my reflection

My friend the faithful Skeptic messaged me on Facebook with a link to a Rob Bell teaching called ‘Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi‘.

He said he would love to hear my reflections on this.

I look forward to his own reflections in response to mine.

Our words should be written in sand.

So I watched.

On YouTube it comes in 5 parts of 7 or 9 minutes each.

I got through part 1 – 3.

And here is my reflection:

hey Lloyd, watched part 1 -3.

We learned all this stuff or most of it at school, here and there differently interpreted, but the general gist remains in tack.

Bell is a capable public speaker.

He is also skilled in the art of logic, taking his audience from a specific place on a journey that makes sense, to a new place.

With regards to part 1 … the text … I believe God was instrumental in its creation and perseverance. The text is not the word though. The Word is someone. The text is, I believe, revelation, revealing God or perhaps God revealing himself, but only, i think, in so far as he himself opens it up to us through his spirit. I believe there is real value in knowing the Bible.

We are however covered in the dust of our rabbi.

And we have many rabbi.

The mere division of the Bible into chapters & verses which are numbered.

That is a Rabbi.

How the text have been ordered.

How the Gospels have been ordered.

Which books were included in the New Testament.

All Rabbi.

And then comes along Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and later in England the Puritans and later in the new world the methodists & evangelicals & Pentecostals & charismatics & emergents.

And now we have dust upon dust upon dust.

Of rabbi upon rabbi upon rabbi.

I take solace in the fact that God is.

A person.

A someone who can act & speak on his own behalf.

I do not think the matter of interaction with God is a cognitive one.

Just as the matter of interaction between myself and Zuko is not a cognitive one.

It is cognitive.

But emotional & physical & psychological & practical as well.

Perhaps it is the same with us & him.

Perhaps the ‘text’ is just a part of it. Like me paging through zuko’s photo albums from when she was at school & I did not know her. And reading her diary. and listening to her parents tell stories of when she was 5 or 8. Or listening to her as she remembers her mother’s chronic depression & the emotional neglect & the blame & the guilt.

Had I not known her.

Had I not loved her, they would have been mere words. Irrelevant & uninteresting to me.

But I do know her & so I am interested. And I listen, not so that I may find some western system through which I may interact with her, but so that I may know her.

That is all.

I don’t want to do anything with that knowledge.

Knowing her creates intimacy.



Maybe the text is something like that & the Rabbi & teachers (Bell included) are her parents. Telling their version as supporting cast or antagonist in a story which is perhaps not the same story as the one she experienced.

As children we holidayed at Kenton-on-Sea on the wild coast. We had a little boat with a 15 hp engine.

Years later we spoke of it, my brother and I, when we still spoke.

He remembered the boat was blue.

I remembered it to be red and yellow.

He also remembered an incident in which I stranded the boat & he saved us.

I do not seem to recall that incident. Perhaps it happened, who knows, perhaps it was just much more traumatic to him than to me.

I do not think we can know God.

We can know some of him.

We can know more of him as our lives play out.

But being able to say, this is God, this is how you get to know him – impossible.

Not in my world.

And about the whole thing of systematic learning.

Two things.

I do think Bell has it wrong that everyone progressed through the three stages.

That is entirely too idealistic.

Some learnt from 6 – 10 years and in learning the Torah they learnt to read and write and do basic maths and the history of their people, their origins & the story of how they came to be where they are.

The majority’s education would end at age 10.

Then they would start working alongside their father in whatever trade he worked if he was a boy. If she was a girl she would start helping with the home, the making of clothes, the cleaning, the preparation of food.

Most girls did not go beyond 10 in education.

If a boy had potential & showed interest & his parents could afford it, if he came from the right background, a privileged one, he would continue in the second phase and perhaps the third.

Also showing that who becomes Rabbi are hugely influenced by economy and social structure.

To this day it is true.

The ones who can afford a soft life.

Who can spend 19 – 22 years of their lives being educated, trained, influenced – they become the Rabbi of the next generation.

And so even the dust on which we cough, is skewed. Influenced by economy and social structure.

This world is broken, Lloyd.

Not only broken, but cursed by God.

And although he crushed the head of the snake, brought what some call salvation, it is not yet salvation from his own curse.

In my time his curse is pervasive.

It continues relentlessly.

And we are stragglers trying to survive. Trying to know our own origin & the meaning of our existence. Trying to make sense of something and someone who is not to be made sense of. Not yet.

I hope there is an answer & an opinion, somewhere in that. It is a reflection, a dusty one, in the mirror of my mind, of my being.



If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my books available from Amazon’s Kindle-store.

Just click this link to take a look: Theunis Pienaar in Amzaon.


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