Monday, July 16, 2007

A Book of Unspeakable Horror and Staggering Beauty

Our culture is fascinated with the two concepts mentioned above. Horror movies, Stephen King books, and Halloween events captivate countless Americans. Physical beauty, artwork, and love for the outdoors draw our eyes from the mundane. We are a people who are equally transfixed by horror and beauty.

These concepts seem so detached from the Bible. We are not used to hearing either of these words associated with scripture. We come to the Bible aware of its neat, clean theology, its moral framework, and its relevance to our spiritual lives, but we are unaware of its awesome, unearthly character. Some weeks ago I did a post on preaching and how it is not a nice, orderly exercise but a lightning show. So it is with the Word on which preaching is based. The Word is not tame or quiet. It is a book of majesty, of miracles, of strange and mystical events. It contains such beauty, beauty that causes you to lose your breath, and it contains such horror, horror that leaves you flatfooted in terror. The Word is not static. It is a living, breathing, radioactive text.

I would suggest that this basic scheme, the horror/beauty scheme, is an effective one in ministering to our culture. We may approach our peers from this literary perspective and communicate to them of the horror of sin and hell and the beauty of God and heaven. We may thus connect to their aesthetic sensibilities without diminishing in any way the propositional content of the gospel. Those who agitate for the Christian church to leave its propositional, "Platonic" categories of truth are terribly wrong, but they do have a point when they encourage us to use all the "thought-tools" of this world to reach the lost. To put this more simply, we can communicate truth through imagination. In my humble opinion, we need to teach people that becoming a Christian does not mean losing one's imagination. Rather, becoming a Christian means that we connect our imagination to the real world and learn that the Bible's story is impossibly more scary and wondrous than any fairy tale or mythological narrative. We Christians have not accepted truth and left our imaginations behind; instead, we have plugged our imagination into truth, and discovered a story--a true story!--that is almost too fascinating to be true. The fact that it is indeed true reveals the magic of Christianity.

In the next few days, I want to explore this dual-sided scheme and attempt to illuminate how it can potentially influence the way in which we understand the faith and share the gospel. I am not presenting this idea as the means by which the church and its evangelism will be revolutionized or some such silly thing. I am not advocating that we depart from propositional truth. I am merely suggesting that the Bible has much more in common with our world than we might think, particularly as it presents a world vision that is as horrifying as it is breathtakingly beautiful. When we understand this, we position ourselves to speak to the lost around us, who think they see and know beauty and horror, but who have so much more to learn than Stephen King or Pablo Picasso can teach them.


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