We tend to like things in black and white. Modernism and enlightenment philosophy simply don’t like, or cater for,ambiguity.
And yet, much of Scripture is ambiguous – perhaps by design?
If this is true the fault in seeking certainty is all on our side, it could just be that we ‘moderns’ have allowed our minds to be captured by just the sort of false philosophy St. Paul warned about in Colossians 2, 8?
In a strange sort of way I enjoy Scriptural ambiguity – it allows me to think about, reflect on and, apply Scripture in my daily life. A simple and straightforward rule book would, probably, only feed my inner rebel, with disastrous consequences for both me and others!
Permitting ambiguity also means that I don’t have to trade off individual Scriptures against each other in the pursuit of truth. Scriptural ambiguity seems to find a strange parallel in real life ambiguity. How comforting, how pastoral.
In the Bible where do we first find ambiguity and, complexity?
Thankfully Genesis Chapter 1!
You know the place where God made water and land, night and day, humans first, then males and females. Now these might be absolute states but, look at what Is not made explicit: the ‘shades of grey,’ that reside between the absolutes. Dawn and dusk aren’t mentioned (yet the they surely exist), the estuary land that is neither sea nor dry land and so on. Between the certainties resides the uncertainties, and these are just much part of God’s love in breathing life into the universe.
And so it may be in relation to human beings?
Between the gender certainties we find a number of humans who can be described as neither male or female. Genesis 1 could also allow for differences in sexual attraction. If we accept that ambiguity is deliberately, explicitly, woven into the tapestry of the Scriptures we might be able to accept that God made Adam and Eve, and Adam and Steve.
Being happily married to my Eve, does not invalidate other forms of covenant relationship; forms I might struggle to fully understand.
There are shades of grey as we have seen, left deliberately within the creation narrative, and it is how we work out what is going on in the areas we don’t properly understand that determines how we deal creatively, lovingly, with difficulty, ambiguity and uncertainty. I have no difficulty in relating to those who stand on the same ground as me. It is those who represent (to me) a shade of grey that pose the real challenge. So what should I, or we, do?
Perhaps Jesus provides the answer in Matthew 5, 41: ‘and if anyone asks you to go one mile, go the second as well.’
But be careful! Walking the extra mile might lead you into the grey, in betwixt and between areas. Perhaps these are the places where we learn to understand more but, end up knowing less. These could be the places where we come to really understand our shared humanity – which takes us nicely back to Genesis Chapter 1 (verse 26), where we read that God first of all made humans before settling on any other categories through which we begin to understand difference.