cloudy sky over sun

Beyond Explanation

Yesterday, I experienced a moment of pause when I was speaking about how to let go of control by embracing the mystery of the goodness of God. To me, this is a newer practice, but I already value teaching it far more than I value teaching people how to more effectively control the world around them through a comprehensive explanation or understanding of some academic discipline.

This second objective governs just about every learning experience I have been part of. But if I truly embrace the mysterious position I have found myself in, then my teaching will go beyond explanation to facilitating an experience. The moment of pause came when I realized that the accepted explanations of our limited experience of existence often lead us so far astray from reality that we get lost in a fantasy world of our own creation.

Among the Elements

The true pagans of today are those who believe their minds define the world. The new gods are not pieces of wood and stone as much as they are living breathing brains, who struggle with one another for power, acceptance, and control over human destiny.

This redefinition represents a fascinating exposure of my perspective. I am far more open than many in the Christian tradition to recognizing the natural function of various elements of creation. I think the rocks, the hills, the trees, the stars, all serve their purpose in the life of mankind. It would be foolish to presume that such things can define human destiny, but not more so than to presume we can define it for ourselves.

Humanity has received delegated authority to cultivate these resources, but it does not come from our power to manipulate the elements. Our authority comes from a connection with the same source of life from which the other elements spring. Through our union with the creator, we may redeem what aspects of their function have fallen into futility, but this responsibility does not eliminate their effect on our lives.

In the same way that our internal thoughts define our experience of existence, so the external elements exercise a similar influence. Space and time have an impact regardless of whether or not the individual is willing to recognize it. Humanity cannot be fully autonomous agents in this world apart from the freedom of identity as children of God. Even then, freedom is not defined in the sense of isolated independence, but in the sense of harmonious interdependence through which beauty is released into the world (shalom).

Authority through Identity

Authority flows from this sense of restored identity (because this enables the humility to be under authority). Power flows from information (or what is mistakenly called knowledge). Both provide a means of interacting with the world, but only the first has potential to do so in a way that brings life.

But because we have mistaken information and definition for knowledge (instead of knowing through intimate acquaintance), the human efforts to express power in this world have led far too often to devastating outcomes. The problem is not in the attempt to define our experience but in our attempt to let our experience become the standard of definition. When we have no idea who we are, it is impossible to tell the rest of creation what it should look like.

That is why the restoration of the individual to life must precede the ability of that individual to bring life to the surrounding world. Only those who have found a sense of internal wholeness or integrity can be safely entrusted with the stewardship and authority over that which is external to themselves.

Beyond Explanation

Those seeking to educate individuals who would form culture instead of destroying it, who will build communities instead of fostering prejudice, who innovate with artistry rather than mere functionality…would do well to consider shifting the focus of education from the study of explanations to the study of individuals (that which cannot be divided). One cannot see the unity of the world without first seeing the unity within. One cannot reflect beauty without first having the capacity to encounter it. One cannot walk in authority without first abandoning the illusions of power.

Until the individual has been persuaded of the goodness of the creator – and subsequently the creation (including all of its brokenness), this illusion will be difficult to address. The fundamental choice of humanity is, therefore, one of faith: either in the ability of self to define good and evil on behalf of a broken world or in the ability of love to restore all things through a cultivation of union with the source of life (Colossians 1:19-20).  

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