Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Socrates said "An unexamined life is not worth living".  In deference to his advice, this entry is a little self examination about an analogy I recently made in a small group.  Specifically, I likened our relationship to Christ prior to our salvation to that of a man actively drowning, certain to die who is offered a lifeline and can to choose to grab it or not.  

My analogy of the drowning man sounded good to me.  I was comfortable with it.  It "resonated" with me.  It was in keeping with the tradition of my religious up bringing... but was it accurate, true and supportable through scriptural reference?  Short answer ... no.  (Scripture references:  DYOLW because seeking God's truth is an act of worship in itself)
Now I would say to improve the analogy... a drowned man was found. 
There are several poignant differences between a "drowning" man and a "drowned" man.  A drowning man can engage in a directed, heartfelt, weighty discussion of his pressing condition, the merits of being rescued and more often than not has a strong desire to be rescued.  The drowned man does none of this.  A drowning man needs a lifeline, a rope or a hand.  The drowned man needs chest compressions, mouth to mouth and occasionally some electrical shocks to his heart.  Upon rescue, the drowning man can recount a near death experience.  The drowned man was dead and doesn't even hear the story unless the resuscitation is successful.
So I was spiritually - dead in sin.  Dead already.  Dead. Dead. Dead. Out of his grace God brought me back to life.

Of course, the analogy is still imperfect.  Physically speaking, the drowning and drowned  man both have some knowledge of what is it is "to be alive".  Spiritually, we were never even aware of the "live" state, that is, until we were brought back to life.This is hard to fathom for several reasons.  First, we only know what it is like to be physically alive and contemplate physical death.   We have no experience in the opposite condition of being physically dead and contemplating physical life.   Raising the dead is considered by some to be the sine qua non of deity.  And certainly, from a human perspective, the "living, then dead, then back to life" miracles certainly get our attention.  It is much harder to conceptualize the "never alive to alive" miracle.  In fact if you are like me, when your try to think about this you probably fall into scenarios of  "never existed to existed" rather than try to conceptualize the "exists but has never been alive".   
Lets suppose someone actually meets the criteria mentioned "exists but has never been alive" At what point could you have meaningful discussion with them about their condition?  While they are still dead?  It certainly would not be comprehensible to someone who was truly dead - a corpse - to  understand their condition or their need to undergo a process of "being brought to life".  The only meaningful discussion can occur in retrospect after they are alive.

I have found it likewise in my recent forays into Reformed theology.  The discussion is only meaningful because I'm already alive.  I was resuscitated, didn't actually realize the extent of my deadness or all the machinations that went on on God's part on my behalf until I was actually alive (not alive again but spiritually for the first time).  The details of the story would be irrelevant to me if I were still a corpse.  Please don't misinterpret this as saying if you don't find these discussions meaningful you are still dead.  For me at least,  I was resuscitated quite some time before any meaningful discussion began.


  1. Great post Rich. The old adage of "quality over quantity" comes to mind.

    Although we need analogies to understand God, and Jesus himself used them, there is a danger to them. I think the most common problem with analogies is that we take them too far until the truth that was in them has been lost.

    But you have brought to light another important problem with analogies: sometimes they are wrong-headed to begin with. I guess you could put these type of problematic analogies in a subset of the type mentioned above. A wrongheaded analogy that is even considered is taking it too far.

    Dead. Dead. Dead. Indeed!

  2. To add to my comment, from the biography of Jonathan Edwards that I am reading: "Ever since the first glimmerings of his own awakening, he was acutely aware that the human problem was too see one's condition in its true perspective."

    Dead. Dead. Dead.