Tuesday, February 17, 2015

All Opinion is Opinion

I don't think that it is a radical idea to say that "All opinion IS opinion..." That isn't saying that all opinions are equally valid. It's not saying that some opinions can't be mistaken. It's just noting a reality, a tautology: All opinion is, as it turns out, Opinion. As a matter of fact.

It doesn't seem that complicated to me, but I think that in some worldviews, the notion that all opinions are opinions appears to be threatening. I reference Stan Smith's latest blog post...

There is, I believe, a current, ongoing assault on the Bible in our world today...

What most people don't see is that this isn't an attempt to uphold the sanctity of the Bible. It is simply an end of anything usable in Scripture. If plain readings of explicit texts and historic orthodoxy are unreliable, then what do we have? If you want to call it "the Word of God", it doesn't help if your "Word of God" is unknowable and uncertain. If all understanding of Scripture must be viewed as opinion, there is no authority in Scripture.

It sounds intelligent and holy. "Don't conflate your opinion into God's Word." But when it is used to say, "All understanding of Scripture is opinion"--and, make no mistake, when you boil it down that is the intent--then it is nothing less than an assault on the integrity and authority of Scripture. Just like the skeptics or the liberals. Perhaps worse because it almost sounds like a call for a greater respect for the Bible. Which it isn't. Deflating God's Word to mere opinion is not a defense of the Bible.


I want to be clear that I'm not picking on Stan... this line of thinking is oft-repeated in our more fundamentalist camps and I just don't think it bears up to rational scrutiny. I'm not saying "God's Word" (ie, what God actually thinks, wants, wishes, desires) is unreliable. But we're not speaking of what God's literal Word - from God's lips to our ears. We are speaking of our personal, human understanding of various passages and holy texts.

When I look at the Genesis Creation stories and say, "I think this passage is told in a mythic style..." or "I think this passage represents a literal scientific explanation of how the world began about 6,000 years ago..." we are quite literally offering our opinions, our interpretations of that text. Or for ANY text, when we offer our understanding of what the text means to us, what it meant at the time of its first appearance, what it should mean to others, etc, we are offering our opinions about that.

This is especially true on more ancient texts and on less provable interpretations. There is no evidence that the original author certainly intended passage A to be understood to be a certain way in an ancient text like this. There just isn't. Some people of good faith may think that passage A means one thing and was told in one particular literary genre, while another may think it means something else and was told in a different literary genre. And for both people, it is simply factually an opinion.

What else can our opinions possibly be but OUR opinions? Can anyone answer that?

And how is the simple pointing out of the fact that our opinions are our opinions an "assault" on Scripture? How is that rational?

I just don't understand it and I think if I were ever to sit down, face to face with one of these type of believers, perhaps we could make some headway in coming to an understanding.

If I had to guess as to why some kick back so hard at calling our opinions "opinions," it would be summed up as Stan put it when he said, "If all understanding of Scripture must be viewed as opinion, there is no authority in Scripture."

Yes, if we admit that our opinions on unprovable matters are, as a matter of fact, our opinions, we do lose some bit of power, of "authority," but it is a loss of our personal power or authority, not the power of God's Actual Word. Yes, it would be nice to say, "I am the one who perfectly understands God's Will on this topic and what God believes is X. You're welcome!" but we don't have any biblical assurance that we can speak perfectly for God. We have just the opposite, in the Bible and in just observable reality. We are not perfect human beings, we don't understand things perfectly. We "see as through a glass, darkly..." and that's okay.

There is nothing to fear in giving up the delusion that we can understand things perfectly. There is no "assault" in the simple recognition of our opinion as opinion. There is humility in that, there is grace in that and there is good solid reason in that, naught else.

Monday, February 9, 2015

I was a boy, once

I was a boy, once
wild, and in the woods
and roots that were planted
deeply in my chest
have kept me
and in the woods