So, I haven’t blogged in ages, and then I come back to it with a desire to make up a new word. Weird, I know.
Ordination training has, you’ll have gathered from previous posts, begun. Indeed, it’s not just begun, it’s carried on. We’ve been introduced to the Bible (hopefully we’d met already, but I’m sure you get the picture) and we’ve had a couple of residential weekends looking at Theological Reflection and Preaching. I’ll doubtless write something about them at some point, but not now. I’m delighted to report that I’ve actually found myself getting excited about the stuff we’re doing (confessions of a theogeek).
For now, I just want to hover over one of the ideas that’s been drifting around my head for a few weeks. It’s been drifting long enough for me to have had time to make up a word to describe it. But before I tell you the word (which you’ll probably laugh at anyway) let me tell you the concept.
The Genesis creation story is not completely unique. (Mum, I know you can’t technically qualify the word ‘unique’, but hear me out…) By ‘not completely unique’, I simply mean that there are parallels. However, there is something which seems to set it apart from other similar creation stories. The concept of a ‘starter couple’ is found in other stories, as are other aspects of the creation story we find in Genesis. But what makes it unique (I know, I know – I should be more careful with words) is that there is a single God – a monotheistic view – the pattern of Judaism. Other stories from the time lack this key factor. And it got me thinking. I remembered Paul’s sermon in Athens linked to their altar ‘to an unknown god’. He says to them (and this is a paraphrase) ‘Let me fill in the gaps for you – I’ll tell you about the God you don’t know’. And he goes on to talk about the God who made us. He builds a bridge from Christianity to the Athenians – he provides a route along which they might journey to faith. He takes their story, and writes God into it – more than that, he shows them that God is the main character. Effectively, he’s saying, ‘Here’s what you already believe, let me tell you about some vital stuff your story is missing’. And that leads me to eistheography. That’s it. My new word. If you’re wondering about pronunciation, I’d suggest, ‘ice-the (as in ‘theoretical’, not ‘the’) ogg-ruffy’ although the ‘graphy’ at the end is just like in biography, but I couldn’t work out how to write that.
In terms of meaning, it’s eis – in; theo – God; graphy – write/writing. Therefore, it’s writing God into something. And actually, as Christians, it’s something we’re quite used to and generally pretty comfortable with. It’s not unusual for us to ‘find God’ in stories that we hear. We hear about amazing stories of protection and assert that God is in the scene. We hear of apparently miraculous provision and say that God is in it. And I don’t think that’s a problem at all. Of course, those who aren’t Christians might wish to deride us for finding the sky fairy in everything. And some Christians might say I’m being weirdly liberal. But hey, I’ll cope.
Which takes me back to Genesis. Maybe it’s setting a new pattern – it follows the creation stories of the Ancient Near East, but weaves into the story a new thread – a monotheistic God. A God who reveals Himself through creation, and in other ways we discover as we read on. Indeed, this pattern of eistheography could be applied to Wisdom literature, too (which I should be writing an essay on, but I’m distracted by shiny new words). Wisdom literature has many contemporary parallels, but what we find in Israelite wisdom has that different thread woven in. God is ‘unearthed’ in the stories from the cultures surrounding the Israelite people, and so knowledge of Him can flourish. Of course, from a Christian point of view, there might be anxiety that I’m saying God is just made up and popped willy-nilly into the fables of the Ancient Near East. I’m not saying that at all. I’m suggesting that the Israelites enjoyed the revelation of God and fed that into a fuller understanding of their world.
At this point, someone will doubtless accuse me of a long-forgotten heresy. Feel free to do so in the comments. Or challenge me on anything that doesn’t make sense. I’m well aware that this concept could be taken far too far and it could turn into all sorts of daft suggestions… I’m not suggesting it carries on going. I’m quite happy for it to stop here! I’m going to stop writing for now, because I suspect I’ve raised enough questions, and I’ll try to address them in the comments, but bear in mind I’ve also got an essay to write!