I’m a Miner for Art of Gold

By

My friend John accompanied me on my trip to the Kansas City area recently to see a Pierce Pettis concert. It was the first time I had seen a Pierce Pettis show, and it was superb. A few years ago, I bought tickets to the Pettis show that would have been my first, but my wife and I showed up the night after the show–having crossed our wires–another embarrassing moment to add to my list. That red-face moment noted, the concert is a sidebar to the topic of this article. It was just the event that spurred an interesting conversation about art.

The show was in Lawrence, Kansas, just west of Kansas City, at a combination book store/art gallery. I love these places. The book store is downstairs and the art gallery is upstairs, which is also where the concert was held. We had dinner at a pub across the street and showed up two hours before the show, with plenty of time to browse the books.

Here’s my disclaimer: With the exception of art and music appreciation in college, I have no formal artistic training. I hesitate to admit that in this public forum because I don’t want to get booted out of The Rabbit Room. It’s nice and warm in here. But it’s true.

Of course, I know what I like and usually—though not always—have a pretty good idea of why I like it, but I certainly can’t articulate it with the pizzazz of a Francis Schaeffer or Madeleine L’Engle.

Pettis played one of the longest folk shows I’ve ever seen, clocking in at nearly 90 minutes in the set prior to intermission. Most shows would be over by then, but not a Pierce Pettis show. John and I used the intermission to check out some of the visual art in the gallery. The theme of the art showing had something to do with the achromatic color of maximum lightness, white.

I found some pieces that I liked, but much of the art wasn’t particularly inspiring. In all fairness, I suspect that it was a display in which students and the local Lawrence, Kansas population had the opportunity to show their work. That’s not to say that the art in Lawrence is awful. It’s only to note that when a gallery proprietor can choose the best from a broader region, it’s likely to offer a better overall aesthetic.

Nevertheless, simply looking germinated the seeds of conversation about art and beauty which continued for the 45 mile drive between Lawrence and our hotel in Kansas City, on the return trip.

My buddy was even less impressed by the art than I. As John questioned the value of art, he asked some penetrating questions. He could have been a blunt jerk. “Why is that old duct work with the peeling white paint considered art?” But he wasn’t. He’s not the kind of guy that was asking tough questions just to get my goat; he had a genuine intellectual curiosity of how and why certain pieces might be considered good art.

Though our conversation was stream of consciousness style and covered a lot of territory, two questions were embedded in my friend’s words:

1) What is the difference between great art and bad art?

2) Why is it worth spending time attempting to find meaning in art that may not be immediately apparent?

I didn’t spend significant time on the first question, because technically, it’s what I know least. But I do have a lot of experience in seeking out art, so I could speak in detail about my own motivation for persistently panning for great art in the nooks and crannies of the world: movie theaters, used CD bins, dusty old bookstores, college town art galleries, museums, and the great mountain ranges and prairies of the world.

To be overly simplistic, I seek great art because it makes me feel something. Pierce Pettis has a song called Hole in My Heart which features this line:

Well I’ve been kicking at the stones,
Just to feel the shock to my bones.

Feeling something is preferable to feeling nothing, even when the feeling may not be what some might call a positive emotion. It reminds me that I’m still running the race. I’m still a participant in this thing called life. Indeed, if a given work of art doesn’t include some conflict or tension, it’s like a positive and encouraging radio format, or a badly penned movie script.

Still, that doesn’t completely explain why I seek deeper meaning from art in which meaning may not be readily apparent. “Why waste time on art that initially appears to be ambiguous and unclear,” John seemed to be saying.

First, I suppose it’s the way God made me. My sister had three not always kind brothers and when we used to tease her about how and why she did something in a particular way, she used to say, “That’s the way God made me, boyses.” What a great answer. So if there’s something to be experienced or learned, I’m on it. I don’t want to settle for a cliché’ or any easy answer. It’s the way God made me.

Secondly, like a collector seeking a treasured item, there’s an unbridled joy I find in corralling a nugget of beauty or truth which resonates like a massive boulder dropped into a pond from 100 yards up. For me—and I don’t mean to suggest this is true for everyone—there seems to be some correlation between the intensity with which the art resonates and the level of difficulty in finding it.

Too, though the Bible tells me I am a new man in Christ, and I certainly believe that (lest Ron Block remind me), C.S. Lewis also writes that I am not home yet. This new man navigates the limbo between this world and the next in an earthen vessel. I retain my humanity in this fallen world and great art reminds me that the longing I feel for more is natural—literally.

