I know what love is.
Well, technically I don’t. I have no idea of what actually happens to my:
- heart rate,
- body temperature,
- brain chemistry,
- or the pupils of my eyes
- when I feel love toward someone.
I don’t know why my stomach goes into a knot, or why an inexplicable joy rises in me when I feel loved by another.
But I know what it means to:
- want nothing but the best for another person,
- search out the eyes of a loved one in times of great celebration or grief,
- be willing to sacrifice anything for the well-being of another,
- feel safe and comforted knowing I am extremely important to someone else.
I may know none of the facts around the phenomenon we call love. But I know love’s truth.
FACTS: THE GOOD AND THE NOT-SO-GOOD
We are so immersed in the scientific method that facts and truth have become synonymous. If something is factual it is true, and if not, it cannot be true. This is helpful in much of our society:
- a court of law,
- an emergency room,
- designing bridges and skyscrapers.
But, when we reduce all truth to facts, we deny ourselves other ways of knowing, and other, equally valuable, forms of truth—as in the case of love.
When it comes to sacred texts and ideas, it is even more unhelpful to reduce truth to facts. Even if we could prove that Scripture is factual, it would make no difference to our lives.
If spirituality occupies the same territory as science, then we lose the unique truths of spirituality and undermine the truths of science.
ANOTHER WAY OF KNOWING
Spirituality reminds us that there are other ways of knowing—and other things to know—than what can be observed with the senses and established as fact. Spirituality finds truth not in facts, but in myths.
Marcus Borg, in his book, The Heart of Christianity, quotes the German novelist, Thomas Mann:
“A myth is a story about the way things never were but always are.”
He also describes a Native American storyteller who begins telling his tribe’s creation story with the words:
“I don’t know if it happened this way or not, but I know this story is true.”
Sacred texts like the Bible are robbed of their transforming power when they are reduced to whether the stories “actually happened” and whether the people “actually existed.” Yes, some of the events in the Bible probably did happen, but that is not the point. Scripture leads us into the meaning in the stories. It offers us a wisdom about ourselves and our universe that can only be received from the Eternal Mystery.
Likewise, sacred ideas cannot be rigid, factual, and provable. They are dynamic and mysterious. They are our best attempts at knowing the unknowable.
A MYTHIC COMMUNITY
EvoFaith is a spiritual community built on this mythic approach to both sacred texts and sacred ideas. We remember that:
- Sacred texts are always produced and interpreted by finite minds;
- Sacred ideas are always shaped by the people and cultures in which they arise;
- Sacred ideas must be held lightly because, with the Infinite, there is always more to know.
Every other branch of human knowledge grows and expands as we learn more information about our universe. Surely the same should be true of our spirituality, which seeks to plumb the meaning of the Eternal Mystery that is Life?
Would you like to explore this mythic approach to truth more deeply?
- Why not tell us what your response is to this article?
- Leave a question, or share your story of finding truth outside of facts.
Over to you!
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Biblical speaking. Without the Holy Spirit much of the Bible is nonsense. So before you start you need to be born of the spirit.
Love wow. What an open question?? Agape. Caritas . Philo. Eros. We might be here for a few days.
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Allen.
In terms of your first statement, I think I have a different perspective both on the Holy Spirit and how the Spirit works, and on the Bible and how to make sense of it. I would also suggest that I probably view being born of the Spirit rather differently too. Those would be conversations for future posts, though, if that’s ok.
I absolutely agree, though, that love is an open question. Hence, my comments about the difference between knowing the facts and knowing the truth. There is no question in my mind that love is the great universal mystery, and to plumb the meaning of love takes more than a lifetime. Which, I suspect, is why the Scriptures say that God is love.