Think Again - A Bigger Story
A Bigger Story
The story is told of a man who was fishing. Every time he caught a big fish, he threw it back into the water. Every little fish he caught went into his bag. Another big one, back into the water; a tiny little one, into his bag. Finally, a man who had been watching him and was very perplexed by his unorthodox manner of fishing asked, “Can you please explain to me why you are throwing the big ones away?” The fisherman did not hesitate: “Because I only have an eight-inch frying pan and anything bigger than eight inches does not fit my pan!”
We may chuckle at someone who throws away a fish too big for a pan or someone else who just explains away anything that doesn’t fit his or her own prejudiced opinions. Yet we see this repeatedly: the Naturalist that describes the “origins” of the universe as “unrepeatable” (Stephen Gould) or “almost a miracle” (Francis Crick) or “mathematically impossible” (Fredrick Hoyle) but will simply fight off any possibility of agency or cause or the supernatural. The question that always demands an answer and that each one of us must pause to ask ourselves is whether our paradigm of the world really matches reality. Does it fit? Is there explanatory power for the unshakable questions of life? Is it coherent? Is it rationally livable?
But there is a rub. We must recognize that every worldview can leave us with questions that we cannot exhaustively resolve this side of eternity. Every worldview has gaps. The question is, Does my paradigm fit reality and have enough reason behind it to explain how these gaps might actually be filled and remain consistent?
What do I mean by gaps? Let me borrow an illustration from Francis Schaeffer. Suppose you were to leave a room with two glasses on the table, Glass A and Glass B. Glass A has two ounces of water in it, and Glass B is empty. When you return at the end of the day, Glass B now has water in it and Glass A is empty. You could assume that someone took the water from Glass A and put it into Glass B. That, however, does not fully explain the situation, because you notice that Glass B now has four ounces of water in it, whereas Glass A had only two ounces in it when you left in the morning.
You are confronted with a problem that at best has only a partial explanation. Whether the water from Glass A was poured into Glass B is debatable. But what is beyond debate is that all of the water in Glass B could not have come from Glass A. The additional two ounces had to have come from elsewhere.
The Christian worldview presents a powerful and unique explanation of these other “two ounces.” Naturalism may be able to explain the two ounces in Glass B. It cannot explain the four ounces in it. The theistic framework is not only credible, but also far more adept than atheism or other worldviews in dealing with the real questions of life: questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. Whichever starting point we take—either the philosophical followed by the biblical or the biblical by itself, which for many is sufficient—the cogency and convincing power of the answers emerge very persuasively. The original “two ounces,” as well as the additional “two ounces,” are best explained in a Christian theistic framework. The arguments range from the simple to the intricate, depending on the question and its context.
I have said often that God has put enough into the world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason or observation alone.
You will recall, for example, that the resurrection of Jesus caught even the disciples by surprise. They did not believe at first that Jesus had risen from the dead. Their understanding of reality was foundationally challenged. All of life and destiny would now have to be reinterpreted. They thought that perhaps Jesus’s resurrection was some fanciful story conjured up by hallucinating people. Their entire hope in him was politically based — that Jesus would somehow overthrow Rome. But a political victory would have only been a superficial solution, for Jesus came to open the eyes of the blind and to transform hearts and minds. I wonder whether multiple evidences that Jesus had risen from the dead would make any difference to modern-day atheists or would they be tossed away because of an “eight inch” measuring container?
You see, the problem with evidence is that it is very much limited to the moment and creates the demand for repeated intervention of some sort. I have seen this in my own life over and over. Today it may be a failing business that is in need of God’s intervention. Tomorrow I may want to be healed from cancer. The day after that, I may even want a loved one to be brought back from the dead. There is an insatiable hunger for the constancy of the miracle.
The gospel is true and beautiful and has enough of the miracle to ground it in sufficient reason. But it is also sometimes a hard road because of the intertwining of reason and faith.
When we come to those places in the road when we long for another “proof,” I pray that we might know that rising beyond reason (to be sure, not violating it) is the constancy of trust in God, and we might sense his presence, for that is really the greater miracle within us. Only through exercising that trust can the moment be accepted and understood as a small portion of a bigger story. For some of us, that individual story may entail a journey that may be long and arduous, but it will be accomplished one moment at a time, one day at a time, each moment and day undergirded by the strength of the indwelling presence of God. Even Peter realized that the delight of the Transfiguration had to be transcended by “the sure word of God.” He believed that word even on the road to martyrdom. This is the hope of gospel: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).