Hermeneutical Asperger’s

or Technicians and Intuitions – 2

Conservative theologians have bravely held the fort like the guardians of heaven. Unfortunately, when it comes to biblical interpretation, they are boring as hell.

Paul Washer recently tweeted: “The measure of biblical truth that we have grasped is not determined by the size of our heads, but the breadth of our hearts.”

The divide between the head and the heart is an issue of integrity, of holiness. But even within the realm of “head knowledge,” the intellectual level of Biblical interpretation, there is a sort of left brain/right brain divide. The issue here is not one of holiness. It is one of “intellectual sex.”

Now that I have your attention, by “sex” here I mean gender. It is a divide that can be traced back to Genesis 1. The heavens and the earth are divided, but they were designed to be married, reunited as something greater than the sum of the parts. If you’ve read Bible Matrix II: The Covenant Key, you’ll see the process of forming and filling traced throughout the entire body of Scripture, as God’s flaming sword flashes to-and-fro, to-and-fro, to-and-fro. I think the debate over the theological interpretation of Scripture is due to ignorance of the symbolic nature of the world, and this ignorance in turn comes from a failure to interpret the world through the lens of Scripture.

Tin Gods

As with appreciation of art, music and non-inspired literature, reading the Bible involves skills in both forming and filling. Conservative evangelical academia seems to consist mainly of “formers.” They cover the necessary basics, the crucial historical and grammatical facets involved in making fundamental sense of a text. But then we need “fillers,” those who can join the dots, “read between the lines” with an instinctual literary sensibility based on long term immersion in the imaginative world of the biblical authors.

This is exactly the test faced by Adam. God’s single commandment was indeed straight forward, but it left a great deal unsaid. Adam was supposed to “read between the lines” based on his relationship as God’s son. What was the true intention of the Father? Adam certainly had enough to go on. But the serpent filled those gaps with a novel interpretation based upon slander. [1]

The same goes for biblical interpretation. Liberal theologians interpret the Bible with a deep suspicion of the Father’s intentions. When He forbids certain acts, they pontificate like little tin gods and spew forth a serpentine river of bitter water into the body of Christ. God allows it because it purifies the Church. The spiritual whores suck it up, drink the cup to the dregs, and it exposes them for what they are. [2]

Adam was the first liberal theologian. If Adam had been instead a conservative theologian, he would have faithfully refused to eat from the Tree of Judicial Knowledge, but not figured out what to do with the serpent. “What do you mean I was supposed to crush the serpent’s head? You didn’t state that explicitly in the text!” It required some intuition, some anticipation of the Father’s intentions for him based upon His earlier promises.

Toy Soldiers

Conservative theologians are the ones who have kept the faith against the onslaught of liberal theology. They have bravely held the fort like the guardians of heaven. Unfortunately, when it comes to biblical interpretation, they are boring as hell.

What they don’t understand is that we are actually expected to read between the lines to interpret much of the Bible. They are formers, not fillers. They are courageous guardians of the gallery but have little appreciation of the actual art. They take the Edenic command literally, but they refuse to read between the lines and predict, anticipate, the intentions of God. Such an attitude to the “letter” can only maintain the status quo.

The Jewish scribes also guarded the Words of God but failed to read between the lines. They failed to anticipate that the intention of God was an even greater glory. When Jesus came to slay and resurrect the Law, many resisted Him. What made the difference between those who resisted His words and those who received them? Was it intellect? No, it was gift. Those with obedient hearts recognized the voice of the Father in Jesus. The Spirit opened their ears and their minds.

Now, I’m not saying evangelicalism doesn’t have the Spirit of God. What we are talking about here is a level of interpretation that goes far beyond the basics of the gospel, which was the first century challenge. James Jordan refers to the Church Fathers as “the Church Babies” because they were at the beginning of the Church’s task of making sense of the apostolic texts. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. My point is that further progress is always a gift. It is the opening of the mind by the Spirit of God. Unfortunately, many conservative scholars suffer from a sort of interpretive mind-blindness, a “hermeneutical Asperger’s.”

 The MindBlind

A week or two ago, it was suggested to me that I might have some degree of Asperger’s Syndrome. Since then I’ve been studying up on it, and will get a professional assessment. I have to say it was like reading about my own internal life online. (Perhaps I should be keeping this confidential, but I’m sure I can trust you not to tell anyone.)

People with Asperger’s use a different part of the brain to interact with the world. Instead of “going with the flow,” they are constantly systematizing, collecting, storing and analyzing data. This is why there is often a delay in responses, and a certain awkwardness. That part of the brain simply can’t keep up with the amount of information involved in social interactions. This is why sufferers can usually cope with one-on-one discussions, but shun social events, and are often exhausted by them. There is simply too much data to process. “Downtime,” black moods and seeking isolation follow. It takes time for them to process conversations and events. They obsess over small details that make no sense on their own but do make sense as part of an unspoken social “language” in which they are not fluent, an intuitive “context” that everyone seems to understand but which remains a mystery to the sufferer.

Personally, I have always found there is a “veil” between me and other people that disables intuitive emotional connection, or empathy. This inability to “read” people is called “mindblindness.” There is often a failure to anticipate what the other person is thinking or feeling, of where the conversation is going, of what to say next. It makes interaction extremely awkward, often embarrassing and sometimes even distressing. People with Asperger’s often suffer from anxiety and depression.

