There are no innocent readers

… there are no innocent readers anymore. Each overlays the text with his own perverse view. A reader is the total of all he’s read, in addition to all the films and television he’s seen. To the information supplied by the author he’ll always add his own. And that’s where the danger lies … Arturo Peres-Reverte, The Club Dumas

There are no innocent readers. We may think that we read the Bible and take away from it what is plainly there; but do we? Can we read, for example, one of Paul’s letters to a first Century church, without somewhere in the back of our mind understanding that they occupy a building such as the ones we attend, or that they have an organization similar to what we know, or hold services of a similar nature to ours? Can we read the Old Testament and understand what it was like to live without the presence, or even the direct influence, of the Holy Spirit?

We may try, and think we do a mighty fine job. And perhaps, given the fact that we are “polluted” with extrinsic information and experience and interpretation, we do. But, maybe we don’t. Maybe we assume too much, jump to too many conclusions. We trust the Holy Spirit to speak to us, and I believe that He does – but, we know for a fact that the Holy Spirit doesn’t prevent us from error. Remember, we’re not perfect, just forgiven… (that was sarcasm, in case you missed it).

And what about those of us who claim to “hear” from God directly? Can we even hear what the preacher says, and walk away with a correct impression of what he said? We’ve all played the rumor game, where you sit in a circle and pass around a bit of information, which ends up completely different than what was originally said.

I’m not mentioning this to make us feel hopeless and dejected, but to merely point out that we need to keep in mind what is called “interference,” the other information and noise that makes us not be innocent readers and hearers. It’s just a fact; we do see through a glass darkly. It’s scriptural…

We read and hear with our individual and cultural filters in place, and it takes work to photoshop the information back into a reasonable likeness of what was really said. Discussion is probably a good way to recognize and deal with our filters, as long as we are discussing with those with a different set of filters (otherwise we just justify our common filters). When we talk (or blog), we display our filters, not only to others, but to ourselves. That’s why I do this…

So, know this: you are not an innocent reader. But then, neither am I.

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