Great artists are great communicators. And when a collector of beauty and truth learns of those artists who communicate most effectively, a trust begins to develop between art appreciator and artist. In hunting for morel mushrooms every year, I remember those patches of prairie, tree stumps, and fallen logs which dependably yield a high volume of mushrooms. Similarly, when I find an artist that consistently offers deeper meaning in his work—meaning that is thoughtfully considered and executed—I trust that my time invested will be well spent as I mine for truth and beauty in his new work.

Have you ever participated in such artful discussions? As I chatted with John, it occurred to me that most of the artists, writers, and readers in The Rabbit Room have probably had similar conversations. I’m especially interested in your thoughts and ideas relative to the second question:

“Why is it worth spending time attempting to find meaning in art that may not be immediately apparent?”

For you, maybe it’s not. It’s one topic of which even art appreciators have disagreement. So, let’s discuss. What are your thoughts?


20 Comments

  1. Eugenia

    Curt! Just yesterday I wrote a post on why art means a lot to me – except that you said it so much better than I did. Here’s part of it –

    Magic. Music is magic because I find tunes that rightly describe my sadness happiness hunger pain, with words that I can sing over and over again and mean it. And maybe that’s why I find myself leaning towards music with more spiritual under(and over)tones instead of boymeetsgirldoesnotgetgirlTaylorSwift. Music gives a beat that keeps your heart thumping while you run further than you think you can. There’s a soft eeriness, in a still room, that makes me shiver at times when the electric guitar quietly introduces the first chord to the opening song on Sundays (sometimes Saturdays). A comfort in knowing the songwriter once felt the same way too – perhaps, perhaps so strongly to put this song on the album and instead of 30 others. Music makes you grin so hard.

    And while music gifts you emotions, I believe words describe experiences, and theatre/drama/film lets you see a first glimpse of it. They make you empathise with characters you would hate. As Mr C described Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, isn’t it strange how fiction can bring you truth? Yes it is.

    http://dawntreader.tumblr.com/post/404384826/art

    Still trying to put my finger on exactly what and why I love art, even though I’ve never studied it. Mmh.

  2. Matt

    This post really brings up a lot of the issues and questions I get as an artist.

    I work in a medium called ‘installation sculpture,’ which is 3 dimensional and so placed in the realm of sculpture, but after that everything goes.
    When you walk into a contemporary art museum or gallery and see a bunch of junk strewn around the room and random objects glued together it’s probably installation art. Here’s the wikipedia link describing it, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Installation_art. It tends to be pretty abstract stuff and is generally viewed by the non-artsy public as a joke that the artist is trying to pull on everyone. At least that has been my experience in talking with my friends.

    Art uses many of the same devices and symbols as literature and film, so I think in many ways it’s like asking “why is it worth is to try to understand a book whose meaning is not immediately apparent?”
    In discovering how objects can be used as symbols in different ways you learn to think differently. Studying a work of art can be like solving a puzzle. It pushes your brain to see things in a new way. So at least one reason it’s worth trying to discover the meaning in art is to learn to think in a new way.

    I’ve been in many art museums with friends who will point at something and ask “why is that art?”

    I would say the value in attempting to understand and value art that may be difficult to understand is much like listening to music.
    Think about instrumental music, it is truly the most abstract form of art there is, a B flat has no meaning in an of itself, a melody does not convey a specific thought, and a symphony doesn’t have a message in it.
    Start by responding to a piece of visual art the same way you would a piece of instrumental music. Take it in, just listen. The move on to what thoughts and emotions does it evoke. Assume that the artist had purpose or reason to do what he did the way that he did it. Ask yourself why.

    I love talking about my work, and discussing why I did what I did and what it means, but only after someone has looked at the piece, read the title and spent a little time contemplating it. I understand that visual art is a language that most people have little fluency in and so I don’t want to be elitist and arrogant.

    It is also the artists job to seduce the viewer draw them in with something visually enticing and only then can you start to try to convey a message. There is something about great art that catches your eye whether or not you understand it. You can feel that there is meaning there even if you don’t know what it is.

    The trick, however, is to convince people of that first point, that it is worth while to try to understand.

  3. Ben Bryan

    I’m not sure we can really answer question 2 without at least some vague idea about how to answer question 1. How can decide whether it’s worth looking or how to look, if we don’t know what we’re looking for?

