Art can be weird. But weird always has rules. Fact can be cold, but it unlocks our wonder.
Some things are subjective: they’re really in the eye of the beholder. Some people wear bright pink hats, but I don’t. Fashion can be weird and people like me don’t often get it. To be honest, I don’t think most people do, regardless of what they choose to wear. But when you hear fashion designers talk about style they stand out from the average person because when they describe what they like and dislike they are able to describe why, and they do it in objective terms. Where most people would feel their way through options on a clothing wrack, style professionals understand why certain cuts, colors, patterns, and shapes (or “silhouettes” to use their term) work or don’t work. Clothing is for them an art, but for the person who really understands an art it begins to border on science. Any art at the highest level of expertise begins to arc away from the realm of the subjective into the land of fact.
The reverse is true as well. Areas that deal in hard facts will stay in that realm at lower levels. No high school or college physics students are encouraged to discover, only to learn (even if a well-meaning educational culture uses the terms interchangeably). But no professional scientist ever became famous for getting all their facts down correctly and acing their exams. Memorizing information doesn’t excite anyone. Those who are highly skilled in their fact-based craft are able to cross over into the subjective. They discover, conjecture, invent, guess, wonder. The invent new theories to describe things and speculate about what may likely be, even if it is just beyond reach. Science done exceptionally well borders on art.
We are often surprised by our own fascination with facts. We say things like, “You can’t make this stuff up!” and “Truth is stranger than fiction.” But the reality is that you can make this stuff up and fiction will always be stranger than reality. But it’s not really the strangeness that so intrigues us as it is the truth of an event. Why do we lap up “true crime” stories and listen with greater intent to a speaker talking about their own life rather than someone telling a story they made up? It is not because truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction is almost by definition stranger and there will always be a market for fantasy stories. But fact is almost by definition more fascinating. We may be entertained and even transported by pure fiction but fascination requires facts.
I am never satisfied by unfinished stories. I want to know if those two characters got married, if that person survived the rest of his journey. When I’m forced to speculate at fiction I never find it really fulfilling. But to speculate at facts is much more intriguing: What happened to the settlers of Roanoke Colony? Is Bigfoot real? How did the Easter Island Heads get there? We enjoy wondering about the truth.
We need both fact and fiction. Fact would be no fun without a little touch of wonder. Pure imagination wouldn’t come alive without some grounding in fact. I can’t help but to think that when God designed into us a hunger for truth and a sense of wonder He wove them from the same cloth, making imagination a door to truth; fact a window to wonder.
Truth is always exclusive. While it’s a big statement it’s been discussed already in a recent post here: https://thinkingbetweenthelines.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/exclusive-should-christians-claim-to-have-the-only-way/.
For now suffice it to say that all religions are making exclusive truth claims (saying that what they say is the only true option. Now, some are more willing to try to take in other beliefs, something like trying to bring a lion into your house because you thought it needed a home. But wild lions make poor pets and religious beliefs don’t live well within other faiths. For example, Hindus have historically tried to see Jesus Christ as an incarnation of Krishna. The omnivorous Unitarian Universalists would bring just about any truth claim into their circle. So when the lion comes to live in your house you must control it; when you take in another truth claim you must castrate it to make it safely fit.
We cannot have non-exclusive truth. Somebody is always wrong. And there is comfort in that: nobody wants to live in a land without borders. But if we cannot have non-exclusive truth would we prefer non-exclusive love? Perhaps.
Think of this: there are different types of love (the Greek language of the New Testament categorizes several – brotherly, romantic, unconditional, and familial). Of these only one is exclusive: romantic love. By its very nature it falls apart if it gets spread around. All the others can go from myself to any number of people and only grow by being given away to all and sundry. But if I tell someone I love romantically that I feel free to love any number of other people exactly the same do I truly love that person at all? How would you feel if the tables were turned on you?
Sometimes we are confused that Jesus expresses unconditional but not un-exclusive love. He loves just because that is His nature (I John 4:8). But love and truth are always wed and God can’t love everything. Would we want Him to? Would we want evil and good to be equal in His eyes? Would we want promises that we are told we can trust but that are not exclusive and can change at any time?
No, love chooses. It is the nature of love. Truth chooses. God chooses. We choose even if we choose to not choose. The beauty is that God chooses us (John 15:6). Truth and love require choice but they also require commitment and we don’t have a God who commits to move in with us but to marry us (in fact this analogy is used across the whole of Scripture). Because of this Love we need not merely shack up with the Truth.
There is a great outcry against the claims of Christianity to be the one right way and that Jesus Christ is the one true God. How could one religion have the arrogance to say that it is the only right way and that it has a monopoly on truth?
Something that must be understood is that truth must be exclusive. If it doesn’t claim to exclude falsehoods it cannot claim to be true. So all statements of truth are exclusive statements. Because of this each religion is making a claim to exclusive truth. Some are more willing to try to include (or really to co-opt) others but even they do so within the parameters of what they say is true. But no belief system can be a belief if it’s designed to not be believed. That would be a bit silly.
I think one would also find it rather uncomfortable. Nobody wants to live in a land without borders. You see, if Jesus might be admired but is not making claims at the expense of other claims then we cannot even bother to trust him. If we say that there must be another “way” we automatically beg the question: another way to what, exactly? At that point we cannot even say what the goal is anymore. That is because goals that are not exclusive will never be reached. And what about Christ’s claim of love? Would we prefer a non-exclusive love? Would we like it better if Jesus loved not only goodness but also evil? Or that he makes promises we can trust but they are not exclusive? You cannot be satisfied by a belief with which you are merely shacking up.
But the offer of Christ is not exclusive. The gospel is not only for those of the right ethnicity or the right gender. It is not for the healthy and strong or the intelligent or wealthy. You do not have to be good enough for Christ, if anything you might have to be bad enough.
In our world we have “exclusive” clubs making the word synonymous with luxury and elitism. Places are said to be better because of the people they keep out: those who not good enough. The kingdom of heaven could understandably make the same claim. In fact, no institution of man really has the right to call itself great because it keeps out other men. Only the realm of God in all its holiness can do something like that. But God did not choose that way. He made a place that was magnificent not because of whom it kept out but because of who gets to come in.
Of course not all are accepted and this is one of the aspects of the kingdom which many are offended by. But it does not exclude because of who you are; it excludes those who cling to who they are… shall we say “exclusively”.
The truth of Christ is exclusive; the offer of Christ is not.