How should faith and reason work together?
Listening or seeing – which is more important?
One thing we should notice by reading the Bible narratives is the constant movement, action and the hustle and bustle of life. This is a good picture of the Hebraic and is very well demonstrated by two flies on the wall. The first sits in a modest dwelling in Athens in the 4th Century BC. It watches a solitary figure, deep in thought. This is Socrates, the master philosopher and teacher of Plato. He is completely still as he wrestles with a problem and remains still for a very long time. The second fly watches from the wall of a Yeshiva, a place of Jewish learning, where an Orthodox Rabbi also wrestles with a problem. In his case, though, it is as if he is actually wrestling, because he is in constant movement, swaying backwards and forwards. This is not because he has ants in his pants (what, more insects!) but as an expression of devotion and worship to God.
My whole being will exclaim, "Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them." (Psalm 35:10)
Rest, harmony, self-control and composure, these are all the Greek way. The Hebraic way is of life, movement, emotion and power. The Greek nature would gain enjoyment through breathless contemplation of a perfectly sculptured nude figure, whereas the Hebraic nature is engaging with the world and grasping it by the scruff of the neck. In the Hebraic worldview, God brought all into existence and since then life has forged a relentless swathe through time until all is fulfilled.
We have already seen that time is the Hebraic imperative, allowing us to be defined by our actions. The Greek imperative is space, of objects, of things. From these concepts we look at the God-given senses through which we perceive the world around us and make an interesting observation. For the Hebrew the most important sense is that of hearing, whereas for the Greek it is that of seeing. The Bible puts great store in the word. After all, God spoke everything into existence …
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
And, in the corresponding New Testament verses, we see Jesus as the manifestation of this Word.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
We are also, of course, very familiar with Jesus’s admonition, “for those who have ears to hear …”, emphasising our point. Let’s think more about this. The act of hearing is a dynamic exercise, you are receiving information as a continuous stream over time. And this information can be modulated, through passion, mood, feeling and intensity. I have been reminded of this of late, now that I’m a few years into the ‘public speaking’ shtick. Although I have developed Powerpoints to help in presentations, I realise they are a distraction, even counter-productive, if I want to inject a bit of passion into my “performance”. Passion can only be conveyed by direct unadulterated exposition to listeners. Powerpoints are visual and static, they progress according to preset instructions, there’s no room for improvisation and they perfectly illustrate the Greek inclination for seeing, rather than hearing.
The act of seeing is a static exercise, although our eyes are receiving and processing a stream of single images, when we are generally focussing on a single object, a thing, an entity. This doesn’t mean that seeing is not important, it’s just that listening and hearing are the predominant ways that God communicates with us. In the desert with Moses and the Israelites, God often used the visual medium to grab the people’s attention.
There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. (Exodus 3:2)
Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:22)
So, just because the Hebraic way favours listening over seeing, it doesn’t negate the latter. The whole purpose of this book is to re-examine ourselves, to compare things today with how things could have been. We are not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” by rejecting everything that is not Hebraic. Two principles hold sway here. One, that I’ve already stated, tells us that we should only reject that which acts contrary to the revealed Word of God and takes away glory from Him.
The second, that will be covered in a forthcoming article and which I mentioned in the Introduction as a particular personal revelation, is one of balance, something sadly absent in much that goes on in Churches these days.
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp