Friday, October 28, 2011

The wisdom of the unstable text

At church we are going through a sermon series on the book of Ecclesiastes. It was pointed out that this is an intrinsically "slippery" and unstable text. Just when the reader may think that they "understand" what the book is saying they are confronted with some new "contradictory" idea.

I guess that is the whole point. God's wisdom and truth are destabilising for us. It defies both our simple and our sophisticated codifications. Ecclesiastes is the counter to books such as Romans which may tempt one into believing that we can come up with some "framework" and "logical" structure to codify and subdue the living and active Word of God.

Indeed, Ecclesiastes also shows us that life itself is not particularly logical or easy to understand.


  1. You don't reckon it has a cohesive argument or a discernible purpose? I'm not sure I'd agree if that's what you're trying to get at.

    By the way, really lovely to see you today. :)

  2. I love this about Ecclesiastes too. I assume you don't think it lacks a cohesive argument or discernible purpose, but more that things are complicated and we must be careful not to domesticate (our ideas of) God, let alone life etc. I think all the wisdom literature does this contradiction thing quite a lot, but the teacher is the most blatant.

    I once gave a talk to a youth group on Ecclesiastes and emphasised the meaninglessness, dreariness, and monotony of life (the text was ch. 1 and a couple of bits from 6 and 12 I think). I find these notions very helpful, because I can find myself so easily edging toward thinking things matter that don't. However I was criticised by one of the YG leaders afterward for not giving a post-cross perspective. Certainly I talked about Jesus providing meaning, completing our understanding of the world and its purpose etc (the preeminence passage in Col being the text for this bit), but I didn't say that the points I had made were thwarted by a post-cross perspective.

    I maintain, I think, that life is dreary, monotonous, and in many ways meaningless. But perhaps I'm wrong here?