Mediums as messages

John 5:39-40 - You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

The core message of Christianity (salvation through Christ), and the printed book that is the conduit of the content of that message are two completely different things. But as Jesus said, "Not a single stroke of the pen can be removed (from Torah)" (Matthew 5). The Torah records the very words spoken by God to the people of Israel, "Thus says the LORD." Why is Jesus right about this?

"All mediums contain particular biases which can change the way we think, and affects the scope of our relationships and behaviours over time." These paraphrased words come from Marshall McLuhan; a Canadian Philosopher, Scholar, Literary Critic and Media Theorist. They are a fundamental thing to understand about media and technology; and this is affirmed through Jesus' warning regarding our perception of content of scripture without perceiving it's actual form. In a nutshell, scripture is not Jesus - it cannot save us. Jesus is Jesus - He DOES save us.

The question we should be continually asking ourselves of any medium is whether or not we recognize and deal with the biases and power it has to transform us without our consent. Ideally, we should be doing this before we begin to perceive the content being passed through it. If we miss this critical step, then we will inadvertently perceive the biases of the medium as part of the content.

Those who came before Jesus, and many after, have failed to perceive that the printed form itself contains some biases: Firstly, the written form is impersonal. By its nature, it can't convey the intensely relational aspect of God's love, and his desire for us to love one another even though the content does. To more clearly understand the relational aspect of God's love presented in printed form, we need to first find ways to perceive the form, and then identify and remove its inherent biases. Secondly, there is no wisdom in the written form; only information. Wisdom can only result from our wrestling through that information in the context of our lives with other people.

If we fail to perceive these biases, we may take the benefits of the written form (expanded consciousness and acquisition of knowledge) in the wrong direction. We will attribute the bias to the content. We may get puffed up on knowledge of 'what the bible says', or we may expand our consciousness to think that words stripped of context still contain wisdom, when in fact the words are a medium for information , which always orients toward some direction of thinking and awareness, regardless of the content.

Ironically, context can both enable and disable wisdom, so it is not something to be treated lightly. In the wrong context, information can lose its intended value and meaning, and can even be harmful. But in its correct context, information can powerfully point us in the right direction.

Israel Experiencing; Israel Speaking and listening; Israel Writing

As the generations of Israel passed and moved further from their original experiences with God, and as oral tradition gave way to the written form, people's misunderstanding of the content of Torah and the prophets were compounded due to an initial misunderstanding of the important connection between the medium of people speaking and relating to one another, and the timeless words and powerful ways that God spoke to and interacted with previous generations. Not only were these new generations removed from God-experiences such as the escape from Egypt and the prophets, but they mistook the impersonal, informational nature of the written form to be an integral part of the content and the intended meaning of the Torah. In his statement then, Jesus was really talking about rightly perceiving Torah, not about which words should or should not be left in the medium. Jesus' authoritative interpretation of Torah was quite a departure from that of the tradition of the elders and the Pharisees, and Jesus points this out in a sharp, poignant way.

Through this example, we can see that Jesus was able to somehow perceive the biases of the written form and engage scripture on the level of its intended purpose and meaning. This is (unfortunately) not a realistic goal to legalistically strive for, but perhaps being aware of the biases of the mediums we use to communicate can help us as we process the Bible together. Even more important than this, however, is that we remain willing to be humbly led by God's spirit in us into truth in real life, rather than always trying to get there by our own efforts in our abstract, intellectual, and theoretical lives: 1) our minds, 2) in books, and 3) on the internet.

The Sharp Irony is that I am using my keyboard (a medium) to type words (a medium) in a particular order (a medium) into this html box (a medium), which lets me place all of this onto the internet (a medium) as a blog (a medium). You will then use your computer (a medium) and a browser (a medium) to navigate to this blog (maybe) where you will read (on a screen - a medium) and supposedly interpret the content. If you searched this blog and it came up first on google (a medium), you might think that everything here is authoritative (which it isn't - I'm just a dude that likes to write out what he thinks on the computer because I can't keep track of myself on paper, and blogger seems like a great place to archive my random thoughts).

This is IMPORTANT: If you don't understand the bias and power of each of these mediums, you will have already unwillingly been affected by the biases of your particular computer, screen technology, internet and software technology, and the layout and design of this blog before you even read the first word posted here!

So to best understand the content I am writing actually requires you to experience it outside of the internet, with other physical people, and thus outside of all of these layered, interacting mediums. That almost makes this whole venture redundant, but it illustrates a point: Have you ever thought something sounded really good in your head, but then was really ridiculous when you said it out loud to someone? I know I have. Too many times. To best understand something (especially abstractions like theology or philosophy), take it out for a spin and kick it around in the real world. The Truth won't burst or vanish - it will stay true no matter how vigorously or critically you test it ... so do it dilligently!


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