    Despite your misgivings about your ability to address question 1, you seem to hint at a key part of the answer: it communicates. This, you may say, is your answer to question 2, not question 1. But it is an answer, and a right one, to question 1 also. Good art communicates something of the artist. Art is a mirror of its creator’s soul. We see in art something of the experience of a human being. Sometimes that’s because we see something directly of him (think about a song in which we get to sit in on a man’s deepest thoughts and feelings), sometimes that’s because he shows us the world through his eyes (think of a painting of landscape). Either way, good art gives a glimpse of a human being who is struggling to understand himself and the world, just as we are. If we can’t see that human being (think of flaky Christian music full of religious speak and truisms that makes under wonder if its writers really believe anything at all) then we are inclined to pronounce it worthless and stop bothering with it.

    But all this discussion of question 1 is only a sketch that perhaps raises more questions than it answers. The point is this: the fact that we are asking question 2 gives evidence that we believe in some answer to question 1. If it is worthwhile at all to look at art, then we believe there is something there to be found. People will suggest that art is a journey. I agree, but suspect that most people misunderstand the concept of the journey. Journeys are long and hard and they have destinations that are worth reaching. A journey without a destination is not a journey. It is wandering. If we don’t believe there is such a thing as good art at the end of the journey, then why even leave home?

  4. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    ““Why is it worth spending time attempting to find meaning in art that may not be immediately apparent?””

    My short version answer: Because it teaches me to see from a perspective that I ordinarily do not.

  5. Aaron Roughton

    Sometimes, but certainly not always, there is a barrier in me that needs to be torn down before I can appreciate the true value of something. In these cases the “thing” (art, passage of scripture, relationship) rarely changes on my behalf. I am usually the thing that breaks, and I am usually better for it. It is the process of digging and spending time knowing something that leads to this result. Thanks for this post Curt.

  6. Micah

    Matt, thanks for the introduction into installation art. It seems facinating.
    However, I have to disagree with your statements about instrumental music. I am a classical pianist myself, and have heard this claim that instrumental music is the most abstract art before. Sure, Bb means nothing in and of itself, but that concept cannot be applied to a whole musical work. Once that Bb is given context, it is given meaning. If the flute is playing a Bb, no big deal, but if the rest of the orchestra is playing an A minor chord, the Bb suddenly becomes a point of tension, and its sonorities will immediately trigger connotations in the listener’s mind. And these connotations will be quite different than those if the orchestra were to be playing an Ab Major chord underneath. My apologies for bringing music theory to the discussion, but I think its important.

    Also, on the grander scale, a symphony is called a symphony because it is music organized in a certain form. Symponhies are not Tone Poems, or other orchestral works, they are symphonies because they fit into the symphonic form. And often the movements within a symphony have a form (could be a Scherzo, Rondo, Sonata Allegro, or other form). This is not abstract art. This is the organization of notes within certain contexts, according to certain understood forms. That the forms are understood is important. I realize that many modern artists have form in their work, but the public is not often aware of it.

    And this is not to say that abstract art is wrong. Or that all artists should always work within known forms. I just want to clarify that most music and especially a symphonic work isn’t the best picture of abstract art. You are welcome to disagree, however, and I would love to hear your comments.

  7. Micah

    As far as the questions Russ posed are concerned I am inclined to agree with Ben Bryan. Communication is important. But when it comes to Great art, its not just about communicating, its about communicating creativly. Creativity is key. And this is an idea that Rabbit roomers are familiar with.

    Dorothy Sayers points out that when one reads that that God says of man, “Let us make him in our own image,” very little is known about God. The reader only knows that there is something divine in mankind. It is intriguing to note that up to those words in Genesis, the only thing said about God is that he creates.

    To quote The Room’s own S.D. Smith from his essay, “Make Something: Creation, Sub-Creation, and Us:’ “all work of our own hands is simply a derivative of God’s creation.”

    That is my answer to question one. Which is intertwined with question two, because if the artist is truly creative, the listener will be forced to appreciate that creativity in finding the meaning. And if creativity is truly a way we bear God’s own image, than appreciating it is always worth our time.

  8. Peter B

    Micah: thank you for articulating that better than I might.

    Curt, Aaron, Pete, et al: thank you for a thought-provoking discussion that just may force me to grow a little.

  9. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    Eugenia – I enjoyed reading your blog post. Thank you.

