What Is Knothole Theology?

Imagine a bunch of kids watching a baseball game through the curved back fence.  Each one along the length of the fence looking through a knothole at the baseball action.  One can see a portion of the outfield, another two infielders, and the third can actually see home plate and the batter.  The batter hits a huge line drive deep into the outfield, and runs.  The third kid yells out, “It was a hard line drive!”  They hear the crowd on the other side of the fence go wild.  The middle one can see the two infielders anxiously looking back toward the outfield.  The runner passes through his view quickly.  He yells, “He rounded second!” And the first kid sees his outfielder grab the ball after a bounce and hurl it toward the infield.  The middle kid quickly shouts, “The second basemen got it, and threw it to home!”  And the third kid, yells out, “He’s safe! We win!”  They hear the crowd erupt on the other side of the fence and indistinct yelling.

How much could any one of the kids have really understood about what was going on without the other?  That’s the basis of Knothole Theology.  Without their view, the sound of the crowd would have told them something exciting was happening, but not what.  And their view may have shown them part of the action, but not enough to get a good sense of what was happening.  It isn’t without the view of all three that what was happening was understood.  And even three views from knotholes isn’t as good as being in the stadium.  There were a lot of details even they couldn’t see through the fence.

But what is Knothole Theology? Essentially it is a view of God through our ‘knotholes’ that gets better as everyone shares their view.  It is based on the conviction that God has not revealed Himself to any one person, but rather created a view of Himself that creates dependency on each other for clarity.

In more technical terms, it is a biblical ‘word about God’ dependent upon many perspectives. We all view God with the limited perspective as through a knothole in a fence. The view of God through the knothole is never complete, so we need the perspectives of others for a more complete understanding. Having said that, though, it is based on a few assumptions:

  1. The Bible is inspired by God
  2. The sixty-six books are the complete infallible inspired record
  3. God revealed what we need to know about Him through Scripture
  4. The purpose of God is to draw His human creatures into a relationship with Him
  5. The end result of this relationship is eternity in heaven worshiping Him

The purpose of Knothole Theology is really to gain a better understanding of what God reveals through Scripture.  In that sense it’s a biblical theology.  But in another sense it’s a theory of biblical interpretation, in that understanding is best with additional views.  It’s not an oversimplification to say that no one knows it all, but some views are better than others.  But this causes some problems; typically relational ones.

The purpose, with a focus on God, is easily lost when the participant are really more interested in the value of their view over everyone else’s view.  People can get offended that everyone didn’t consider them as important at they saw themselves, and so on.

Another problem with losing focus on God is when people desperately want a grand view, and they only have a knothole.  If their solution is make up what is lacking in their view with imagination, intuition, and deduction, they put themselves on dangerous ground.  There is some value in trying to see beyond the view this way, as long as what is seen is able to be clearly differentiated from what is surmised or imagined.  Sometimes being able to consider the views together, appreciate their gaps, and try to get a sense of what’s happening in the gaps is helpful.  But it must also be seen that way, not as a true view.  The reason for this is that the ‘views’ are, in a very real sense, given to us by God through His Spirit.

When Knothole Theology is practiced in small group Bible study, what is discovered is a much richer view of God, His character, His activity, and our relationship with Him.  This vivid view is capable of deepening our worship, our prayer life, and our daily activities.  It can be transformational.

So, this blog will be a beginning, limited view of a passage of Scripture.  What will make it great are the comments supplying missing views of the action of God.  The only ground rules really need to be that what we all be ‘at the same game’ (passage, or at least Scripture), and that we don’t lose focus on God.

Play Ball!


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