"Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed."
From "Mythopoeia" by JRR Tolkien
We've been working through the Ravi Zacharias DVD series called "Foundations of Apologetics" on Wednesday nights at Freedom House. Last night, PhD, theologian, and chair of Theology, Religion and Culture at King's College London Alister McGrath... talked about God.
He painted an eloquent verbal picture of the simple faith that I base my life on. At the end I looked over at my friend with a satisfied look on my face and said, "Wow... what a beautiful thing Christianity is".
His primary message (as I interpreted it) was that the best way to "prove" God is not to try to prove Him at all. It's to point to Him. He talked about how people make the mistake of desperately hanging on to thing of beauty that we see, find, discover or even stumble upon on earth. We hold it... and treasure it ... and often get caught in thinking that it is "the end". Beauty is not the end. It's a signpost that points beyond to God.
He talked about how our asperations (even Godly ones) will fall short as we try to create beautiful worlds. And they'll fall short... for God's purposes. When they fall short, it causes us to look past what we've found to what is beyond us. It's the constant pull towards the beyond. The spirit is never completely satisfied until it reaches it's day when it gets to be with God.
We all sense this longing. This idea that McGrath is talking about used to bother me greatly. "If I'm a Christian, I HAVE the answer. I've 'found it'" I'd say working myself into a mini-tizzy.
My former primary argument about why U2 weren't really all that Christians whatsoever was because of the "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" lyrics.
"But if you've found Jesus you HAVE found what you're looking for! Say it LOUD!", I'd say in my zealous 20's way that I've come to regret a little.
Looking now, I think that there is a "pointing to God" factor is Bono's lyric that says he's spoken with the tongue of angels and STILL hasn't found what he's looking for. Me too. I've seen and been a part of some pretty cool stuff, but I'm still looking at the prospects of living in a broken world... with a broken life... being pulled and wooed by the Spirit of God onward over the hills to where there is something better. There has to be. Every night I get to make lovely campfire and feel OK. But I know the journey through the wild country continues in the morning.
McGrath referenced JRR Tolkien's poem "Mythopoeia" in his lecture. It was written in September of 1931 WITH and TO his contempary and friend CS Lewis. As the preface to the poem Tolkien wrote,
"To one [C.S. Lewis] who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though 'breathed through silver'."
The argument between the two was because Tolkien used stories to communicate God. He would soon go on to write what has been come to known as one of the prototypical mythopoeian epics "The Lord of the Rings".
Lewis didn't like it at first because the scenario's weren't real. But as he eventually found out... you can't take the "story" part out of this faith. It's how God the Father through Christ the Son, via the Holy Spirit chooses to point men towards Him creating the longing to find Him.
Here's how Wikipedia talks about how Lewis processed it:
Lewis later began to speak of Christianity as the one "true myth". Lewis wrote, "The story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened. "Subsequently, his Chronicles of Narniais regarded as mythopoeia, with storylines referencing that Christian mythology, namely the narrative of a great king who is sacrificed to save his people and is resurrected. Lewis' mythopoeic intent is often confused with allegory, where the characters and world of Narnia would stand in direct equivalence with concepts and events from Christian theology and history, but Lewis repeatedly emphasized that an allegorical reading misses the point (the mythopoeia) of the Narnia stories.
I started reading my 7 year old son Jared, "The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe" last week. I'm personally anxious to read him more and more each day because I love watching the wheels turning inside his little brain. I love seeing him getting lost in Narnia along with Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund. I love hearing him process the deception of the White Witch. And I'm very much looking forward to Aslan entering the story and having this beautiful and vivid picture of our God as a part of his 7 year old wooing towards eternity.
Humanity and it's imperfection IS a part of the God story. "Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.". In fact the Bible says we're all being changed from "glory to glory". If we could find what we were looking for now, the late night longings of the soul would go away. But maybe they were never meant to go away. Maybe they are actually the thing that draws us deeper. It's not that there is no answer... there most certainly is. And one day it will even be in full. As McGrath said last night:
"We're an empty jar that is conscious of our emptiness and knows it should be full."