Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Unseen doors

Our oldest dog, Ronin, is blind. It developed gradually so that he learned to get along on sound and his memories of how the house is arranged. Recently we had to replace the door to the outside that was broken, and while we were at it we changed which side the door the door opens on. All three dogs are a little confused by this, waiting by the hinge side to be let in or out. But the younger two dogs, when they see the door open, will go to the opening.
But Ronin will sit there, scratching at the hinges, even as the door pushes him over to trap him behind it. Ronin still need lote on calling and sound cues leading him step by step to get him through the opening. They all have a habit of sitting by one side of the door. (Even I find myself reaching for the handle on the wrong side occasionally.) But Ronin also has a mental picture, or a pattern construct, of how the door works. And without the visual input to override it that will take some time for experience to change.
I think we too are often strangely confident about the workings of things we can’t see, especially if we have caught a glimpse of them once. We mentally picture someone we haven't seen in years as they looked when we used to see them every day. We extend out trends indefinitely, as straight lines or smooth curves. Once an image takes hold in our minds it crowds out the idea that time, or circumstances, or a different viewing point, would reveals something unexpected.
In this age when so much can be know we are uncomfortable leaving something terra incognita. Each ‘I don’t know’ seems to call for a conjecture or a hypothesis or proposed solution. But once we’ve filled up all the blank spaces with our guesses, could we get so confident that we end up trapped behind the door scratching at the hinges?
I think this is one of the reasons I am not a Calvinist. They’ve got everything neatly diagrammed out, all the seeming contradictions seemingly ironed out. Everything meets up so that it feels like a complete picture of how salvation, that most important thing in life, works. There can be an unintended impression that humans can explain it all so much more clearly than God did.
But I suspect that God still has a lot of surprises in store for me. I want to leave blank spaces in my picture of the universe, or fill them with multiple contradictory images, so that I am not tempted to confuse the parts I do have information on with the parts I don’t. I like to consider myself as if a blind man, being lead by a God who sees.


  1. I used to be a Calvinist. It lead me into a dark place. I know many who don't go down the path of antinomianism but I did. I'm glad I got out.

    1. Yes, if taught simplistically or mis-understood be taken there. More general statements of the doctrine of grace and eternal security, which I do believe in, can also have this problem. But if your main motivation for doing good and avoiding sin is avoiding God punishing you then I think that is a fundamental mistake. We should be trying to please God because we love Him, because we recognize Christ as our Lord, and because we have faith that we are now a new person being made perfect as He is perfect.