Degrees of Separation
When talking about God, I’m not so certain that we have a great understanding of what we can and cannot say properly, or what we can and cannot understand properly. Might there not be degrees of separation between what we think we understand and what it actually is that we are attempting to understand?
I’m toying with a tripartite division of terms (and thus degrees):
Reality is that which is as it truly is.
Truth is that which is as it represents itself.
Correctness is that which is as we perceive it.
Here is an analogy: God’s thoughts are 3-D. As limited creations, our thoughts are 2-D. God’s Revelation through Scripture is a 2-D representation of a 3-D reality; that is, it is true, yet (in a meaningful sense) incomplete. This is the first degree of separation. However, there is a second degree. As fallen, limited humans, we are unable to see this 2-D representation clearly. It is as if we are looking at it with our glasses off; we can only see a blurry image of the 2-D representation of the 3-D thought. Once again, the 2-D representation is true (in a sense), yet (in another sense) incomplete. Our blurry vision does not affect its truth-value, but does affect our understanding.
Theology and Hermeneutics both help us to interpret this blurry vision correctly, but they require a correct interpretation themselves. This recursive cycle is the problem point. Whenever we say “the Bible is literally true,” are we saying that our blurry vision of the Bible is a complete understanding of the 3-D truth? This cannot be. This must rather mean that the 2-D representation is a true (if relative to the original, incomplete) picture of Truth. Our blurry vision, however, is not literally true. It is fraught with problems. We may be construing our blurs incorrectly in a myriad of different ways. And even if construed correctly, we still are left with a Blurry Vision!
We ought to seek to be Correct in our understanding of God’s revealed Truth, a 2-D representation of God’s 3-D Reality.