Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Reading Zion

May 10, 2011 | 9 comments
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Zion is the world ajar.

Zion is the world set on a double hinge. God gives a push, the door goes swinging, and the world opens wide.

Zion is neither here nor there. Its the threshold, the go-between.

The scriptures don’t reveal this world or another. They reveal Zion and Zion is this world opening onto another. The scriptures are a revelation in precisely this sense and they reveal Zion only to the extent that the door swings in both directions, showing and ushering in turn.

In this sense, we misunderstand the scriptures if we insist too voraciously on their historicity because, historically, they have always been a revelation that breaches history itself.

Say we insist on the primitive meaning of a scriptural text. That’s fine – so long as we understand that it’s most primitive function, even for the original recipients, was to break into Pharaoh’s history and demand that it let God’s people go. Scripture opened, even in the first instance, as a historical fact, out onto Zion.

Scripture, for us, here and now, is not meant to open a door from our present back into that same historicity of Pharaoh’s world. From the start, it was meant to usher Israel out of that world. Scripture is meant to open the present, our present, onto the same Zion toward which Israel fled. We don’t share the same pagan history with ancient Israel, we share the same commitment to the historical reality of Zion. To insist on the historicity of scripture is not to insist on the historical accuracy of their account of Pharaoh’s world, but on the historical reality of that world left ajar and recast by God’s persistent promise of Zion.

Reflecting in this spirit on what he calls the “writings of Zion,” Jim Faulconer puts it this way in Faith, Philosophy, Scripture (Maxwell Institute, 2010):

The scriptures as a whole are meaningful to us only because their primitive meaning is not determinative. Scripture is God’s revelation to us, now, as well as to its original hearers. Its meaning, therefore, must go beyond the particular ideas and settings of the original writer. However inspired he was, he did not – could not – see all the ways in which the scriptures can be likened to each of our lives in particular. He did not see all the meanings implicate in his writing. However, he did not need to. All he needed to do was record the defective way of being of Israel (as well as the possibility of its being otherwise), for we could then understand our own being as a type and a shadow of what the Lord has revealed through Israel. Just as it was for the children of Lehi, to liken scripture to ourselves is to compare the way of being that it reveals with our own way of being. As revelations of God’s interactions with his people, the scriptures come to us as a call, a call to consider another way of being than that we currently inhabit, in other words, a call to repentance. By opening a new range of possible meanings, scripture outlines an alternative way of being-in-the-world. (142-143)

The scripties don’t accurately reveal this world as defective. They reveal this defective world as redeemable.

The scriptures show your backyard, but planted with Zion. We don’t share historical backyards with ancient Israel. We share the historical reality of Zion.

9 Responses to Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Reading Zion

  1. Jacob B. on May 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Thanks for this Adam. The scriptures as a call to repentance–I read this as the scriptures necessarily producing a certain level of discomfort in us. Not so much that they are pointing fingers and telling us to do better and change our behavior (though sometimes this is the case); but rather that their “inexhaustible” nature (as Neal Maxwell liked to put it) should make us infinitely uncomfortable with finality. There is no singular or final meaning; no one way of being-in-the-world. Scripture calls us upon us to “turn to Him and live,” life being the key word here. And life is a multiplicity of surprise twists and turns and sudden “alternative” paths calling upon us to revise prior preconceptions and judgments, and accept the living vibrancy of life as revelation and revelation as life.

  2. Sonny on May 11, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I am dog tired right now, so it is difficult for me to conceptualize some of the thoughts you have expressed, so I will re-read tomorrow. But I enjoyed the post, as well as the thoughts expressed by Jacob in the first comment.
    Thank you, Adam.

  3. KLS on May 11, 2011 at 8:04 am

    um, wow.

  4. BHodges on May 11, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Enjoying this series quite a bit.

  5. Grant on May 11, 2011 at 10:01 am

    This is really good. I have to do some thinking on this. It seems similar to something that has bothered me for a long time after serving a mission in South America. The idea that the Gospel has to work in what ever cultural and socio-economic condition our people are in. Zion is acheivable from any backyard. And, we share the hope of Zion (some may already be there), not necessarily the same backyard. (Well, a lot of good Zion people don’t even have yards.)

  6. Adam Greenwood on May 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Tasty.

  7. Dave on May 12, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Very nice, Adam. I liked the way Jim F profitably discussed the tensions that accompany our efforts at scriptural interpretation: tension between personal interpretation and shared community interpretation, but especially the tension between traditional interpretation that reveals meaning and tradition-based understandings that actually obscure intended or valid meanings. He sees our interaction with tradition as a very complex process.

  8. Jax on May 12, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Good Post Adam

    “Scripture, for us, here and now, is not meant to open a door from our present back into that same historicity of Pharaoh’s world. From the start, it was meant to usher Israel out of that world. Scripture is meant to open the present, our present, onto the same Zion toward which Israel fled.”

    We don’t live in Pharoah’s world, or Jo.Smith’s, nor are we trying to recreate it. But we have the same Zion oriented goals as Israel in all ages. But why do I see it farther and farther away, rather than closer and closer?

  9. Adam Miller on May 12, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Jax: “We don’t live in Pharoah’s world, or Jo.Smith’s, nor are we trying to recreate it. But we have the same Zion oriented goals as Israel in all ages. But why do I see it farther and farther away, rather than closer and closer?”

    Good question. For my part, I often feel this way when I’m looking for the wrong thing.

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