“When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” Ex. 31:18
Once upon a time, there was a smallish branch of Christians, now nearly forgotten to history, called the Fingerites, inhabitants of Obscurantia (formerly part of the Roman Empire). Although they put their point in the loveliest Latin terminology, their reading of the above verse amounted to this: God, though entirely bodiless through this time, inscribed Moses’s tablet with his (God’s) finger. They were opposed by a neighbouring sect in Obscurantia, which historians now dub the Schmingerites. They considered their brethren the Fingerites to be naive literalists. Both sides were intensely proud of their distinctive readings of the above finger-text, and based their exegesis of other finger of God texts on the above solutions. Lest violence ensue, they agree to hold a local council, in the hopes of reconciling their doctrinal differences.
“God has a no body at all, but has his own finger? That’s positively mysterious“, objected a leading Schmingerite theologian. “God has no body, and thus no fingers. It must be remembered that human concepts don’t literally apply to God – don’t blaspheme the Almighty with your merely human thoughts about him.”
The Fingerites were unimpressed by this bombast. “We follow the true Tradition. Our bishops trace their lineage to the apostles, and we’ve always been guided by the Holy Spirit. Our reading of the text is thus illuminated, and the text, so illuminated, plainly says that God wrote with his finger. We accept what it says. Of course, other texts say or imply that (at least pre-incarnation) God lacks a body. But we submit our Reason to the Word, and assert both these things. We are certain our doctrine is true, though we know not how it is true.”
The Schmingerites replied, “If you followed the true Tradition, like we do, you’d not ignore the precious mystery of God’s schminger. This transcendent reality, need we remind you, is much like a finger, and also much unlike one. Specifically, it is like a finger as concerns tablet-writing, but unlike it inasmuch as having a schminger doesn’t require having a body. God, in speaking to mere humans, must lisp, as nurse speaks to a baby. He inspired this text with the word “finger” because the time was not yet right for his people to behold the glorious truth of the schminger.”
“Glorious truth?” gasped the Fingerites. “Your theory is complete nonsense – you’re just imagining, like we do, that God wrote with his finger, but you’re trying to avoid objections by saying it wasn’t a finger, but this something-you-know-not-what. You call it a mystery, but it’s a negative one – one devoid of meaning.”
“Devoid of meaning? Hah! We gave you our analogies – a schminger is like a finger, as concerns tablet-writing, but unlike a finger as concerns body possession.”
At this point in the august proceedings, a hand went up in the gallery. The dueling bishops were shocked that a mere commoner would intrude on such a holy summit, but before they knew it, one of them acknowledged the hand-raiser, a frail old man, of sober countenance. He arose and spoke.
“Forgive me, holy Fathers,” he said, “but may it be that both of your are mistaken? Might it not be that the phrase “the finger of God” was to be understood metaphorically, meaning just that God directly, and not through any creaturely intermediary, put the carved words into Moses’s tablets?”
The bishops fell upon him with an hailstorm of words. They spat that he was a trespassing pryer into mysteries, an arrogant rationalist, an innovator, an individualistic denier of the teaching ministry of the Church, an impious rebel, a destroyer of faith, a denier of divine providence, a low-down dirty dog, a heretic, a schismatic, a temerarious puker of the vilest blasphemous bile. Both sides anathematized the old man most thoroughly, and as he slunk out of the council hall, both sides made sure he didn’t forget that “We have the true Tradition.” Thus was the schism averted.