    Matt
    – Thank you for the primer on installation sculpture, which is fascinating. Another way of expressing the idea of “learning to think in a new way” is the word growth. Seeking to understand, we are bound to experience more, see more, and feel more. Your attitude about your own art is generous and admirable and must be difficult to maintain in an artistic field in which so many view as esoteric.

    Ben Bryan – It’s been a long time, Ben. Good to hear from you. I enjoyed reading your perspective and like the idea of pursuing art as a journey. It reminded me that one of the characteristics of great art may be that it lasts. Trinkets and junk—bad art–doesn’t last, does it? Some of my favorite songs, films, and to some extent visual art, is art that I continue to walk with. In other words, the journey doesn’t end. Why? Because it seems there are always new vistas to discover; some new perspective, idea, or emotion to explore.

    PeteMy short version answer: Because it teaches me to see from a perspective that I ordinarily do not.

    I appreciate that perspective, which also seems to reinforce Matt’s idea of growth, seeing something that you didn’t see before. It takes a willingness to be open-minded, which is something that is sometimes difficult. It’s also broader and potentially more educational than the self-validation that my post seems to lean towards.

    Aaron – A post without a punch line? What’s up with that, Sir Aaron? I’m kidding you, of course. Your post reminded me of childhood exhortations from my parents: “Eat your vegetables.” “Take your vitamins.” “Get plenty of rest.” Those things are healthy, but when viewed through a child’s eyes, they are burdomsome and annoying. As an adult that has learned the value of those things, most of us have learned to embrace them not only as beneficial, but delicioius and wonderful in their own right.

    When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. I Corinthians 13:11.

    Micah – Your comments about classical music and artists as sub-creators is interesting and useful. Thanks. Have you read Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle or books on art written by Francis Schaeffer? If not, you and other Rabbit Room readers may enjoy those books, which explore these ideas in far greater depth than we have room for here.

    PaulH – Inspiring one to listen to more Pierce Pettis alone was reason enough to write this piece. I own every Pierce Pettis record out there, except for his first, which is out of print and rare.

    Peter B – It’s good to hear from you. Growth seems to be one theme that most of our comments share. Thanks for chiming in, good Sir.

  10. The Aesthetic Elevator

    Don’t have time to read the other comments this morning (unfortunately) but thought I’d say I appreciate your comments, even as one of the artists with a piece in the show you’re critiquing. The questions you raise are valid and I very much appreciate the intellectual consideration you’re giving the White Show, especially as a non artist type.

    Not all art, whether current critics or eventual historians consider it “great”, will appeal or communicate to everyone. God made you — and everyone else — as you point out a certain way and that’s just fine, but therein everyone will receive communication differently than the next person.

    This isn’t a cop-out or justification for every work of art under the sun, just something I’ve come to realize in the past few years that relates to your post.

    Out of curiosity, do you remember which of the works in the show did capture and hold your attention, and why?

  11. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    I should have know that with the broad readership of The Rabbit Room, there might be a White Show participant reading my article. I can’t thank you enough for weighing in The Aesthetic Elevator. I especially want to thank you for accepting my words in the way they were intended—as a commentary on art, in general—not as a rant against The White Show, and for validating my questions.

    Our visit to Lawrence has been several months ago now, so I don’t have a vivid recollection of any one piece, though I do recall I enjoyed a couple of pieces that were really small. There was a large piece on the east wall that I thought was exceptional and must have taken months to complete. I did appreciate the artist’s mini-commentary on their own work, which provided more of a starting point for discussion than we otherwise would have had without it.

  12. The Aesthetic Elevator

    My wife’s the reader. I don’t have time for blogs anymore; trying to work 50 hour weeks now that I have the work (ugh).

    I only got to the show once so can’t remember what was on the east wall myself. A couple of my favorites are in this post though: http://theaestheticelevator.com/2010/01/05/white-show-on-the-road/. These are both very well crafted (saying this with some authority since I’m a ceramic artist and my wife is a fiber artist), although, admittedly, craft isn’t the only part of what makes a successful work of art.

    Can I adjust my question, since you don’t remember the works exactly: What is it about a work of art that captures and holds your attention, and why?

  13. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Lewis, in An Experiment in Criticism, says there are two ways of viewing art: Using, and receiving.

    Regarding using: “While you retain this attitude you treat the picture – or rather a hasty and unconscious selection of elements in the picture – as a self-starter for certain imaginative and emotional activities of your own. In other words, you ‘do things with it.’ You don’t lay yourself open to what it, by being in its totality precisely the thing it is, can do to you.”

