Friday, May 28, 2010

truth, wisdom - and graphs

In the search for truth, that pursuit of a certain and perfect knowledge of what is really real, I like the way DA Carson uses the image of an asymptote.

IF the x-axis measures the passage of time and the y-axis measures how far our understanding is removed from the reality of the thing itself, THEN over a period of time "the knower gets closer and closer to the reality, though without ever touching the line that would mark perfect knowledge: we will never be omniscient." (DA Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, Zondervan, 2005) 119-20). The search for truth is asymptotic - over time we can get closer and closer to the horizontal, without ever touching it. And our knowledge can be true, truly true, without it ever being exhaustive or omniscient.
I often find myself thinking about the picture of the asymptote.

In the practise of wisdom, that application of a sanctified common sense to the issues of our day, another graph comes to mind. But I don't know how to label the x-axis and the y-axis. HELP?! It is about immersing ourselves - even 'indwelling', as some express it - in the Bible and the Jesus whom it reveals. This creates a wisdom that can be depicted as a a solid line. It has a gradient. It has a length. Think of the Wisdom Literature, or the Law, and the slope and length of this solid line is largely formed.

BUT these sections of the Bible do not always deal directly with the complicated issues of our own time and context. What do we do? I reckon it is about immersing and indwelling ... and then extrapolating as a means of discovering the way of wisdom for today.
I often find myself thinking about the picture of 'the solid line and the dotted line on the graph with the unamed axes' ... oh dear!

nice chatting



Scott said...

Two very helpful illustrations, which resonant very much with this engineer-at-heart :) Thanks Paul.

Relating to the second graph: How do we use the Bible's 'trajectory', as you put it, without ending up in a place alien to the gospel?

(Perhaps this is where the two graphs can be superimposed??)

Paul said...

Yeah, good question, Scott.

I guess with the dotted-line 'trajectory' I am searching more for issues of application and significance issues, rather than meaning ones. The solid line stays solid and measured but...

Not interested in ending up in a place alien to the gospel, while recognising that biblical wisdom does not, specifically or exhaustively, address every issue that we face today.

What d'ya reckon?

Scott said...

Thanks, that makes sense. I wonder if it would help to recognise that even during the period of 'biblical time' we see hugely different circumstances and corresponding applications of wisdom - more of a quadratic equation than a line!

Greg said...

Do you think the axes could be culture and issues?
So x axis is culture, divided into Biblical culture and contemporary culture. And y axis is issues, divided into Biblical issues and contemporary issues? Just a thought.

Paul Windsor said...

Still thinking about it, Greg. It is neat and clear - but how does it explain the gradient of the line?

Laura said...

Paul I'm very impressed at your ability to apply Mathematics to Faith. I really appreciate it :P.

Paul said...

Ahhh, Laura

Actually, you did come to mind as I was writing -my favourite Maths teacher :)