Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Connoisseurs of Christ

Temptingly rich and layered, with complex mocha, plum and wild berry fruit that’s spicy and aromatic. Full-bodied, gaining depth and turning ever more elegant and detailed, with tannins that give this traction.
There is an interesting phenomenon in the human psyche where perceived complexity creates an artificially high valuation of something, such as wine.  The description above is for a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon which, on sale(!), is selling for about $120.

A bottle of wine yield four glasses, so that places it at $30 a glass!  That same money could get you thirty dollar-menu burgers.  OK, that may be a bit of a disgusting thought, but how about for that same money you could get rolls with butter, a tasty slab of sirloin, grilled vegetables, a baked potato, a slice of cheesecake for dessert, and a tip for the server.  Well, depending on where you go, maybe you can't get the dessert, but, still, you can get a lot of food; food which takes about 10-20 times the effort to get to the table than it did to get that fermented grape juice into a bottle.

Now if you offer this wine to someone who has a less "sophisticated" palate, someone who likes wine but prefers other beverages, you'd be lucky to get $10 a glass, and they would probably be hard-pressed to tell you that it tasted like "mocha, plum and wild berry fruit," but instead they would probably just say that they like it or they don't like it.  Offer it to someone who abstains from alcohol, and they would not pay a dime; and if they tasted it, at best, they could probably identify it as wine.

This phenomenon is far from being limited to wine.  I think that, for some people, it also extends into the field of faith.  I wonder if it is the perceived complexities, symbolism, and nuances within the Bible, such as typology, which keeps the intellectually and/or contemplatively gifted people seduced by the faith.

If you read into the story a significant meaning or connection beyond what is there at face value, you become like the classic wine snob, where your mind is tricked into placing a higher value on it than it really deserves.  That perceived complexity grants the text an authority; becoming the proof of a higher power at work.  You become a connoisseur of the Scriptures, teasing out the flavors which lay hidden from the masses, or savoring those essences revealed by some experts before you like a consumer reflecting back on the professional taster's description of a wine as they take a sip.

But at the end of the day, a glass of wine is just a glass of wine, and the words of Scripture are like the words of other authors; full of the affectation and contrived meanings which they experienced or wanted to project.  That's not to say that either wine or Scripture is without value, but, rather, we should let them be as they are, and take them in with a realistic perspective.

So, is this just an illusion in my mind, or have you, too, met connoisseurs of Christ in your journey?  Do you think theirs is really a deeper faith, or have they introduced a complexity which honestly is not there?


  1. How odd. Today I posted about an experience yesterday where I was tempted by just the kind of "sophistication" I think you're talking about (I love the fact that word means adulterated).
    I have a theory that heresies start from being "smarter" than other people. As you say, teasing out the meaning that was hidden.

    Now there are real scholars who really put in the work to find the context and understand the meaning from within that context. Those folks should be given their due (an old friend of mine works in translation), and sometimes its essential for phrases like 1 Tim 2:9 to know that the braids referenced are not farm girl braids, by the symbols of an affluent courtesan in 1st century Ephesus (Don't dress like a hooker in church, duh!)

    That said, it is not the complexity which reinforces my faith. It is the consistency of message from the simple to the profound that really floats my boat. The message of the scripture is as simple as it can be. Apply those simple truths and live. Or if you are so inclined dive in and plumb the depths of humanity framed in the context of divinity. The table is full of whatever you need for sustenance. There are many mansions in His Father's house.

    The complexity is there - it deals with the complexity of human need. The fascinating thing, the real clincher, is just how simple it can be.

    1. Thanks dsholland. I'm quite certain that there is some truth behind your theory heresies, although, as I continue to study, I'm gaining the opinion that there may be many more heresies than most people recognize, largely due to conflicting "complexities." At least that is the rather-consistent image which appears to me. ;-)

      I'd also have to agree with you that contextual scholars can indeed find meanings which slip by our modern eyes. I know I have received some great information and understanding from such scholarship. :-)

      Many times, I think the simple perspective is the best for Christianity to follow...

      I'll have to check out your post. Take care,

  2. Great post, WF!
    I think I see some connections to the quote I've been using from Taleb - about how a religion/worldview is a shared emotional-aesthetic commitment in order to trust others, and not so much about the truth of an interpretation of reality.

    Maybe this is why I make my own wine and beer - even if it isn't so refined or adulterated!:-)

    1. Thanks Andrew! I think that there is a lot of truth to that Taleb quote.

      When can I share a brewski? ;-)