    Then he goes on to say that this treatment is exactly right for the ikon and the toy. That is what they are meant for.

    Further, regarding real appreciation:
    “We must not let loose our subjectivity upon the pictures and make them its vehicles. We must begin by laying aside as completely as we can all our own preconceptions, interests, and associations. We must make room for Botticelli’s Mars and Venus, or Cimabue’s Crucifixion, by emptying out our own. After the negative effort, the positive. We must use our eyes. We must look, and go on looking till we have certainly seen exactly what is there. We sit down before the picture in order to have something done to us, not that we may do things with it. The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. (There is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out.)”

    “The distinction can hardly be better expressed than by saying that the many use art and the few receive it. The many behave in this like a man who should talk when he should listen or gives when he should take. I do not mean by this that the right spectator is passive. His also is an imaginative activity; but an obedient one. He seems passive at first because he is making sure of his orders. If, when they have been fully grasped, he decides that they are not worth obeying – in other words, that this is a bad picture – he turns away altogether.”

    Here’s a good bit on the difference between good and bad pictures:
    “A bad picture cannot be enjoyed with that full and disciplined ‘reception’ which the few give to a good one. This was borne in upon me lately when I was waiting at a bus stop…and found myself, for a minute or so, really looking at a poster – a picture of a man and a girl drinking beer in a public house. It would not endure the treatment. Whatever merits it had seemed to have at the first glance diminished with every second of attention. The smiles became waxwork grins. The colour was, or seemed to me, tolerably realistic, but it was in no way delightful. There was nothing in the composition to satisfy the eye. The whole poster, besides being ‘of’ something, was not also a pleasing object. And this, I think, is what must happen to any bad picture if it is really examined.”

    “If so, it is inaccurate to say that the majority ‘enjoy bad pictures’. They enjoy the ideas suggested to them by bad pictures. They do not really see the pictures as they are. If they did, they could not live with them. There is a sense in which bad work never is nor can be enjoyed by anyone. The people do not like the bad picture because the faces in them are like those of puppets and there is no real mobility in the lines that are meant to be moving and no energy or grace in the whole design. These faults are simply invisible to them; as the actual face of the Teddy-bear is invisible to an imaginative and warm-hearted child when it is absorbed in its play. It no longer notices that the eyes are beads.”

    “If bad taste in art means a taste for badness as such, I have still to be convinced that any such a thing exists.”

  14. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    The Aesthetic Elevator – Congratulations on the position. I hope it’s in an artistic field, which I suspect is what you may have been aiming for.

    To answer your question—in a word—the thing that most captivates me is beauty. As I think somebody else mentioned in this thread, though there may be a subjective element to beauty, most of us have a beauty detector somewhere inside with which we may use to appreciate that which is beautiful. And given the open-mindedness that Ron Block notes in his post, if it’s there to be found, most of us will find it.

    While it may not go beyond that, usually it does. For example, I can’t look at a sunset without pondering some nuance of God. Not that my puny mind can know any aspect of God, but the beauty is the hook that captures my attention, and then my mind is off to the races of thought.

    Ron – As I read your C.S. Lewis quotes (for the fourth time!), I realized how closely Lewis’s description of art appreciation very directly parallels preparing a heart for sanctification (and maybe that was his point?). It occurs to me that as I empty myself to best receive art, so I empty myself to best receive truth/God. Like the majority I suppose, in both art and sanctification, I carry too many pieces of myself to receive maximum benefit from that that God would have for me. That, of course, changes as I rest in faith, that I am in Christ and Christ is in me.

  15. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Curt,

    That’s exactly what I had to do in the mid-90s, and continually have to do; otherwise my experience of Christ becomes frozen in time. In the mid-90s all my theological structures of “positional righteousness” and rationalization of Scripture were shaken down; I saw that the Christian life as I had known it did not work in the sense of experiencing the abundant life of which Jesus spoke.

    So I had to come to the Word as a child, rather than immediately fitting every passage into that theological superstructure that I’d learned. When I did that I began to see that truth is paradoxical, and that only by holding to both sides of a paradox in their full strength could truth be known and experienced. I had been used to “positional truth” (meaning “it is true but you’re not going to experience it here and now”), which left me with my sins forgiven but no way to “live the life.”

    So much of our subjective interpretations of things, whether in the Bible or in art, comes from self-protection (another wonderful little trick of the false self).

    Lewis has been a great help to me. I return again and again to his books, and always find things I missed.

