The history of philosophy is full of distinctions without differences. We like drawing the distinctions; it feels like we’re gaining knowledge by carving out definitions. But the world of experience tends to be more complex than our language games – fortunately and unfortunately.
Unfortunately, because we often fool ourselves into confusing opinions with knowledge. Fortunately, because our experience of the world would be impoverished if it was simply reducible to all the ideas we have about it.
Take the distinction between history and literature, for example. History is all fact, literature is all fiction – keep them distinct and now you know the difference. However, as soon as someone documents history it becomes a form of literature. And “choice implies meaning,” meaning that how one chooses to write history is as significant as what one chooses to document. But the act of documenting history literarily is equally as historic an act as the events being documented. There is a significant difference between writing history per se and writing history books.
And yet, if there is an Author of history then we can begin to see why it has such literary qualities, heroes and villains, tragedy and comedy, trajectory and poetry, structure and movement. And if that Author has inspired both history and Scripture, then we can begin to read our lives – our stories – as a chapter in divine revelation. In that reading we can begin to gain knowledge, rather than merely collecting opinions, by reading our stories as we read the Author’s Story – as both history and literature.
If we read Scripture as mere history then we divorce it from our own stories, unable to leap that ugly ditch between here and truth. And if we read Scripture as mere literature then we divorce it from ourselves, unable to give flesh and bone to its stories. And yet the Word became flesh – literature became history – and we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Only if we read Scripture and life as history and literature can we begin to see how the grace and truth of that fleshy, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, bloody, dead, resurrected, ascended, victorious Word changes everything. He is the only hope of redeeming the history of histories. And we can follow Him, reading our lives in His and His in ours until we can no longer tell or care what is history and what is literature. And that will be an experience of glory, full of grace and truth.
Tolle lege. Tolle vive.