiring also includes a sense of need for the math. A sense that has caused me to go to great lengths to try to learn the math.

    Did I read the Bible with as open a mind as I “needed” to? Probably not, but then one shouldn’t need to have to open the mind “so much” that skeptical analysis goes by the wayside.

  9. Tandemcat Says:

    From the Old Testament to the New, the Bible speaks of those to whom faith is a closed door, who have hardened hearts (Pharaoh) or ears that cannot hear (the Pharisees). It doesn’t explain this–it just states the fact.

    Yes, the Bible contains many stories of imperfect human beings. Their imperfections (which, in the Old Testament, is definitely too tame a word–how about “atrocities”?) caused God to throw up His hands at the system of lawkeeping and animal sacrifice and send Jesus to be the One Sacrifice, once and for all.

    Throughout the Old Testament, there is the constant claim that God is the one true God–you can take that or leave it–but the claim is clearly there. Then, in the New, Jesus claims to be the only way to God–to satisfy God’s demand for perfection. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” You can take that or leave it. But the Bible is not just another human book. It speaks with authority. You must either accept it or reject it. We Lutherans, who understand all of the Bible as being either Law (the perfection God demands) or Gospel (the forgiveness that God grants through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and was longing to give even in the dark days of the Old Testament),–we Lutherans would say that we cannot accept it without the guidance and work of the Holy Spirit–by ourselves, we’re too sinful. Another Lutheran concept which I have found very helpful is that the Bible primarily reveals God’s heart, not His head. He created us and wants us to live in fellowship with Him.

  10. Gabe Says:

    Eunice says: “The Bible will always remain a closed book to any who don’t see in it the overall story of God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”

    Tandemcat says: “From the Old Testament to the New, the Bible speaks of those to whom faith is a closed door, who have hardened hearts (Pharaoh) or ears that cannot hear (the Pharisees). It doesn’t explain this–it just states the fact.”

    The Bible says that _God_ also hardened Pharoah’s heart. Sure, and it doesn’t explain it…

    But (a significant pause here, attempting to marshal my intense frustration) it is precisely _explanation_ that I’m looking for when approaching Christianity or any other religion! What is this all about? Is there any meaning in life?

    I can understand all you who don’t necessarily find “answers” for _all_ your questions in the Christian tradition, but more – and more importantly – encounter matters of the heart, something that is inexpressible in human logic and human understanding. Yes, I see this, and I hope you can count me in your company. Just visit my blog for a validation of this.

    But when it comes to “human” affairs, you are telling us that we can’t believe until we unharden our hearts. In other words, we must believe before we can believe.

    Right now I see the Bible as one expression among many of human attempts to understand the mysteries in the universe. In the past I saw it as the absolute Truthful Word of God. Let’s say, hypothetically, I should get back there again. I sit down with the Bible, and I pray to God: “God, I pray that you fill me with your Spirit so that I may see your Truth shine forth from these pages.” Now, when I do find the truth and become a believer, it’s because God answered my prayer and gave me a superdose of the Spirit, right? How can I know? Wasn’t I, in this case, predisposed to the “truth?” Didn’t I merely find what I wanted to find? Please take me sincerely when I say that I honestly don’t know either way.

    But I do know that humans should not be more rational than God. I really don’t know why God must insist on “dwelling in the dark cloud,” to use the language of Exodus. The “fire” of the risen Christ, for me, has fizzled out. He has never come to me and shown his wounds. (Actually, I might take that back, but that’s way too long a discussion.)

    My main point is, religionists, be easier on us doubters. Even though the “Baron” facetiously refers to atheists as “evil,” I believe that the majority of them are sincere and reasonable human beings. And also, religionists, please realize that, for most of us doubters, a God who at the end of time will ask us if we believed in his Son and then consigns us to death or Hell or whatever – basically does something really mean for —- what? I realize this point also is a matter of the heart. Those of you who securely have Jesus in your heart most likely will not have sympathy for those who just find the whole experience weird and irrational. Anyway, I don’t think we should be punished for attempting to be rational. And it doesn’t make sense that we can be more rational than God – even in “human terms.” Religionists are asking a lot, and I think you/we should recognize that.

  11. I always upheld "The Tradition" Says:

    Gabe, Baron, et. al —
    You cannot attempt to define faith or belief by any mathematical theorem because math is designed to generate an answer factually substantiated.
    Faith, for a Christian, is, in a certain light, a belief in the absurd. That a triune God sent His Son to us, that the Son died and rose again, and that in so believing our sins might be removed and admission to the beautific vision granted.
    A rational argument would say, first off, that no one dead can rise and that the trilogy itself is bunk. Faith is not scientific rationalism. To have faith is not to reject rationalism, it is to understand that what is held in our hearts cannot, by its very nature, be held to the test.
    Faith is not something you can create a formula for. You cannot mix this with that and find it. You cannot go to a place and see it for yourself. It is a leap, a step out of the rational mind and from the heart.
    You either believe or you do not. The way to that belief is out there — in sacred scripture and sacred tradition and in the magesterium (teaching authority) of the church.
    Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” — The Gospel of St. John 20:29
    The problem I have is that I do not possess the means to tell you “how you will know.” I myself was unsure of this. Now I simply “know.” I cannot explain this and ask only that you accept it as my genuine belief, which I tried for years to rationalize away. (the complete reverse of the Baron’s journey)
    Gabe says: “Those of you who securely have Jesus in your heart most likely will not have sympathy for those who just find the whole experience weird and irrational.”
    On the contrary my friend — my heart overflows with sympathy and empathy for you and the very people you describe, and I pray constantly for your deliverance. (which usually drives those same people in question mad)

