Working!!! and Scripture: Neither as Simple as it Seems

A third of the way through season three of Working!!! (Wagnaria), and I’m super pleased – the show continues its wonderful, character-based humor (as expected) while moving along romantic relationships (not necessarily as expected). And as has been impressed upon me all along, the series confirms that it isn’t just funny – it’s a really well-made show.

I was trying to explain this point to someone last week, and it was hard for me to do so – I’m not 100% sure what makes Working!!! more than just fun.  It has a lot to do with smart source material, with its well-written gags and funny situations.  It also has plenty to do with the characters, who are loveable, well-defined, and who grow, bit by bit, through the course of the series.   And it certainly has to do with how the four panel strips, so obviously the format for the show’s source material, flow well thematically from episode to episode when animated.

In short, while the series seems simple, it’s a lot more complicated than we might give it credit for.

It took me 2+ seasons, but I've learned to like Yamada.
It took me 2+ seasons, but I’ve learned to like Yamada.

Not all of you may agree with my assertion – I may have to butt heads with some of you that see the series as relatively common.  There’s a parallel here, too, with a work I esteem much more highly – and strangely, it’s more often the choir to whom I preach the merits of that work.

For many non-Christians, the Bible is full of error, myth, contradictions, etc.  And in fact, a straight-forward reading might bear this out.  When I was a teenager, I struggled with and left the faith of my parents largely because of this – how would I believe the word of God when the word of God seemed so full of holes?

My journey in faith led me to realize that scripture, if inspired by the Holy Spirit as most Christians believe, can’t be a simple, straight-forward text.  It’s complex, multi-layered, and dynamic.

This summer, I’m leading a small group study over the Gospel of Matthew.  We only cover about half a chapter each week because of this very fact – when studying the Bible, there’s so much to discuss, so much to decipher, so much to learn – we can only scratch the surface of the text.  If you pick out a verse or even chapter here and there without the full context provided by history, literary style, archeology, language, etc., and without a myriad of other items that go into interpreting scripture, you’re being foolish – every bit as foolish as a Christian who fights against scientific theories with only a very surface understanding of what he/she is discussing.

The thing is, though, when I talk about reading the Bible out of context, it’s not unbelievers I think of first – it’s believing, “the bible is the unerring word of God” Christians.  We pluck verses out and think we understand them, when how could we if we only take a few seconds or minutes to read through scripture?  And we make grandiose claims about grace and God and the simplicity of faith and scripture, when doing so reduces the God of universe to something we can contain and describe, and though he provides a way to Him that is easy for us to understand, the larger concept of it all and of his majesty just can’t be simple – not if God is who the Bible describes him to be.

And yet, here we are, Sunday after Sunday preaching and learning about a simple God, taking away his power and characteristics as we try to simplify him for others and more often, perhaps, for ourselves.

The message of grace is comprehensible, but mind-blowing; the word of God is accessible, but complex; God himself can be known to us, but only in part.  If you want to know God more deeply or even just to know about Him, you have to accept that he is big, so much bigger than what we can comprehend or what we even want him to be.  And if you start with that premise, and the humility that comes with it, then you might begin to know the truth: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”

8 thoughts on “Working!!! and Scripture: Neither as Simple as it Seems

  1. “And we make grandiose claims about grace and God and the simplicity of faith and scripture, when doing so reduces the God of universe to something we can contain and describe, and though he provides a way to Him that is easy for us to understand, the larger concept of it all and of his majesty just can’t be simple – not if God is who the Bible describes him to be.”

    I once saw an image of someone turning around, and as he turned around I saw images of other fictional people— Representations, more or less correct, of him— Flashing in front of my mind. Every representation there ever was, all at once embodied in him. And at the same time farther behind were images of events that actually happened, and some attempt to simplify a very complex fractal-esque image for my digestion.

    And I was afraid, and overcome, and I bowed. Because we are so very, very small, and very very pathetic, compared to the forces that fight over us. It always kind of baffles me that people don’t understand how the Trinity works— This image has always made it very obvious to me.

    And if this is what a creature of finite proportions and definable Form can look and feel like, and that chill is like nothing you’ve ever felt before….We must look very foolish to God, trying to push Him into a box and make Him simple.

    At least He understands our limits, anyway.

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    1. I think our hearts are often too prideful to admit that we’re limited. What we see is all that exists, we tell ourselves. But we’re so finite – we must leave open the possibility of there being so much more.

      Thanks for your comments, as always, Luminas!

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  2. “Spirits live all around us in literally hundreds of Forms, a hundred million billion guises, in seven billion hearts…and you’re questioning how GOD can be three very different things at once?”

    X3

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  3. Well said. The Bible is complex and multi-faceted and, frankly – the more you read, the more you realize you don’t fully understand or know.

    An example I see often is Philippians 4:13. On its face, it’s a call from the Lord to provide the ability to do all things at all times if you call on Him. But, contextually – it says nothing of the sort. Put in frame with merely the two preceding verses, you get a different picture – a more complete one. Paul points out that he has learned the secret of contentment whether he is doing well or doing poorly – it’s the Lord and he can remain content in Him in those times because of God. A far cry from the Lord giving you superpowers to do anything due to your faith.

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  4. Your article reminds me of what St. Gregory of Nyssa once said: “Concepts create idols; only wonder understands anything.” Religion is full of mysteries, and often attempts to simplify these mysteries create heresy. At least, we can be sure that we’ll never stop learning–not even in paradise.

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