A Different Kind of Symphony

Scripture is a brilliant symphony about the redemption of a broken world and of sinful people, but what if the musicians and instruments telling the story are using a different kind of “music” than what we assume? What if we’re so used to listening to and analyzing one particular kind of music that we don’t realize there are other “kinds” of music at all? To illustrate this, let’s listen to two samples of music from a piano and a violin:



Each instrument is capable of producing brilliant music and a variety of expression. However, the “rules” governing each instrument are quite different! The piano is built on the rule that each octave must be divided into 12 equally distinct notes in order to help the player maintain a sense of consonant melody and harmony. The violin, however, does not share this same fundamental rule. It is capable of playing notes that are “between” the keys on a piano and smoothly sliding between pitches. Go back and listen to both samples above if you didn’t catch this at first.

If you have only ever listened to a piano, a violin may drive you crazy because it’s very easy to play notes that sound dissonant or “out of tune”. If you have only ever listened to a violin, a piano may drive you crazy because the strict division of notes as individual keys artificially limits expression and creativity.

We see a similar distinction in the cultural “rules” behind determining what is true in regards to theology, philosophy, and science. (The philosophical term for this is called epistemology) Western thought finds comfort in strict logic, tight syllogisms, and firm conclusions. Hebraic thought, however sees God as wholly other and the relationship between God and the world not necessarily restricted to thought presented from a strictly human perspective. 1This does not mean anything goes… a Hebraic perspective is not a license to reject logic!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

If you’ve only ever seen the world through “western” eyes and ears, scripture may drive you crazy at times because at the surface we find seemingly dissonant ideas and themes that resist resolution. The Hebrew mind considers lofty ideas such as “predestination” and “free will” and doesn’t seek to perfectly harmonize them – it in fact sees the tension or dissonance between the two as an inherent and beautiful part of the melody of scripture. 2Our Father Abraham, p. 150-153 Our traditional western theological systems, however, often want to take the Hebraic violin melody and attempt to “fix” the dissonance it perceives to be “out of tune”. When we do this, though, are we artificially limiting the expressiveness of scripture?

Western theology can, and should, continue to wrestle with major biblical themes such as predestination, free will, salvation, and sovereignty, but we must remind ourselves that the biblical authors did not share our perspective and philosophical desire for a fixed and perfectly rational vantage point. Our exegesis cannot always assume onto the text a purely Greco-Roman perspective… we must find a way to “put on” Hebraic eyes and ears when reading and exegeting scripture. To do otherwise is to risk introducing anachronisms into our theology.

References   [ + ]

1. This does not mean anything goes… a Hebraic perspective is not a license to reject logic!
2. Our Father Abraham, p. 150-153

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