While Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” was not the subject of the conversation the other day, it did occasion me to think of the following analogy. It is one I have contemplated for some time.
Growing up we get a skeleton for our faith. This begins as our parents show their faith to us. Notice I am not saying just the Christians, Muslims do it, Hindus do it, atheists do it. Parents show their children what is important to them. More often than not, these are the ideals that the child grows up with as well. How the parent treats them, as important or not, also begins to send messages to the children as to how they should treat the matters.
Now the skeleton by itself is extremely flexible-in someone else’s hands. Knees can bend in 2 directions because there are no tendons or muscles to restrict them. A child’s view of religion is not very deep. It is very open to interpretation, and without guidance it can lead to anything. As we are able to grow in our faith, we understand better and are required to take fewer things by faith having gained an understanding of the truths behind them.
As we get older and bigger we add tendons and muscles and maybe eventually skin. The reasons for some of the bones being where they are becomes evident. Or at least it becomes clear that they simply are where they belong. You can’t get muscles before the skeleton. And while the muscles and tendons can be seen as restricting the movement of the skeleton, it is the way the body is meant to be. The truth of the way the body should move. The more body we have built, the more truth we understand, the closer we come to having something to put skin on, and a face. Eventually if we are lucky enough, we can get a complete body. It isn’t by chance or accident, and it isn’t overnight.
One of my absolute favorite CS Lewis books is Til We Have Faces. It is an allegory of the Psyche/Cupid myth, and contains, of all the unlikely things, idol worship and a class of priests unlike any you would ever expect to meet in a Christian work of literature. Idol worship, sure, idol worship by the “good” guys? Not expected. It all boils down in the end to a point where the question from God to the main character is how can we speak face to face, unless you have a face? Without being able to comprehend the biggest question of all, how can it be discussed?
On a macro scale (and unless you look deeply at the remainder of the plot) this mimics the legendary agnostic Douglas Adams’ answer to the question of life the universe and everything. We are given the answer (42) but cannot understand the question until a greater event has occurred.
No, these two don’t go hand in hand. And likewise the moral of Til We Have Faces is not that we cannot understand anything about religion until we understand everything about religion. That is more a Josef Heller novel. The point of it all is that we start to grow our human body as a child. The input our parents give (or don’t) is important in starting that off. That start also gives us the impetus to continue (or not) to build our understanding of how it all works until such time as we are able to no longer have to rely on faith alone to grasp the fundamental truths of it all.