Thursday, June 16, 2011

Too Good To Be Made Up

Recently, I've been reading and watching material on the clandestine activities around and after World War II, specifically A Man Called Intrepid and The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Intrepid was a man named Bill Stephenson, a Canadian airman who, like many involved in covert operations, was omni-talented --a walking treasurehouse of knowledge and intellect who existed in the small and probably-illegal group around Winston Churchill when he was Vice Lord of the Admiralty and then Prime Minister. Oppenheimer was the man behind the bomb who, though no-one could ever prove his disloyalty even after extensive wiretapping and bugging, had early communist associations, and was finally broken when his security clearance was revoked.

Many lessons could be learned from the lives of both men, but the chief lesson I take from both stories is that the truth is often stranger and more interesting than fiction. Fiction always has an artificial ring to it, at least in my ears. I love fiction, but it is not hard to tell that it is fiction, even if there are no fantastic events in the narrative.

Ian Fleming, spy himself and creator of James Bond said of Bill Stephenson, "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is ... William Stephenson." The events of Stephenson's life, and those of other WWII spies, show us that the truth is stranger than fiction, and more compelling too.

I think about this in regards to the great unfolding story of Scripture --it is simply too good to be made up. It has a lovely internal consistency that spans thousands of years, multiple cultures and authors. It centers on one singular, unique man. Its beginning is the beginning of the world and its end is the end of the world. Its middle is the middle of time --the time from which all other times are dated. It begins with one man and extends to the ends of the earth and ultimately fills the whole cosmos. It describes the world as it is: beautiful and orderly, but horribly broken. It describes us as we are --beings capable of mighty acts of creativity, but horrifically bent towards sin and self --this odd amalgam of great intellect and debased behavior. Oppenheimer himself was a living display of this: an intensely vain and difficult man, a profligate life, an enormous intellect combined with incredible naivete and knowledge that could ultimately end life on the planet. And, it holds out hope --it simply must be true. Humans are creatures imbued with hope --no matter how life is, our default setting is to long for something better. The truth is --something better is out there --a world infinitely better than this: beautiful and not at all broken. And it holds out for us the possibility of being who we were created to be: good, intelligent, lovers of beauty and compassion.

For that to happen, what is broken needs to be fixed. The wrong needs to be judged and destroyed. This happened at the cross, though the fullness of that reality waits the dawning of a new day. I, for one, cannot wait till the wrong in me is finally destroyed, and the wrong in the world is, too.

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