words come from people

I have advance copies of two books. I’ve been reading them both as I always read books-6 at a time, pages at a time, skimming for stories. As a result, I’ve been wrestling with whether to even follow through the the review process.

I am more an interpretor than a critic. I translate ideas more than I read a whole book and cry “heretic” or “hero”.

And then, today, in one of those books, I read this:

The most perceptive book about how to listen to the Bible is by Alan Jacobs, a professor at Wheaton College. Jacobs reminds us that words matter because words flow out of persons.

I haven’t finished the book I’m reviewing. I haven’t read Jacobs’ book. I don’t know what is quoted here and what is paraphrased. I’m not ready to review The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight.

But I know that this statement has been nagging at me all day.

The claim that McKnight is using Jacobs to make is that the way to look at the Bible is to listen to it, not stopping at the words but looking for the Person behind the words. But don’t get stuck there for the moment. Get stuck on the reality that we often don’t look for the person behind the words.

We hear things and react with great vehemence without looking through the words to the person, to a real person with real feelings and real pain and real frustrations who may say those words and those patterns of words and those frequent themes because they matter for reasons that we don’t understand.

Why would a person be as angry as that person is? Why would a person be as melancholy as that person is? Why would a person be as passionate about something so trivial as that person is?

Listen. Stop and listen. And then listen again. And wait and listen again.

What if she isn’t angry? What if she just can’t figure out how to get your attention? What if he isn’t indifferent? What if he just can’t figure out how to fill the hole in your heart?

You can fill it in. You understand.

I’m going to finish both of these books. They flow out of people who are trying to help us understand. One is trying to help us understand social media. The other is trying to help us understand how we might be able to listen to God. And I’m pretty sure that I need to tell you about both.

Because we need to understand how to understand. And to find the people, and the Person, behind the words.


3 responses to “words come from people

  1. Jon,

    I understand. For many years I floated across the word of God, like a jet ski skims across the water, having no idea what is beneath.

    Lately, I have taken to diving into the word of God. As I begin to explore the depths of my Father’s words, many times I have found myself completely in a state of unutterable wonder, tears streaming down my face, realizing that herein I have found my resting place.

    To top it all off, I realize that what I comprehend represents perhaps a grain of sand as compared to the expanse of eternity.

    Therefore, you are right. To see and understand the Person behind the words is…well…when I consider it….I can’t speak.

  2. Someone once said that the Bible is the word of God in the words of men. As such, it teaches us something of the God who speaks and the humans he speaks to/through. You’re right – it’s not about paper and ink, but about the Person/persons behind it.

  3. Thanks, David. Great image of the jet ski. Skimming is an increasingly frequent skill, but the result is that we don’t learn people deeply.

    Thanks Rick. good description.