Redefining the way we define

“The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” G.K. Chesterton

Once we thought the earth was the centre of the universe, and now we realise we orbit around a relatively minuscule star that sits on some spiral arm 2/3rds of the way out from the centre of our galaxy which is one of billions. Once we hoped to understand the ways in which everything worked, but now we realise things like quantum mechanics and life are infinitely complex and irreducible in nature. And yet the prideful headiness of Modernism still resides in our Christian faith.

Reducing the Irreducible
And so inside the church, I feel there is still a sense in which we try to reduce the irreducible Christian faith into propositional truths that we merely need to know and understand. Christianity has become an exercise of the intellect. We are like a group of mountain-top sunrise watchers who choose to dryly de-construct the way in which it happens (i.e. the earth rotating and orbiting a stationary sun), instead of staring in awe and drinking in it’s beauty and majesty. We try and make God and Christianity fit into our own boxes, and fit our own agendas and realities, instead of allowing them to define reality for us. We sit over the Christian God, dictating to Him where He needs to be instead sitting under Him and allowing Him to continually define, and re-define our realities.

So no wonder Christianity has become dry and irrelevant.

This problem plays itself out in the ways we think about the words ‘grace’, ‘gospel’, ‘humility’ etc. We treat these words as concepts that are boxable to a nice acrostic, or a few elegantly arranged sentences. We simplify them at our own danger, and to our own detriment.

Reversing our perspective
And so if we then begin to think of these concepts as eternal, broad and weighty; as ideas that we could never even begin to get our minds around; as massively pure and beautiful diamonds that we could only ever see one facet of at any point in time, then we might begin to ‘understand’ them rightly. And in doing so, we may recover a Christianity that is relevant, engaging, passionate and earthy. And in doing so, we will perhaps recover a message of Jesus and the Kingdom of God that finds expression and relevance in every decision of our lives, every job we do, every ice-cream we eat, every longing of our hearts, every thought of our minds, every cell in our bodies, every breath we breathe, and every song we sing. It is irreducible. It is uncontainable. It is unstoppable. Least of all by our minds.

Allow me to put another plug in here for humility – the foundation of this ‘redefining’ talked about – is humility.

P.S. The ongoing series on humility is along these lines, and I have one or two upcoming posts on ‘grace’ and perhaps a few posts on ‘the Gospel’. And this is the nature of my task – I am trying to provide another perspective on these beautiful diamonds – each post is an attempt at articulating the magnificence of one facet of each of these diamonds which I have seen and experienced, which has found an earthy application in my own life. I dare not think that I have the be-all-end-all of revelations about them, but perhaps such perspectives will help broaden yours and shed more light on these precious concepts.

Other posts in this series:



A Crisis in our minds

The church and our minds in modernity
The western evangelical church has in some ways fallen prey to intellectualism of modernity. We have underestimated the importance of the body and heart.

So we feed ourselves  facts and theologies and propositions to remember. Knowing God has in some ways been reduced knowing theology as facts on a sheet to be memorized. This is an issue not exclusive to the western evangelical church institution, but is present in the western education system that is based on teaching and rote learning with some critical thinking thrown in (at least the high-school and university systems I went through).

Victoria’s Secret and the human heart
Armed with facts in the mind, we are daily exposed to the ‘real world’ where Victoria’s Secret and Coca-Cola and Peter Jackson are grabbing our hearts and our guts. This is where earthy sensuality and desire is aroused and magnified by companies who are appealing and targeting deeper and more powerful subconscious desires. And we experience a significant pull on our souls towards world that seems to provide an outlet and a target for longing hearts. And perhaps we have got our anthropology wrong – that is we have misunderstood the fundamental ways in which a human being works and thrives. While remaining an intellectually driven people, the world appeals to the subconscious and the heart desires that are perhaps what really drives our habits and behaviours and ultimately our lives.

Knowing God…in fullness
And so we must come back to the fullness of what it means to know God, and there we shall find life, and freedom –  Christianity is life and life to the fullest and free-est that involves the the mind and feet and everything in-between. Knowing God is to be known by him so deeply and intimately that your heart beats faster and your breath gets taken away. Knowing God is to weep when he seems closer than your skin or your breath. Knowing God is to know your purpose and place in life  as he brings direction, humility and maturity to your life in the way that only he can in the seasons of life he ordains.

To be sure – Knowing God does not exclude studying theology and intellectual concepts and propositions, it is not either/or but fullness – fullness of knowing the word and knowing theology – to study the word and know and memorize the concepts. On the other hand it is the fullness of knowing him intimately as the bridegroom, King and Judge – and in doing so to find your life in it’s perfect place and in full function in the kingdom he has, is and will bring to bear upon the earth.

And so a generation will be found by the King of Glory. They will be known and will know the one whose eyes are like flames of fire. This is the Psalm 24 generation.