Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Not Her Voice

Everybody wants to be heard. That’s understandable.

To understand and be fully understood is one of the greatest possible states to which human beings may aspire. When perfection comes, “I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known,” says the apostle.

That suggests very strongly that those of us who have a relationship with Jesus Christ are already as fully known as we will ever need or want to be. Think about that for a bit.

Still, many of us feel the need to be known and understood by other human beings, and that is not an unreasonable desire. “Two are better than one,” Solomon says, and some people feel that more than others.

So when somebody wants to be heard, fair enough — even if not everything people say is worth hearing and not every one of us sympathizes with the felt need for perpetual public disclosure.

I Hear Dead People

Dalia Marx and Ursula Rudnick are intensely concerned about Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, whose story is told in Genesis 34 and which I considered at length the other day. Poor Dinah, they agree, is without a voice.

I’m a little confused by this need for a “voice” for people who have been dead for thousands of years. I suspect dead Bible characters have more pressing concerns than airing their views about the evils of the patriarchal society to a modern audience. Dying has a way of making all that a bit irrelevant.

If after death we do spare a thought for those left behind (which may well happen), Abraham tells us we don’t get to communicate with the living even if we would like to. Nobody can go to the living from the dead, and the living wouldn’t listen to us anyway. They have, we are told, “Moses and the prophets”, and far greater testimonies since, testimonies to which they would be wise to attend.

So while in one sense we may “speak” after death, like Moses and the prophets, we sure don’t say anything new. The sum total of our earthly words has been uttered and the record, for now at least, is sealed.

Speaking for the Dead

Still, there seems to be no end of volunteers to speak for the dead. Dalia Marx has something to say on the late, late Dinah’s behalf:

“In the late 1980’s a button with the words: ‘Silence = Death’ surfaced first in New York and spread quickly to Europe. It related to AIDS and the necessity to talk about the disease. Silence equals death. This sentence is true also with regard to Dinah. In our reading and our memory of her, a blank space remains. All we can do to fill this blank space is to imagine [Dinah’s] voice.”

The thing is, when you imagine someone’s voice, it’s not really their voice anymore. It’s yours.

I Couldn’t Have Said It Better

Now when a human being speaks, he or she may easily leave something important unsaid. If not, you or I will surely think so. Every statement made and every story told in history could surely have been told better and more fully. Every tale could be retold to give its supporting characters bigger roles and every historical record re-imagined to place the moral emphasis where we think it rightly ought to have been placed.

Every record, that is, except the word of God.

The Bible is not an exhaustive record of every single thing that occurred since Adam. I think that is probably obvious. Rather, it is a collection of historical accounts, letters, poems, parables and doctrinal truth very carefully selected and edited to accomplish the purposes for which its Author intended it. There is not an unnecessary word or letter — for that matter, there is not an unnecessary diacritic point on those letters if you read it in the original languages — in the entire thing.

The Sufficiency of Scripture

It does not tell us everything that happened. But it does tell us everything we need to know. John tells us that in addition to the 21 chapters we have in our English Bibles that he wrote about the Son of God, “There were also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

Wouldn’t that be a fun read? I’m quite sure it would, though none of us could get through it all. Isn’t all that truth immensely valuable? It surely is. Wouldn’t writing it all down give the Lord Jesus “a voice” in a sense that our existing four gospels do not? I’m quite sure it would.

And yet God didn’t elect to do that. He wrote what he wrote — through human agents, to be sure, but his Spirit carried along each and every one of them, using their personalities, vocabularies, writing styles, emotions and experiences to record precisely what he wanted recorded for the benefit of his immediate audience and for all those, like us, who would read it thereafter.

The Finality of Scripture

And then he stopped. And I’m glad he did. If Stephen King’s editor had similar discernment, his novels would be one-third their length (though probably not nearly so profitable for Mr. King).

No character in scripture requires “a voice” that has not received one in the pages of holy writ. To supply one where God has not done so is unnecessary, insulting, presumptuous and frivolous. It is an empty and dangerous pursuit. Dinah would not thank you for your help, ladies, and neither will anyone else in scripture for whom you presume to speak.

Anyway, it’s not her voice and it’s certainly not God’s.

It’s just yours.

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