III. EMPOWERED TRUTHS FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
The way we’ve been taught to think is wrong! And
it’s hurting the emerging church.
That’s the reason young believers are moving
beyond modern signs of "truth"—narrow "truths," ghettos of "truth."
And that’s the reason the future faithful are moving beyond the
postmodern signs of "truth"—subjective "truth," disconnected
Prophetic believers are finding, instead, the new
signs and tests of Truth that will empower the Church in the new
In the third part of this series, we discover
still another new way of thinking, another signature of where the
Lord of history is moving. But first, a brief summary of the earlier
The "experience" of Truth fulfills what great
thinkers mean by truth. Doctrinal "truth," for example, will never
replace experiencing that truth.
Our interpretation of experience easily misleads
us. So the possibility of error remains a necessary element of any
In our spiritual walk, we must learn to
distinguish between authentic experience and mere subjectivity.
"Bodily wisdom"—or "felt meanings"—promise a
profound shift in how we search for Truth. Even "respectable
thinking"—"pure" science or "objective" scholarship—requires the
experience of the body.
This "bodily wisdom," however, does not arise
from passions of self-interest, animal instincts, or knee-jerk
manipulations—regardless of how "religious" or "sophisticated."
Neither is it the cold abstraction of philosophical or psychological
We experience "bodily wisdom" the same way we
experience beauty. However, spiritual wisdom finally transcends both
body and beauty.
Whether beautiful or not, "bodily wisdom" usually
comes in the form of metaphor.
Few realize we actually exist in metaphor!
Science has discovered, for example, "that most human thought is
metaphorical"—that metaphor holds "the whole fabric of mental
Metaphor also remains basic to our understanding
of more profound subjects like "life," "death," or "time." Metaphor
is the principal medium of biblical Truth, and it will become an
irreplaceable sign in postmodern theology.
If we lose metaphor, we have lost Truth.
We must recognize, though, the difference between
surface metaphor and prophetic metaphor—between a tool of trade and
a talisman of transcendence
We recognize prophetic metaphor in ambiguity,
enigma, paradox, and similar juxtapositions.
We recognize prophetic metaphor when it
represents something other than itself. We also recognize prophetic
metaphor by the force and control of its message. It’s hard, for
example, for the teller of a story to twist it totally out of shape.
God is more real in metaphor than in any theology
or doctrine. And, for that reason, future artists will become
theologians and future theologians will become artists.
PART III - A Belief-Mosaic
Our search for new ways of thinking doesn’t end
with metaphor. For metaphor links with still another sign of
Truth—"pattern recognition." Metaphor, for example, finds its
greatest depth in complex metaphors—metaphors of metaphors—multiple
metaphors—all pointing to the same patterns of Truth. In fact, the
more the multiplicity the more the meaning.
Pattern recognition, as a result, claims a power
of its own. It reveals signs of its own.
We see these signs in the merging of differing
perspectives—in the unity of diverse notions—in a network of
manifold meanings—in a system of distinct parts. We recognize these
signs when multiple impressions support and corroborate each
other—when varied revelations verify and validate each other—when
isolated beliefs bring richness and relevance to each other.
And we find these mutual agreements even among
mutual disagreements—among apparently contradictory or uncongenial
Then, as a result, we sense a greater picture, an
integrated whole, a belief-mosaic. Eventually, this mosaic becomes a
vast relevance, an overarching pattern, a universal significance. .
. . . systems resting within systems–networks
nesting within networks.
These patterns of Truth are like a hologram where
a single part evokes the whole, and the whole is in the part. They
are like the Internet where each link leads to the same vast web of
relationships. They are like a kaleidoscope where continually
changing patterns reflect something that never changes.
They are like a great polyphonic choir where
multiple melodies weave soaring similarities and where mingling
consonances sound significant because of equally significant
dissonances. Or, they are like exquisite choreographies where
individual dancers celebrate the same Great Dance.
And, if you are a scientist, these patterns of
Truth are like forward-looking physics where previously incompatible
theories eloquently converge in one, unified theory of the Universe.
Such patterns are not mere coincidence or
serendipitous luck. Nor are they the modern idea of "pattern" where
everything reduces to one, exclusive idea. Neither are they the
postmodern notion of "pattern" where anything goes. And, finally,
they are not the Eastern mysticism of "pattern" where we embrace the
whole, but destroy the parts.
