Reflections of a Broken Man

The Shadowlands Revisited by StephenMac
August 30, 2008, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

**currently listening to: Dusk And Summer – Dashboard Confessional**

Previously on Reflections of a Broken Man: I reflected on whether it was still fair to hold a “Shadowlands” theology that insisted that our current reality is merely a shadow of their true reality that will be found in the new creation at the end. This is a problem because it denies the reality of the now, and therefore could lead to a denial of the goodness and wholeness of this creation.

This week in Chapel, we looked at Colossians 2:16-17.

16  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)

Paul reminds his readers in Colosse to remain in the faith because of the reality of Christ in them, then warns his readers to be aware of criticism by their Jewish contemporaries who might demand that they observe the Jewish dietary laws and calendar. These things were but a shadow, and the reality is found in Christ.

lubomir_bukov_shadows-of-past-bw-frameThis is what struck me, because the language seems very similar to the Platonic Shadowlands theology. We were reminded in the sermon that what is at stake is the distinction between shadow and substance, and that we are to be wary of moving back to the historical shadow, as opposed to remaining in the reality of Christ. Furthermore, the substance is not mutually exclusive from the shadow – you do not achieve the substance simply be being ‘not shadow’. In other words, there is a twofold process of making sure that our Christian life is not built on the shadows – the things that merely point to Jesus (think modern day church ritual as well as OT law) – and that the substance is genuinely there – our theology and practice is tied directly to our personal our relationship with Christ as revealed in his Word.

Yet, how does this then relate to the avoidance of Platonic paradigms? How can we insist that the things that point to Christ, especially OT practices and laws, are mere shadows, if we have already dismissed the idea that this is our current reality – and that our current reality is the reality?

In essence, I think there is a need to distinguish between the types of shadows. Or perhaps shadow is a poor or confusing metaphor… Let me explain:

Hypothesis 1: In the first category of ‘Platonic’ shadows, we are talking about everything on earth being a shadow of a reality in heaven. For example, the sinful broken man is merely a shadow of a true man in heaven (extreme example, I’m sure that there are a multitude of variations on this theme. Specifically, I am thinking about C.S. Lewis’ eschatology which is arguably ‘Platonist’). The second category of ‘Platonic’ shadows are only a certain number of things are shadows in light of a heavenly reality. As such certain things, or maybe certain practices, are a mere shadow.

**Stephen is annoyed at Chris Carrabba’s whining voice in DBC… switching to Stephen Christian and Anberlin… NEW ALBUM – 30/9**

Continuing on… finished being distracted by wikipedia… I think the second category talks about things that are perishable, or perhaps are specific results of sin. So, for example, man in and of itself is not the shadow, but perhaps his physical limitations or his inability to have the world completely subdued as it was in the Garden of Eden (guessing here) are the shadows, but man is still the same (or something).

Hypothesis 2: Closely related to the last idea is that the metaphor is misleading or simply easily confused. May I paraphrase 2:17… “These are but signposts pointing the way; but the destination, however,  is found in Christ.” This is the thrust of the passage I think – don’t be fooled into thinking the signpost is the destination. Don’t be fooled into returning to the things that merely pointed to Christ, and miss out on Christ himself. I’m guessing here, but I think this would tie in more closely with 2:6-8…

Colossians 2:6-8  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,  7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

In this way, shadow does not imply a different reality, but merely the insubstantial connection to that which creates the shadow. Better yet, the OT laws become a signpost pointing to Christ, a ‘sandbox model’ as my Biblical Studies teacher put it in High School, of the way that God would work out his salvation in the world. This doesn’t deny the reality of those events or practices, but places their emphasis in their goal – Jesus Christ.


Goodbye to the Shadowlands… by StephenMac
July 28, 2008, 10:29 pm
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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…