  16. Peter B

    Ron,

    What do you mean when you say that truth is paradoxical? How can it contradict itself if it’s truly truth?

  17. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Peter of B,

    Chesterton gives the illustration of virtue as a paradox. Courage in a dangerous situation, for example, is to combine an extreme desire to live with an extreme carelessness about one’s life. If in a battle we have merely an extreme desire to live, we become a coward. If we only hold to extreme carelessness about our life, we become a suicide. He must hold to both sides of the paradox in their full strength.

    Biblical truth is like that. The Bible is largely about a reality beyond our current dimension. Here, we look like separate people walking around at church, and we are; in the eternal world, we are all connected as one Body. This is not just semantics. It is fact. That’s paradox (if we would really get that, it would affect how we live, because what we do personally, when no one is noticing, affects the entire Body).

    In eternity God chooses us, and foreordains His works for us to do. Here, it looks like we choose to do this or that. And it’s true; we do. The Bible proclaims both sides of that paradox.

    We are most truly living when we are laying down our life. What looks like death to us, death to our hopes and dreams, is really life for the whole Body.

    Suffering looks bad here. But God calls it good, ultimately, not in and of itself but because of the use He makes of it.

    Here’s another one that’s pretty weird. Paul says when he sins it is no longer himself that sins, but sin which is dwelling in him. That means the real Paul does not sin. That’s paradox.

    Paradoxical truth is where people often rush in with the word “Positional” to explain why their experience does not match up with the Word of God. “Hey, the Bible talks about this abundant life, rivers of living water flowing through you. It says that if we abide in the Vine we’ll bear much fruit. If we abide in Christ, we won’t sin.” “Oh, well, you’re just being idealistic. That stuff is all Positional Truth. It doesn’t really happen, except in a very slow, dragged out way. Someday it will all come true, though.” “When?” “When you’re dead.”

    The cool thing is that we’re already as dead as a road kill. And resurrected as new creations to boot, to walk in newness of life.

    I digress. In any case, truth is often found in seemingly opposite assertions. I say “seemingly” because Biblical truth makes complete and total sense to God. It doesn’t always make sense to us, anymore than everything I tell my kids to do has to make sense to them.

    We’re saved only by grace, through faith, and even that faith is not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. Yet – faith without action is dead. Paul says we’re saved by grace through faith. James says we’re saved by works. “Which one is it? Faith, or works?” “Yes. But not both faith and works. Works that pour out of you because you’re trusting God and acting on that trust.”

    “No man can snatch them out of My hand.” Yet, “He that endures to the end shall be saved…and if any man shrinks back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.”

    I used to run to one side of these paradoxes. But I’ve found it causes the canoe to tip over. Best to hold each side in its full strength.

    Truth just appears paradoxical from our standpoint. From God’s perspective it is completely logical – with the logic of Eternity. Our logic here is based in four or whatever dimensions. We cannot see here how three Persons combine to make one Being. All we can do is make cute little analogies to attempt to explain something that is a completely opaque mystery to us.

    We cannot see how millions of people are one Bride. We cannot see how God can hear everyone’s prayers “at the same moment” because we are time-bound; we cannot understand with our finite minds even the concept of “Forever.” Yet to everyone who is experiencing Eternity, the idea of “Forever” is as understandable as 2 + 2 = 4.

    We often want to see the Bible as an instruction manual that is very clear cut, and in part it is. But other parts of it are full of mystery and seeming paradox. God chose to make things this way because that gives opportunity for trust. If we knew everything, and could understand everything fully, we wouldn’t need to make leaps of faith. “Hope that is seen is not hope.”

    This isn’t exactly a dissertation (I have no idea how to write one of those, anyway). It’s late, so it’s more a stream of thought.

  18. Peter B

    Ah, so to paraphrase, “It sometimes seems like paradox but it really isn’t” 🙂

    Got it.

  19. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Peter: yes, and no. Yes it seems like a paradox because we’re on this side of eternity; there are Biblical truths that ARE paradoxical, this side of eternity.

    The Trinity is impossible to understand; how three persons can be one being, co-equal, is beyond us; we can only accept that paradox. How the Son is the Son and the Father is the Father, if they have always existed, is beyond our comprehension, and even “always existed” is beyond our comprehension with the finite mind.

    So – it seems paradox, because it really isn’t from God’s viewpoint (the only Real and true viewpoint), and it is paradox to our limited, time- and space-bound human mentality.

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