Today I’ve been fascinated with words. They’re amazing, aren’t they?
We all bring different understandings, biases, and experiences to the table every time we interpret a word. We each have a different “lens.”
For example, suppose I walk a room and say the word “staircase.” Immediately, an image of a staircase will pop into the hearer’s minds. Certainly any English speaker understands “staircase.”
However, think about how different each person’s mental staircase would look. How tall is it? Is it a straight staircase, or a winding one? Are you seeing it from the top looking down? From the bottom looking up? A side profile? Is it made of wood? Marble? Concrete? Is it carpeted? Is there a railing? How many stairs are there? And yet, we feel that we understand what one means by “staircase.”
It’s amazing we can even communicate at all.
As best I can tell, this is one of the difficulties central to postmodern thinking. It’s not so much that “truth is relative” or that “there is no absolute truth.” It seems to have at least something to do with the questioning of our ability to understand an idea – to even be on the same page. Words are slippery. If we have so much variation in an idea as simple as “staircase,” how much more difficult is it to communicate about things much more abstract?
Such as, “gospel?”
For me, this emphasis (maybe it’s postmodern, I’m not really sure) has some benefits, even though many who share my faith have preached that there is nothing good about it. Perhaps it will help us – or even force us – to bring balance to our approach to scripture, salvation, and gospel that has become almost entirely deductive and propositional. Perhaps we’ll be able to peel back the layers and layers of tradition that we’ve buried the Bible beneath, and once again hear the gospel for what it’s always largely been – a story. And that story is good news indeed.