The Parable Explained Part II
Read ‘The Parable of the Painter’ first then ‘The Parable of the Painter Explained Part I’…So this actually makes sense to you.
So a couple of weeks ago I made the case that we all believe in absolute truth, and that it depends on what the absolute truth is as to whether one is manipulative or not.
Okay, so what about the parable? When am I going to get there? And what’s it going to do with absolute truth? Now it’s time to explain the significance of the parable.
At some point we are going to come face to face with what reality is. There really is no denying it. At some point, a version of reality will be shown to be true over against the other. For instance, if we die and there’s nothing then that says atheism probably had it right, or if I come face to face with Allah then the Muslims have it right, or maybe I am reincarnated then…You get what I mean. At some point, truth- whatever it is- will win out in way, shape or form.
But as a Christian, I am confident that what Christians perceive to be the truth is the truth. And like I said last week, that’s not a terrible statement to make that seems bigoted or narrow, and neither does that have to be dehumanising statement because a) we all make truth claims and b) it depends if you use the truth claim in dehumanising ways (And Jesus doesn’t allow His followers to do that- he says we love all people despite worldview, race etc.).
So looking at the parable of the painter:
In the parable you have a painter who is God. God creates a world and makes that world come to life. Now notice it is the painter who determines the meaning of the painting. Within the analogy there is no one else in his reality except for Himself, as such He is the soul interpreter of the meaning of His own self-made painting.
We have to wrap out heads around this. Because whilst this analogy is limited in scope it does tell us something very important at this point: If (And for many it’s still an If) there was a God who made you then doesn’t it make logical sense that this Being defines who you are (and not the other way around)? If a painter paints the painting in their own reality with no one around then that painter dictates the meaning of the painting not the painting dictating the meaning of the painter. Now listen: it’s okay to speculate what God is like- a lot of people do, however at some point you have to realise that whoever you think God is, at some point God Himself* (if He makes Himself clearly known) should trump your perception of His own being, not the other way around. After all, if God does exist I think He knows Himself better then we know Him.
This ties very closely to the other section of the parable, and that’s the section that speaks of having the character traits of the painter infused into the painting itself. If the painter symbolises God and His painted people us, then the part about the character traits being infused into the painting come into play. If there is a God and this God is the inventor of you & me then that means that deep within who we are is ‘DNA’ that matches His. This is a rather large topic that dives deep into the question “What does it mean to be human?” at which we can’t discuss at length here. However it is important to point out that if God is real it is worth considering His take on what it means to be human, because if (as the Christian faith says) we have rebelled against God then we are- in a sense- rebelling against our own God given nature. Within this paradigm then- True freedom then isn’t doing what you want but it’s being released from all that holds you back from who God created you to be; a unique human being infused with His ‘DNA’. So what does it mean to be a human made in God’s image? And what would it look like to follow Him again? These are big questions for another time, but one thing for sure: If God is real and designed us, then logically to return to His design again would be the most congruent and whole thing to do, and it gives ourselves the ultimate life changing favour that sets us free. Also, this means we can’t define ourselves the way we define ourselves but by how God defines us (Once again, we could talk for a long time the nuances of such a statement but don’t have the space to).
The third part of the parable is that of the painted people making up theories about the painter and then the painter revealing Himself in person. We all do it…We all have a theory about reality (Whether there is a God or not, what life is all about etc.) and we either have a shared theory of these things in groups (e.g. clubs, churches, religions, cults etc.) or we keep it to ourselves. It’s as if we are like people reaching up into a foggy sky and trying to make sense of what we can’t see or looking around us and making more guesses about reality still.
But what happened in the parable?
The painter becomes the painted one without ever ceasing to be the painter, and makes it very clear who He is. And this is where we arrive to Jesus. Jesus isn’t like other prophets or gurus who say things like “I am here to show you the way to God” Jesus comes in person and says “I am God coming to find you”. That’s radically different from all other faiths and worldviews. Our foggy reaching to the sky is over, because the one beyond the fog of reality has come near in person. Truth then isn’t a detached dehumanising concept: Truth is a person- a person to hug, a person to love and be loved by, and a person who frees us into who we were made to be.
That’s who Jesus is.
He comes into the world to restore us back to our true identity as people bearing the image of God, and Jesus comes to fix this mess of a world.
And Jesus isn’t like your average crazy man saying He is God, He actually does things to back this up**- healing people, casting out demons (all in all declaring His Kingdom was breaking in!). And ultimately Jesus dies & rises again from the dead (And not just to die later on…No according to the scriptures Jesus rose again from the dead and returned to Heaven in the body; He is still alive and has defeated death & decay forever- changing the whole structure of reality). So Jesus backs up His identity well.
But think about this. If Jesus is like the Painter of the Parable- the one who has revealed Himself as truth in a way that can touch us- then how can we say He isn’t the truth? If He is indeed the most revealing manifestation of truth there is then this raises a lot of questions for us as humans. Sure He isn’t without interpretation (After all, we all interpret), that doesn’t mean we should fall into the trap of culture that says we can make truth whatever we want it to be. If Jesus is the revealed truth of reality then we got thinking to do.
Now I understand there can still be a lot of push back against this- after all behind all of this is the assumption one believes the Jesus, as written in 4 books of the Bible, are actually reliable history. And of course there are other personal push backs such as bad experience in church etc. So there is still plenty of discussion to be had (And perhaps we need to talk about history in a separate post). But nonetheless I hope that exploring ‘The Parable of the Painter’ has given you a helpful paradigm for at least considering the implications if such a reality- a painter and His painting- exists and how, if real, it would challenge the way we attempt to interpret reality.
*I am going to use ‘He’ for the sake of simplicity, please don’t read sexist undertones into this for that is not what I am doing
**It’s important to note that isn’t the reason why Jesus did miracles (He didn’t do miracles to prove He was divine) rather He did miracles to declare that the rule & reign of God was breaking into this world through Himself and that this reign was reversing the effects of our rebellion against Him (sickness, disease, disillusionment etc.). However one of the implications of Him doing this was that it would show He was indeed divine, something Jesus wouldn’t have argued against either.