Instead, these patterns represent dynamic,
flexible systems—worlds teeming with links and minglings. And we’re
part of them! When whole systems and their parts—including
us!—mutually determine one another, they take on powerful and
Yet, paradoxically, these patterns do not reflect
many "truths." They reflect one Truth.
The Web of Life
Life is relationship. Wherever we see life, we
see patterns or networks of relationships.
And, we know when these connections touch us. An
apparent coincidence, as example, may suggest a "bigger picture,"
consistent and coherent within itself. And we sympathetically
respond. We sense a bond between what we feel and something real
"out there." Further, we feel at home.
Moreover, these bonds yield pleasure upon
Contrary to modern "logic," this is exactly the
way the brain works. The brain’s biology demands endless patterns.
Or, put another way, this is exactly the way the mind thinks. The
mind’s versatile and variable nature requires endless links.
Our thinking, in other words, is meditative. It
is a seemingly random series of serendipitous revelations with
multiple feedback loops. We could also describe these loops as
"to-and-fro" movements: We think in related images which give light
to the whole. Then, increased revelation from the whole gives light
to still more related images. Of course, each return or "loop"
generates a more complete picture.
This may seem like pandemonium for those who
preach a "proper" linear logic. Yet, a chaos or information overload
"leads to pattern-recognition."1
Not surprising, then, this kind of thinking also
forms the basis for our beliefs. Faith, after all, is a mosaic of
belief—a process of truth—a web of conviction. When our individual
convictions support and corroborate each other, our confidence
grows. Our faith is affirmed in a myriad of ways, and the
affirmations just keep coming.
These affirmations reveal, in turn, a "bigger
picture," a greater web of remembering where we know things we
didn’t even know we knew.
"Every comprehension of a whole acknowledges the
reality of it."2
A "Holy Holograph"
Scripture confirms this pattern recognition, for
Scripture is "relational" Truth. Its truths converge—it messages
interact—its "fruit of the Spirit" relate.
Granted, Scripture speaks with a multitude of
voices—sometimes even contradictory voices. It admits "many-sided
wisdom," "infinite variety," and "innumerable aspects."3
It concedes "many separate revelations," mere "portions" of Truth,
and the "different ways" God speaks through the prophets.4
Yet, these diverse voices (even conflicting
voices) do not mean we’ve lost the unity or the universal authority
of Scripture. For Spirit speaks with one voice. That’s why Paul
wrote, "In Him all things consist (cohere, are held together)."5
God remains, after all, all in all.
Multiples, mosaics, and many-sided metaphors have
more in common with the origin of our faith than with the modern
traditions of our culture. Meditative, circular dialogues have more
in common with early prophetic voices than with today’s
production-line ideas. And biblical glory has more in common with
the contextual beauties of the first believers than with the
intellectual beauties of recent "glories."
God’s Kingdom, after all, is a "holy holograph."
In many separate revelations [each of
which set forth a portion of the Truth] and in different
ways God spoke of old to [our] forefathers in and by the
Pulling Things Together
Pattern recognition—the multilingual voice of
God—poses no threat to the minds of the future. For, once again,
prophetic voices are seeking signs of Truth in open-ended
connections, multiple lines of "reasoning," and interrelated
beliefs. They are moving beyond modern signs of "truth," simple and
narrow "truths," and ghettos of "truth." In doing so, they are
pulling things together rather than tearing them apart.
The minds of the future are also moving beyond
the postmodern loss of Truth, shared delusions of subjectivity, and
seas of disconnected dots. In doing so, they are seeing links of
significance, connected dots, and the whole in the parts. They are
discovering individual perspectives, unique interpretations, and
inspired points of view that are not without a meta-narrative—not
without a Universal story.
In short, they are discovering the signs of a new
"how we know" holism—the patterns of a new transcendence—the unity
of a new incarnation.
The way we traditionally expressed
Christianity may be in trouble, but the future may hold new
expressions of Christian faith every bit as effective,
faithful, meaningful, and world-transforming as those we’ve
known so far.7
© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt
1. Marshall McLuhan, quoted in Derrick de
Kerckhove, The Skin of Culture (Toronto: Somerville House
Publishing, 1995) p. 151.
2. Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge:
Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 1958) p. 344.
3. Ephesians 3:10, AMP.
4. Hebrews 1:1, AMP.
5. Colossians 1:17, AMP.
6. Hebrews 1:1, AMP.
7. Brian McLaren, "Emerging Values"