Sunday, September 16, 2007

wheat vs. chaff OR pure vs. poison?

Again, from breakfast with Bruce: at one point, he asked if Osteen was 99% pure and 1% poison. And I replied that no, Osteen's book was an example of wheat and chaff-- whatever the percentages might be for the particular person reading the book from their perspective.

But that got me thinking about the two common metaphors we use for the information we filter (and the experiences we face) every day. In my mind, most things are wheat and chaff-- and the questions are a.) whether one has sufficient wisdom to tell the difference; and b.) whether one expects there to be enough wheat to justify the time devoted to investigating the resource. (There are also occasions when one reads high-chaff content on purpose-- to understand "the other side", to help others deal with the chaff, and so on.)

That said, there are contexts in which the chaff can be poisonous: a.) if one does not have sufficient wisdom to discern; or b.) if the particular chaff is concentrated, potent or persuasive enough; or c.) if one's moral/spiritual/intellectual immune system is not strong enough to fend off the intrusion.

One other irony: how does one build up immunities to chaff, ability to discern, and accumulate wisdom and knowledge? By being well-grounded in the Truth-- and by being willing to take reasonable risks with potential chaff to gain valuable wheat. Many people are not all that well-grounded in the religious, scientific, economic and other truths they (claim to) hold dear. Others are reasonably well-grounded, but don't do much reading outside the arguments they've already accepted-- and so their faith remains untested and the knowledge/wisdom remains underdeveloped.

2 Comments:

At September 17, 2007 at 7:36 AM , Blogger Shamgar said...

This seems rather contradictory to me. On the one hand you say it is simply wheat and chaff. But then you say that a person needs a sufficient immune system to fend off the chaff. Yet chaff is something that is harmless (though useless), regardless of immune system or concentration.

It sounds to me more like you consider it weak poison verses your constitution.

One other irony: how does one build up immunities to chaff, ability to discern, and accumulate wisdom and knowledge? By being well-grounded in the Truth-- and by being willing to take reasonable risks with potential chaff

I don't think I agree with this. I see no scriptural basis for suggesting that people need to read useless content in order to test their faith.

Further, our biggest problem is not that people don't do enough reading of worthless (or worse, poisonous) materials - but that they don't do nearly enough reading of good materials.

You want to know how one builds up their immune system? It is first and foremost through a strong healthy body. The consumption of proper foods, exercise, vitamins, etc. You don't grow a sick person's immune system by filling them with fast food - or worse by exposing them to disease and poison.

 
At September 17, 2007 at 9:15 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Thanks Shamgar for your thoughtful reply. I think we agree more than not. But I didn't communicate clearly enough and we must be clear on the inherent limits of analogies, metaphors, and the like.

To clarify, I'd say that one man's chaff could be another man's poison. What's chaff to you could lead me down a poisonous path. (I suppose that too much chaff would itself be poisonous-- taken to an extreme. But the larger issue is that literary tools such as metaphors are limited.)

Referring to all chaff as poison doesn't work-- unless one is only willing to read the Bible. (And that still assumes a perfect ability to interpret without assistance outside of one's relationship to the Holy Spirit. Good luck with that!) Even the best commentators, Christian authors, teachers and preachers have chaff as well as wheat. If reading C.S. Lewis or Dallas Willard is poisonous, that's a problem. But not reading or listening to anyone is poisonous too! So, what's one to do?

Finally, if you re-read what I wrote in the initial post, you'll note that I didn't encourage people to read "useless" content-- in any case, or certainly, for the purpose of testing their faith.

 

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