They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
Some of you may remember a little booklet/tract, called the Four Spiritual Laws. Inside there was a picture of a train. The engine was FACT. The middle car was Faith, and the caboose was Feeling. I remember being sold on the concept. This, I thought, is the way spiritual life operates; or was supposed to operate.
I busied myself with getting all my facts straight. Read all the Josh McDowell, Hal Lindsay, Henry Morris, and Wilber Smith, books. After a few years I discovered that all the facts that could be proved were not that interesting and ones that were, never really touched my life.
I also learned that all the facts that were offered as facts were not as evidently factual as these erstwhile scholars and theologians would have me believe. (Yikes! I'm sounding like Jean Chretien, "A proof is a proof is a proof…) Too many of the conclusions seemed forced rather than revealed. On the other hand, there was mystery and possibility in the "facts" that invited questions. And it was in these soft malleable "facts", or disclosures, where spiritual life seemed to flourish.
I'm older now, I know a great deal less than I did then. But I know I'm not a train. I know that this train never existed and that every attempt at making it run was wind and smoke. It was not the case that in getting all my facts straight, (not a possibility anyway) that they would flow nicely back and prove, convert or strengthen my faith, and then my feelings would happily follow along.
There will never be an absolute metaphor for the way we come to know, and be, and walk with the Spirit. Perhaps the closest metaphor, while always provisional, is biological. An organism is about interrelationships. Faith and feeling and truth are all inter-related. A grand humming matrix. And all intimately and intricately connected to our social and physical environment, our health, the processes of our personality and temperament, even the vagaries of culture. And you can't make a train out of these. (But you can make quit a wonderful soufflé.)
Too many Christians are down on this age. The terms secular humanism, liberalism, and the big one, relativism, come to mind. But this age is our gift. We have the ability, however flawed, to step to the margins and glimpse a social, cultural, religious or philosophical perspective that we couldn't before.
The gift of postmodernism has weaned us from being strict descendents of the Enlightenment and the Western Christian tradition. While the Enlightenment is still with us, it is dying, and as it does the temptation to slide all the way in the other direction is real.
But the gift of Jesus is freedom. Freedom from the tyranny of absolutism and radical relativism, both of which end in nihilism. It is in relationship with Jesus that I have an opportunity, should I decide to accept it, to recognize my enslavement to my western culture and my religious tradition along with my propensity for violent defense of these and to be receptive to listen to what the Spirit says.