Reflections of a Broken Man

Goodbye to the Shadowlands… by StephenMac
July 28, 2008, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Well, it seems today’s philosophy lecture has ruined this blog…well, not so much the blog as the name and general philosophy behind it (so to speak).

We were looking at Plato, and the idea of the “ideal” reality in which the perfect exists, and our existence is a mere reflection or shadow (to borrow Plato’s metaphor) of that perfect reality. And to my thinking, that made sense – it especially accounted for why certain institutions worked so poorly. Take, for example, basic human relationships. Since the fall, where everything has become tainted by sin, our relationships are not perfect; they are in fact broken. Everything has become dimmed in comparison to their original intent as “seen” in the Garden of Eden.

To my mind, and borrowing from C.S. Lewis’ terminology, sin has affected the human condition so much so that all we see of the original intention is a shadowy reflection. This blog, it’s name and motive stem from what was a belief that our current life is a mere reflection of what will be – of heaven and our new creation. And it is at this point that the metaphor encounters a serious problem according to today’s lecture. Because if we hold that to be true – that our current existence is a shadow or reflection of the true reality of something like heaven or New Eden or the ideal – then we deny the reality of our current existence. And this is a genuine problem. So how do we reconcile the apparent tension: “new creation”, “shadowlands” or “reflections” and “reality”?


A digression for the moment to clarify the term “shadowlands” (correct me if I am sketchy on the details). C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Last Battle”, describes the place of most of the narrative as being the “shadowlands” in comparison to the “real” Narnia which the Lucy, Susan, Peter, Edmund, et. al. finally experience after their deaths. Their entire experience of life has been a reflection of the true reality that they find at the end of time. I think that it is clear that Lewis wants us to see our own eschatology in this same light – that our own “new creation” will be the same as the old, but perfect. And at this point, we can see the blurring of the two ideas.

Let me see if the logic is coherent. We have a triangle. It was created perfect by God, it was good. Adam sins, and we find that the creation that once was good gradually becomes more corrupted by sins effects. Our triangle deteriorates. It’s still a triangle, but it is not longer the perfect triangle that it once was. Now a Platonist would say that this corrupted triangle is now a reflection of the true triangle ideal that God created way back in the Garden of Eden. But is this what Lewis is saying? What is the Bible saying?

We quite clearly must deny the idea that the corrupted triangle is separate from the ideal/perfect triangle: the corrupted triangle in this sense cannot be a mere reflection of the ideal because then the corrupted triangle becomes worthless – why would Jesus die for a copy? No, Jesus died for the real thing. On the other hand, we can quite clearly see that that triangle is not perfect. It holds to the “form” of the triangle, but it is not the ideal triangle. So too today, we know that institutions like marriage are not the ideal relationship that will be in heaven – but does this mean that marriage is a mere reflection or shadow of the heavenly reality?

The passage that immediately jumps to mind is that of 1 Corinthians 13:12:

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

What knowledge we have now is only in part: we see only a reflection of the true glory of God, and we cannot ever hope to have full knowledge (forgive me if I have misappropriated Scripture). Heaven is the true reality of which now we only have glimpses. What does this mean for the idea that the here and now is only a reflection of what will be? Can we compromise, and say that while we are real, the institutions of society and humanity are only reflections of the heavenly reality (is my church only a glimpse, a reflection, of that fantastic host in heaven praising and glorifying God?)?

I leave this for you to ponder…