Please picture the scene. A man and some friends are going on a trip for a weekend, and they all decide to spend a couple of nights camping in the mountains nearby. As they begin to near the summit, they come across a valley with a beautiful view. They look across and see rolling hills and misty lakes. As his friends stand and stare, the man takes his binoculars from his backpack and raises them to his eyes. Everything he sees is brought into great detail, and he is struck by the great natural beauty of the area. As he looks he notices something through the binoculars, but he can’t quite see what it is. It’s a sort of dark area. Handing the binoculars to a friend he asks, “What do you see in that black spot?” The friend looks and hands back the binoculars. “I think it’s a bush.” Uh-oh. The man had thought it was a tree. He spends the next ten minutes looking at this spot and trying to see what’s there. Eventually his friends decide they should move on, and all talk about how fantastic the view was as they continue their walk. The man, however, was still worried about what was in that spot.
When the group returned home, another friend asked them about the trip. She asks one of the others who had been there, who describes the fantastic view. However, when she asks the man what he had thought of the trip, he begins, “Well, there was this tree…”
Now, this is quite a tongue-in-cheek analogy, but I think we can take some important points from it. I believe that sometimes we can be guilty of looking through our binoculars a little too much. But first we must understand what this really means, and how it can affect us. I hope that a personal example of how it personally affected me will help our understanding, before we look closely at some points from the story.
Ironically, my personal binoculars were a telescope. Some time ago in my past I came across a picture from the Hubble telescope. The description was that this picture showed what the galaxy in its contents looked like 2 billion years in the past. This was due to the distances involved, and the time taken for light to travel to us. Despite having a reasonable knowledge of the physics allegedly involved, my first reaction was to think “Well, that can’t be right”. I had always believed the universe to be only a few thousands of years old, and assumed that there was a simple explanation as to why this description was flawed. Intrigued by this apparent conundrum, I embarked on some major research and so, for the next few weeks, my spare time was spent reading everything from the Bible to Dan Brown books, and considering gap theories, creationism, Riemannian physics and several other possible solutions. While not one of the theories I found were proven, none had been disproved, and although there were now many possible explanations, none were absolute. When I found a theory I thought I agreed with, I saw another angle that made me rethink from square one. The one thing the research had shown me is that no-one really knew anything!
During this time I spoke to a Christian friend of mine, who had a keen interest in mathematics and physics, to ask him his opinions on the photograph, creation and the surrounding issues. He replied, “It doesn’t really matter”.
He went on to say that creation is obviously a very important question, and a very interesting one. However, it wasn’t really ‘the’ most important thing – that we don’t really understand all the arguments to consider anyway. He said it was important to consider the bigger picture as well as the small details.
I was struck by how totally right he was as I considered what he had said. In my case, there were any number of feasible explanations, most possibly none of them completely correct. I realised that I had lost perspective, and failed to see the big picture. The most important thing is that God is in complete control. I realised that we don’t have to fully understand everything, before we can appreciate it – that we can enjoy the view without being able to explain it. This is not an ‘easy way out’, and although some may say that ignoring a question is hardly the answer, I would argue that that is not what we would be doing. What we would be doing is letting unproven theories get in the way of the vastly more important issue of our faith. Any claiming to be true scientists would agree that no answer, religious or otherwise, has any more validity than another until one is proven and the others are disproved.
When we let one issue consume our entire passion for our faith, we are doubtless missing out. We can be like the man in the story, and focus on the small point using our binoculars – and there are many things that people use them for. Evolution, fossils, chronology, biblical history, the flood, whatever your question is. The problem is that when we look through binoculars, our perspective changes and we lose a true sense of scale. If we look at one issue through them, it fills our entire field of view. We cannot see past it or around it and it becomes huge out of all proportion. We see every small detail, and all of our attention is focused on one small point. However small or far away it may be, it becomes all that we can see.
Just as the person in the story misses out on the view, on the full picture, sometimes so can we. Even worse, this can damage our ability to witness effectively, as shown by the character above. When asked about our faith, sometimes it is what our binoculars show us that becomes the view we are so eager to share. It also becomes the only issue of our faith we are interested in, even if only for a short time. Do not forget what we are called to do, and focus instead on matters of the mind.
But looking beyond this we can see so much more. God is in perfect control. All our blessings and all of our tests are there just for us, just as they were meant to be, even if currently we are not fully able to understand all of the details. Even if we cannot clearly make out a point on the horizon, we can realise that no matter the explanation, it is exactly how it was intended to be, and that is that it is perfect. We can know that no matter what we can see, or what we can explain, God can see and understand everything. This is why we can just relax, look out and enjoy the picture. No matter what we have done, Jesus came to Earth, died and rose again to save us from our sins, that we might live forever with Him in Heaven. Far more important that any intellectual discussion is our spiritual growth, and our walk with God. Living for Christ, feeding the hungry, standing beside the broken, relying on the Holy Spirit, loving God, spreading God’s love to others and shining out as a light for Him, all become far far more relevant than some debate on a verse’s translation. No matter what evidence is given to the mind, faith requires God to provide a new heart, and a new life.
Please don’t miss out on the entire view. Please don’t lose perspective. Please do not lose sight of our wonderful calling. By all means, enjoy your binoculars and use them with faith and thought. But occasionally, lower them for a while, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I guarantee the view will be phenomenal.
Thank you so much for reading, and I do hope you can take something practical from this article. This article is the first in the series of three which will be brought together on the subject of Unity in the Church. As this is my first article as a guest writer I really would appreciate any comments or feedback at all! Thank you.