Beleive it or not, the blank space between words is a relatively modern invention. In fact, when it comes to the evolution of language, it was the last thing to be added! Prior to 900 AD, written language ran together in a form known as Scriptura Continua, where in words ran together with no spacing, forcing readers for the most part to read orally or in muffled voices. In other words, the method with which you are probably reading this blog post was considered an exceptional gift. You have the Latin scribes invention fo the space to thank for that.
Paul Saenger, Ph. D. in Medieval History, captured the history of the literary invention in his book Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading. His thesis is “there is a correlation between a propensity to read orally in both past and contemporary cultures and the duration of cognitive activity needed to achieve lexical access in that culture’s script.” In other words, our brains process the spacing between words differently than a language wherein there is a void. Sanguer’s thesis is backed up with studies of brain-injured Japanese patients. “Depending on the site of a cerebral lesion, a person may lose the faculty for reading kanji ideographs, but not Japanese phonetic script, which lacks regular word separation–and vice versa.” (qte. by Daniel Lazewski).
Upon first discovering this tidbit of lingual history, I thought it was absurd. But then I noticed something about social media. We use #hashtags as miniture #phraseswithoutspaces. Scriptura Continua is a part of modern main stream social network culture. Spaces are not necessary, they’re just helpful.
This is an adequate reflection of your spiritual beliefs, a.k.a. your personal theology. We have 2,000 years of Christian church culture that with good intent has added disciplines, beliefs, practices, & tradition to the core of Christianity. A very practical application of this concept is the prohibition of drinking alcohol among conservative denominations. Substance abuse has destroyed lives (I’ve seen it myself) but we must be clear to differentiate between a well placed suggestion (i.e. don’t drink) and actual scripture (Christ’ first miracle).
Substance abuse is an easy one to detect. But there are many facets and hidden layers to our historical, collective theology. Does the main worship service have to happen on Sunday? Are ministers the only one allows to baptize? Can a family have the Lord’s Supper at home without the presence of clergy? Are women permitted to be actively involved in the leadership of a congregation? Is the diversity of multiple denominations actually a ‘good’ thing? Is passing out Gospel tracts with no foundation of relationship a biblical practice?
In reality, these are blank spaces. The challenge is to find the core truths taught by Christ and not pass judgement on those whose blank spaces differ from our own. We should encourage healthy discussion rooted in love among our circles.
What other blank spaces have you encountered?