I’m fairly sure what my personal diagnosis will be, (!) but I can also see that over the years I’ve learned to compensate fairly well. Smalltalk might indeed be pointless but people are not. I’ve worked around this to the point where can now imagine what it is to be like in someone else’s shoes, even though I found this unnatural as a child and teenager. It’s like learning to communicate “by the numbers,” mimicking skills that other have picked up intuitively, and turning them into new habits until they “feel natural.” Many people with Asperger’s do learn the language of “neurotypicals,” but many do not. It depends on the level of disability. Some people grow out of it to some degree, but others are so profoundly disabled that their progress is limited. [3] And even when learned, using it can still be exhausting.

It has been said that one’s greatest strength is the flipside of one’s greatest weakness. People with Asperger’s Syndrome are known to be obsessive about one or more topics. They like familiarity and repetition. Focussing on something intently makes them feel safe and calm. It’s predictable. It can be anticipated. The upside of many such obsessions is innovation and progress. Autistic Temple Grandin commented that NASA is like a sheltered workshop for people with high functioning autism. I guess I can relate to this to some degree (especially in childhood), but choosing theology as a “safe haven” obsession kind of backfired. It orders you back out into the world of unpredictable people.

Literal and Literary

How can we have a harmony between hermeneutical forming (the letter) and hermeneutical filling? How does God do it? By fire, by the Spirit. The weakness of conservative scholars, the MindBlindness, the lack of literary intuition, the inability to “read the face” of the inspired text, is the flipside of a crucial strength. But, without discarding the data that has been carefully assembled and systematized, they need to “retrain their brains.” It is quite possible to be both literal and literary. The Spirit of God is opening the eyes of many to the amazing “bandwidth” of the Biblical texts, and through Him we are able to behold Him with unveiled face in greater and greater degrees, until we are indeed “face to face”. The more I study, the more glorious is the Word.

Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech—unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:12-18)

Isn’t the Bible Matrix just another system? Yes, but it’s an intuitive system, which I guess is why some people don’t get it. [4] It’s not easily quantifiable. It reads the shape, the “face,” of the text first, to anticipate the author’s intent. Perhaps literary typological structure is a channel of communication used by the biblical artists that we somehow inadvertently lost the ability to appreciate in our efforts to guard the gallery. I believe it is the shape of the mind of Christ. By His Spirit we are able to read His mind.

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

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[1] See Crafty Beast.
[2] Yes, that’s what’s going on in the Revelation. It was a first century event, an antitype based on Numbers 5. The test in the first century was Judaizing doctrine. God, like Solomon, is a judge who is wise as a serpent when it comes to exposing the truth.
[3] I heard an interview with “Aspergian” John Elder Robison, in which he related how he was able to “visualize” with amazing precision the exact results of new technologies he was developing in sound engineering in his twenties, but that since then as he has learned to interact socially he has lost some of those skills. He has “retrained his brain.”
[4] See Typology is Female.

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5 Responses to “Hermeneutical Asperger’s”

  • QuantumGreg Says:

    Mike, you wrote, “God’s single commandment was indeed straight forward, but it left a great deal unsaid. Adam was supposed to ‘read between the lines’ based on his relationship as God’s son. What was the true intention of the Father? Adam certainly had enough to go on.”

    …and…

    “Adam was the first liberal theologian. If Adam had been instead a conservative theologian, he would have faithfully refused to eat from the Tree of Judicial Knowledge, but not figured out what to do with the serpent. ‘What do you mean I was supposed to crush the serpent’s head? You didn’t state that explicitly in the text!’ It required some intuition, some anticipation of the Father’s intentions for him based upon His earlier promises.”

    Amen. This has opened my eyes more and more. Seeing, for example, Jesus as the Last Adam, shows what Adam should’ve been. It shows that God gave Adam some things to do and a goal to reach. It shows that Paradise (the Garden of Eden) was not the goal but merely the starting point. It shows that Adam, being a mortal man, was supposed to read between the lines, take the resources of Eden outward to the rest of the planet and make order out of the chaos just like God had done in Creation. It shows that Adam was supposed to attain to immortality (where Jesus the Man ended up). But Adam failed right out of the starting block. This, if you will, put another obstacle (besides just obedience) in the way of Adam (mankind) attatining to the state of rest where Jesus the Man ended up. The goal was made unreachable through mankind at that point. But then along comes the Last Adam.

    The Last Adam shows what the First Adam should’ve been. To see this requires MUCH reading between the lines. It requires looking at the OT and seeing all the stories moving (or rather, recapitulating) toward a greater and greater expression of what God intended the First Adam be. But all those recapitulations ended in failure… until Jesus.

    And now that the Last Adam has been successful in showing us how the First Adam should’ve acted, we can now become partakers and participators in making order out of the chaos of earth. Once again, we’ve been given an Eden from which we can say, “as in heaven, so on earth” and marry the two again, bringing God’s full expression into view and ultimately ending up with an actual new heaven and earth filled with “Last Adams.”

    Again, I can’t express enough thanks for opening this analytical, “boring as hell” conservative engineer’s head to the asthetic beauty of reading between the lines of scripture and seeing the Father’s intention in Jesus Christ and thus, humankind.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Thanks Greg – I like the way you think. It is certainly systematic, but a different kind of systematic.

  • Dave Says:

    I bet if Adam had successfully refused to eat from the tree, Eve would have suggested to bash the snake’s head in ;-)

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Well, didn’t you just steal my thunder? You ANTICIPATED my next post!

  • Dave Says:

    ha ha, that’s funny… I’d love to say its because you’re such a great teacher (which you are), but it’s probably due to the influence of my primary trainer – my wife ;-)