Maybe we need to think of the canon as more like an orchestra or a choir than a textbook?

A few years ago my pastor did a series of sermons on the poetic books. It was during this time that I was forced to think about the reality that Scripture’s truthfulness is often found in its acceptance of both/and rather than either/or. Let me explain.

If one reads the Book of Proverbs one gets the idea that Scripture indicates that if someone lives by these proverbs that life will be good. If someone seeks wisdom they will avoid the pit falls that entrap the foolish. Yet when we flip to the Book of Ecclesiastes we discover “vanity, vanity, all is vanity!” Even the good person ends up dead in the grave. Then if we go to the Book of Job it becomes even more complicated: So we have a Satan, angels, and God as active agents? Where is that in the presentation given by the Book of Proverbs???

Some read Scripture and this tension is overwhelming. But I think this is a misreading of Scripture. Scripture’s truthfulness is not limited to some sort of depositing of theological data. It is not a decision between one person saying “5 + 5 = 10” and someone else saying “no, 5 + 5 = 12”. Life is more complicated and complex than that.

So Scripture’s truthfulness is often found in its both/and. Is it true that the person who seeks to live wise will have a better life. Yes, unless a, b, c, or d. Is it true that life is meaningless and that we all go to the grave to die? Yes, unless a, b, c, or d. In other words Scripture makes absolute statements that do not seek to answer the “what if’s” or the “what abouts”.

In doing this Scripture often is truer to life than any text on philosophy. If a person obeys God they will have a good life and a better life than the fool….unless Satan and God have a cosmic wager! If a person seeks life’s best they will often find that they die like the rest….unless God sends his Son to provide resurrecting life through his Spirit!

This is not contradiction. This is 3D. This is multidimensional. The canon creates a choir of voices. If we only heard the voice of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes this would not be true to life. If we only heard the voice of the wise father in Proverbs this would not be true to life. If we assumed that everything good and evil is the result of cosmic duals between God and Satan like Job this would not be true to life. But together (!) it is true to life.

Scripture’s both/and is often missed by both fundamentalist type readers and those reacting to fundamentalist type readers. But if we think of the canon more as a choir than a book of propositions we will realize it is telling us the truth of God’s world like no other book.