  12. Tandemcat Says:

    I do hear the intense frustration. I won’t try to detail my own spiritual journey here, but I do recall a moment (and long before I became really familiar with the works of C. S. Lewis) when I went through an experience of “wrestling with God,” something like Jacob did, or, as C. S. Lewis put it, that he was “dragged kicking and screaming into the Kingdom.” His _Mere Christianity_, as well as _Your God is Too Small_, by J. B. Phillips, do provide a lot of “answers.” This doesn’t mean “all the answers.” That’s why, despite advice to grow in the faith and be mature, the Bible also reminds us several places that we must have a childlike trust. One of the most magnificent sermons I ever heard was titled “Dear Daddy.” Toward the end of his sermon, the pastor related a story of himself and his own little boy, sledding in the snow. The little boy, who was only about three, was so proud of his ability to grab the rope and “pull” the sled up the hill. But it was his daddy, on the other side of the rope, who was actually making the sled move.

    Johannes Brahms set to music a poem titled _Gestillte Sehnsucht_ (_Stilled Longing_). The bottom line of the poem is that only death will still the longing. C. S. Lewis writes often of _Sehnsucht_, that unaccountable longing for something more–something beyond our own human experience. To him, it was a joy just to have that feeling, even if the hunger went unanswered. But as he grew in the faith, he confidently expressed the hope that some day, in heaven, that longing would be completely fufilled. For me, reading all seven of the _Chronicles of Narnia_, in order of publication, brought me to that great moment of Lewis’s hope.

    Music is one way of transcending the barrier. And just because music is Christian doesn’t make it exalted. I have found Handel’s _Messiah_ to be helpful, combining Scripture and music. But an even more personal and overwhelming experience for me has been the Brahms _Requiem_, especially in the original German, if you can understand that at all. FWIW, Brahms even works in a little bit of the Apocrypha there, translated into German, curiously, by none other than Martin Luther. Part of the personal nature of the Brahms work is that the Scripture texts were of his own choosing. While the _Messiah_ text is magnificent, it was chosen from the Bible by a pastor friend of Handel’s.

    Lastly, the bottom line at the end of time is not “securely having Jesus in your heart”–the invitation is a gift of God to those who have not refused Him. C. S. Lewis took a lot of criticism for including in the _Chronicles_ the story of a man named Emeth who was “on the wrong side,” and yet had a heart humble before God, who was taken into the joys of Aslan’s Country. Jesus Himself tells of those who professed to follow Him, but were really trusting in their own goodness. At the same time, He tells of those who are bewildered at being invited in. “When did we do all those good things?” they ask.

    Psalm 39:7 “Lord, what am I waiting for? My hope is in You.”

    I Peter 1:25 “But the Lord’s Word remains in foreverness.”

    (Both verses were chosen by Brahms for his _Requiem_.)

  13. Tandemcat Says:

    This thread has gone a somewhat different direction, which is fine, but it is still titled “Parallels,” and there is one that constantly comes to mind for me, when I consider Psalm 39:7–“Now Lord, what am I waiting for? My hope is in you.” It is from Star Wars, Episode IV, at the end of Leia’s message in R2D2: “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi! You’re my only hope!” And that’s just how it is when we stand before God.

  14. I always upheld "The Tradition" Says:

    I agree with Tandemcat that this thread has unwound itself oddly, but such is often the case when and discussion turns to God.
    I think I will drop out of this thread, but not before leaving the following. It is Wisdom 6:13-18.

    For what man knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what our LORD intends?
    For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.
    For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.
    And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?
    Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?
    And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight, and men learned what was your pleasure, and were saved by Wisdom.

    Peace

  15. Baron Thredkil Says:

    One last note:
    Indeed this thread did go a bit off the rails, but this is the sort of fun that the internet is all about. We are all literary in our approach, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also approach the bible _analytically_. I’m a scientist who scored worse on the math tests and better on the language skills test than most of my cohorts in the sciences and I can definitely appreciate a good story. But as such, my analytical side kicks in and will attempt to make a larger overall frame in which to put the stories.

    I am unable to align the stories in the Bible as being more than human writings about human questions and human conditions, but clearly these stories speak to us as people. Isn’t that what an author has to do? To connect?

    Just as Fred and Bradbury can tell us stories that make us feel like we are part of an autumn in Illinois, the authors of the books of the bible can make us feel the pain and joy they were feeling in their time and place. The connection is our common humanity, the little sights and smells and descriptions that bind us.

    My failure with the Bible is to see in it some supernatural imprimatur of greater wisdom than we as a species are capable of cobbling together.

    The majesty of the churches and cathedrals I’ve been to are no less for me than now that I’m an atheist than when I was a Christian. Now I simply see them as the greatness and heights to which we are capable of ascending when we set our collective minds to it.

    The most ornate retablo you can find in a basilica was still crafted by fully human hands. And it is no less wonderful for that.

  16. fsdthreshold Says:

    I thank you all for weighing in on this discussion. I’m really honored that my li’l ol’ blog has been (and I hope will be) host to such a meeting of the minds. What’s fascinating is that the participants in this discussion are all close friends of mine from different times and places in my life, and this discussion is the historical point at which most of you are “meeting” for the first time. You’re a truly noteworthy group: educators at the highest levels, scholars, PhD’s, researchers, journalists. . . . What are you all doing hanging out with the likes of me?

  17. Daylily Says:

    As a newer friend than any of the above contributors, here are my guesses: a) we’re waiting to see what happens next in the story of Fred and his blog, and b) we’re looking for the points of connection between our stories and Fred’s story.

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