This is a continuation of my previous blog posts here and here, concerning what I have dubbed the "Bless Your Heart" Hate mail I received earlier in the week. As I posited in the second linked post above, the legitimate theological issue of blessings of people, animals, or inanimate objects was raised in the letter. I believe that actually is a very good question. Certainly some people feel very strongly about it, either positively or negatively, in terms of theology.
As such, I am going to turn now to those questions that I believe the initial letter posed. As I understood the letter (and I am being generous in giving the benefit of the doubt on a number of things in it), I believed the three substantive theological questions were as follows: Where do I come off blessing animals (or non-humans)? Where do I come off blessing inanimate objects? What theology (read: actual Scripture verses) do I base any of the preceding questions on?
I had initially envisioned posting one blog entry answer to each of those questions individuals, but I have found that this approach was much harder than I anticipated, at least as far as the three questions I enunciated above. I say that because the three questions really are interconnected. I have sat down and re-written my response(s) several times. The first attempt was really disjointed as I tried to separate those three questions in separate posts. Then I tried to tackle all three at once and ended up writing half of what would have otherwise turned into a major, several-page essay on theology and scripture.
The more I started researching the issue of blessings in the Bible, the more I realized that a series of short blog entries is never going to do much more that scratch the surface of these debates. On this, my umpteenth attempt, I am going to try and pare some of what I had written back into digestible blog entries. I am still not sure if this is the best way to tackle these issues, but I will give it a whirl.
The best way I know how to begin to look at these issues is to start with an overview of the issue of blessing in the Scriptures. The initial letter writer, I presume, is of the Sola Scriptura "Show me definitively scriptural warrant in the Bible for what you base your actions" school of thought. As I noted in my previous posts on this, I think there is a certain amount of "We're just going to have to agree to disagree" in terms of Scriptural interpretation.
I do not believe you can read and interpret Scripture completely in a vacuum, as if your mind is the tabula rasa on which all Godly truth will be imprinted. We have tradition (both big "T" and small "t") and reason and all manner of lenses through which we look at the Bible. That is simply reality. We cannot read through the Scriptures as if we were Martians who suddenly appear on Earth, having never heard anything about Human culture and were handed the Bible and told to interpret it. This is a position that my anonymous letter writer would very likely categorically reject. I would imagine that they view the Bible as a divine fiat that is not to be questioned, analyzed, or puzzled over in any way, shape, or form. I can imagine (and this is horribly unfair on my part but so be it) that my letter writer has a bumper sticker that reads, "The Bible Says It; I believe it; That settles it."
At some point, we have to assume certain things. The Bible never says anything about Jesus using the bathroom, but if he was truly human, then we have to assume that he did. While that may seem like a bizarre analogy, the Church for decades in the Middle Ages debated whether Jesus ever laughed. So, the concept is not that far fetched, nor is this conundrum a new dilemma in Christianity. It goes back to the Patristic fathers and earlier.
That having been said, I am not a relativist in terms of Scriptural revelation. I do believe the Bible is a unique revelation of God to his People. That is never to be taken lightly. I also believe that we blow off the Scriptures when they say or command things that we do not like or with which we do not necessarily agree at our own detriment. As such, seeing what the Bible does say about blessing is as good as any place to start in my opinion.
My next blog entry will begin with what I see happening in Scripture in terms of blessings.