This was not my best analogy, so I scuttled my first version of this post.
What I had hoped to provide was a comparison of reasonably good-for-you, natural, unrefined, granulated sugar on the one hand, and artificially colored, pasty, sickeningly sweet icing on the other. Unrefined, natural sugar would represent a granular paradigm for reading and understanding scripture, whereas icing would be the undesirable junk food we get when we mix artificial colors and flavors and butter along with organic, unrefined sugar. I suppose artificial ingredients would denote false ideas masquerading as truth, and fat might be the concocted doctrinal systems and other things superimposed on the pure, untainted writings.
As it turns out, icing is generally made from powdered sugar, not granulated sugar. And reasonable amounts of fat are actually good for most bodies (despite persistent misunderstandings and product-labeling practices). Plus, I suppose that, in theory, there are tiny granules even in powdered sugar. Alas, my analogy breaks down. Anyway, the main points would have gone something like this:
- A “granular” paradigm for reading and understanding scripture regards each biblical document as a single “grain.” The reader is able to separate each grain from the other, rather than consuming only a mess of pasty icing called “the Bible.” Further on this point, please see the note below.
- We’re better off not mixing other ingredients in with scripture. Some of the other stuff is relatively good, taken in moderation (like butterfat); some ingredients, on the other hand, are patently bad (like artificial coloring) and should be avoided.
Scripture, although often masterfully conceived and laid out, also has the wonderful quality of being “unrefined” in some ways. When you really dig into it, it doesn’t seem like perfection—or confection! Still, it is truly a sweet treat.
(At this point, I’m glad I stuck with this analogy after all.)
Note: The “granular” idea has been applied to social media, e.g., in comparing Google+ with Facebook. There is truth there, but I don’t care deeply about social media. I’m obviously more given to interpreting scripture than social media posts. Here are some further thoughts on the granularity of scripture:
One way of “interrupting God” is pasting a “verse” (yanked from here or there) on top of another “verse” that comes from a completely different context. Or, as Gary Collier’s imagery has it, we get things mixed up when we put a bunch of different text-ingredients into a blender and press “puree.” If on the other hand we get into a single text and attempt to understand what it is about, we stand to gain immeasurably.
– Brian Casey, In Praise of Exegesis (2013)