On Big Picture Thinking

As some of you know, I make a living by drawing funny little creatures. I started drawing cartoons in my first school year and have never stopped. I also have a keen interest in mnemonics, and so at some stage these two passions converged and became the “Bigpicture” concept. If you are interested, you can visit my Bigpicture Website here and, in the process, check out the Gallery.

Big Picture Thinking, or “Gestalt Theory”, is a fascinating but mostly misunderstood phenomenon. To put it in a nutshell: The Gestalt principle is really nothing but a very obvious display of humanity’s yearning for God. We are forever looking for the whole, the context, the pattern, the paradigm, the structure that binds the detail together. And so parts have this tendency to form clusters which make up bigger clusters which make up bigger clusters… Guess where it all ends.

I’ll blog about this again in the future. There is much more to Big Picture Thinking than meets the eye!

The Cult of Selfism

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud… having a form of godliness but denying its power. 2 Timothy 3:1-4

I recently came across an interesting quote by Oswald Chambers, the author of the Christian classic My Utmost for His Highest. He writes: “Self-realisation is anti-Christian. All this is vigorous paganism, it is not Christianity. Jesus Christ’s attitude is always that of anti-self-realisation. His purpose is not the development of man at all; His purpose is to make man exactly like Himself, and the characteristic of the Son of God is not self-realisation but self-expenditure.”

Chambers, who passed away in 1917, never lived to see the prophetic significance of his words. He never lived to see a day when Christian bookshops would be stocked with books telling Christians how to maximize their potential, how to make God’s dream for them come true, how to claim their miracles, how to prosper financially, and so on.

It seems that a large segment of the church has succumbed to the philosophy of the motivational revolution, and, in the process, to the spirit of the age. The motivational paradigm has changed the way we think about ourselves, our work and our destiny. To quote Paul Vitz, who have written extensively on what he calls The Cult of Self-Worship: “All the major theories of motivation and personality assume that reward for the self is the only functional ethical principle.” Certain Christians appear to have embraced this way of thinking, and in the process have become devoted to what Vitz calls “selfism”.

Perhaps it is time to heed Chambers’ prophetic wisdom and reassess much of what we have been teaching lately in the name of Christ.

On Spectacles and Other Embarrasments

And when he had disarmed the rulers and the authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in the cross. Colossians 2:15

Spectacles have an origin. They don’t occur in and of themselves. They are fruits and manifestations of much more primary occurrences. If we hold to the belief that our lives in this world are but shadows of the occurrences that take place in the spiritual realm, which we do, then it should come as no surprise that the spectacles in our lives are mere reflections of an ancient and eternal truth that has been told through the story of the serpent’s rise and fall.

Herein is the key. The rise preceded the fall. The rise was not ordained by God, but fueled by pride, and so it led to the fall – as promotions of the self always do. In its final conclusion, the rise became nothing but a public spectacle, a convulsion of sorts.

It was Paul who noted that the narrative was more than mere history. An overseer of the church, he noted, must not be a new convert, lest he becomes swelled up with pride and fall into the judgment of the Devil. The story is a parable and the message is clear: The one who promotes him or herself will become a spectacle for the world to see. Their rise will not lead to glory but to shame. John tells us in his revelation that the dragon was thrown down to earth. Knowing that his time was short he persecuted the woman. He wished the same spectacle on her that he had become, and so he has tempted her since she first set foot on the planet with the very temptation that he himself had been tempted with, desiring to involve as many as possible in the spectacle that he had become. The first woman became the first victim. Her yearning for greatness led to shame. Both she and her husband were made spectacles as a result of their desire to rise up and be like God, and after them a multitude followed in their footsteps.

It was Jesus Christ, the second man, who reversed the order. His fall preceded his rise. He became nothing, we read in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Unlike Satan, Adam, Eve and every lost soul in the history of the universe, Christ did not see equality with God something to be grasped. He became nothing, and so God exalted him to the highest place. And herein we are given a second parable, and so since the dawn of time the people of God have been characterized by the fact that they are first a spectacle and then exalted.

It’s Dark Down Here

Christopher Hitchens is facing death. The famous atheist recently lost his voice in his battle with esophageal cancer, and it appears that he will not be with us for much longer. Yet he remains steadfast in his atheistic convictions. He recently wrote to some of his fellow atheists: “Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal; the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need).” The letter was also posted on The Richard Dawkins Foundation website.

Reading the above, I could not help but be reminded of an insight that came to me some months ago, inspired by the much publicised rescue of the trapped Chilean miners at the time. I wrote a newspaper column about it, which I gladly post:

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world… He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. John 1:9-11

The rescue effort of the trapped Chile miners glued the world to their television screens this week. One could almost hear a global sigh of relief with each spectacled miner emerging from underground.

As I watched the footage in the comfort of a living room filled with natural light and lots of oxygen, and with a view of a garden and blue sky outside, my mind drifted. There was a world of difference between my environment and the one these men had been confined in. Yet, after only 69 days, they had adapted themselves to their strange surroundings in a remarkable way. Their eyes had become accustomed to the absence of light, hence the sunglasses. They had settled in an odd routine with a variety of diversions to keep them busy and sane, and so they were scheduled for therapy to ensure a safe reunion with people who knew nothing about living in darkness.

And then I wondered: What if their wives were with them and children were born and raised down there? And what if those children eventually had children? How long would it take for any memory of blue skies and green forests to vanish completely, and for such references to be dismissed as “pie in the sky”? (You can’t prove it, so it cannot exist!).

And what would they do to a stranger who claimed to have been sent from above to save them out of the darkness, especially if he instructed them to leave their old lives and everything associated with it behind as the way of escape was extremely narrow?

They would label him insane. And so they did.