Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fuller and better questions

Tim has commented on my last post what I think is a critical concept.

asking good questions is wisdom
My first encounter with this form of wisdom came when I read the introduction to The Great Code by Northrope Frye. The quote is here (bottom of the second paragraph on page xiii - and be sure to read the third paragraph if you are a scholar). It is a little different from what I remember but close.

I recall "fuller and better" questions and the danger of "consolidating the mental level on which the question was asked". So I have often striven in my prayer to "refine" questions rather than just "accept" answers. But this led me sometimes to think that there were no answers ever. And Frye does not say or directly imply this. (Duane's provocative but necessarily fragmented post here may also prove relevant.)

Years ago when I taught - (I spent years in the classroom - sometimes very good, sometimes horrid as the nursery rhyme goes) - I recall hearing one student at SAIT in Calgary say - "What a great class. In this class your questions get answered." I think I was happy, but there was a check in my spirit that perhaps I was "consolidating" learning. And perhaps for a time, that was OK. This being long before the change in focus that came with object orientation, I am certain that some of what that student "learned", he has since refined. Some consolidation - an image that Lewis, the ever popular apologist for the Christian faith of the period 1940-1963, uses to good effect in his book The Great Divorce - some consolidation may be acceptable if it is a suitable platform for jumping off to fuller and better questions. But it should not confirm a stasis in "mental level" - whatever that little warning phrase means.

Some dear friend once quipped to me that my family put the fun into dysfunctional. Well could we put some fun into fun-da-mental by suggesting that questioning and deepening of the incarnational aspects of a consolidated 'mental' appreciation of New Testament doctrine will result in a suitable foundation for jumping off to real life. The mental part may be less than fully realized - cheap grace in Bonhoeffer's terms. The jumping off is a real 'walk' - subject to Micah's advice, (justice, mercy, and humility), a reality in every tangible sense. It is as testable as any science - as Jesus has said - by their fruits shall ye know them. This is the produce of the earth (Psalm 67) that is worthwhile having even though such 'having and holding' (yes it's a matrimonial allusion) must be transient for it must give itself For the life of the world (Schmemann).

So - the question is - can I refine my questions about Job - and suggest some ways of joying in this book that I know one of my readers has called a 'horror story'?

First I must look to more structural focus - so that in spite of my risk of mistranslation, I can focus my attention on what seem significant hints in the text. Second - I want to explore the animals more fully. Just how should we ask Behemoth? (Recent posts on monsters and a series on 'religious' experience might be helpful.) Third - the psalms are so obviously popular in the first century of this era, what is the popularity or influence of Job in the NT? How does Jesus read Job?

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