Thursday, September 3, 2009

Land and Sea

School has begun and students are filling classrooms and kitchen tables all over the country. Some are excited about returning and some not so much. This particular year, for me, has afforded additional cause for excitement because New College Franklin has been officially launched and credited, and I get to be her first auditor! The wonderful thing about auditing is that you get all the benefits of the reading and discussion, but don't have to write the papers or take the exams! I heartily recommend it.

The class I am auditing is the Biblical Symbology class. Before I go any further, it is not about how to interpret Revelations or the Prophets. That's a whole other discussion. This class is basically designed to help the student - or anyone - begin to be able to see the Scriptures and Creation through the lens of a Biblical worldview, thus enabling one to more wisely understand and interpret culture and environment, and affect Biblical transformation in the earth. We Modern/Post-modern Christians have been seeped in Platonic Christianity and therefore our thinking is more Greek than Hebrew, more secular than Biblical. Since that is the case, we read the Bible and interpret creation and culture in a non-biblical, scientific way; and that's not how the Bible was written or how it was intended to be read. Therefore, we must - as the Scriptures tell us - study that we may have transformed minds.
Currently in class, we are reading James B. Jordan's "Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World" and it has been a fascinating study. As Jordan says in his introduction, "The Biblical worldview is not given to us in the discursive and analytical language of philosophy and science, but in the rich and compact language of symbolism and art. It is pictured in ritual and architecture, in numerical structures and geographical directions, in symbols and types, in trees and stars. In short, it is given to us in a pre-modern package that seems at places very strange." As I read further and further in the book, things in the Bible have begun to make sense in a whole new way (though not departing from sound doctrine), and this has been very exciting! One example of this is found in the symbols of land and waters.

One principle to remember is that all of creation was created to reflect heaven, and we can see this pattern in various ways. One example is what Jordan calls a "Three Decker Universe". This is reflected in different ways in scripture with one of them being "Heaven-Firmament, Earth, Sea" and another being "Garden, Eden, World." Another way of seeing this would be "Triune God, His People, Gentiles." With this in mind, the pattern indicates that "Land" can be a representation of God's people and "Seas" can represent "Gentiles or Heathens." This is not all that land and sea indicates, but it is a pattern type found in scripture. (There is rarely ever a cut and dried "This = That.") That being said, bear with me as I share with you a connection I made, seeing some old familiar stories in a new light.

Since the seas can represent the Gentiles, and the land can represent God's people, it stands to reason that the parting of the Red Sea was not just a means of escape from the Egyptians, but a picture of God separating his people (dry land) from the heathen (sea) as He led them out of Egypt and bondage. But, when the Egyptians attempted the same crossing, the dry land on which the Hebrews had just crossed became boggy and thus the Egyptians were mired and drowned when the sea crashed in on them, for they were not God's chosen people - they were not "the land", but "the sea". (Ex.14) This symbolic image of separating helps me to better understand what St. Paul meant when he wrote about the Red Sea being a baptism - itself a picture of being separated from the world and being joined in covenant to God. (I Cor.10:2)

Likewise, the crossing of the Jordan River by the Hebrews into the Promised Land - when the waters stopped and stood up in a heap so they could cross on dry land - was not simply a safe, convenient means of crossing a flooding river, or a supernatural show of force, or even simply an honoring of the Ark of the Covenant; but it was again a sign and symbol that God was about to separate the heathen (waters) from His chosen people (land). Even further, He was about to separate the heathen from the land they had been occupying, for it was "the land" that God had given to His people to occupy and bring God's grace and glory to. (Josh.3:14-17).
To sum up, "Through New Eyes" is indeed helping me to see the Scriptures and creation in a whole new light, or should I say, increased light. Nevertheless, it is a delight to the soul and mind to be able to feed on the richness of God's word and world in a deeper fashion than I had previously. As Reepicheep says in C. S. Lewis's "The Last Battle", "Further up and further in!"

1 comment:

Sola Gratius said...

Fascinating commentary on the antithesis that we moderns so often want to ignore or worse, deny. Great post.