Christian Worldview and Literature: Mystery

Colossians 2:2-3: "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

I 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."

Mystery suggests more than it says. When something is mysterious, we do not entirely understand it. It cannot entirely be explained. Once you can fully explain a mystery it no longer remains one.

Mystery is like poetry, enlarging our understanding but never quite capable of being restated.

Mystery is open-ended, revelatory, and renewable.

Mystery can be communed with.

Mystery discloses itself but has deep resources that can be drawn on.

Mystery humbles us, even as it also ennobles us.

Mystery is both present and absent.

Mystery is ever expanding yet always subtracting.

Christ is God's mystery revealed.

Christ is mystery because he can teach us more than we can know.

Christ is God's mystery revealed because he offers us more than we can ever receive. He, as God's mystery made known, can only be received, paradoxically, when we offer all we are yet lay aside all we are.

Even as we learn more, we learn how little we know. Living with literature can perhaps teach us something about living with the mystery of Christ. At its best, a good work of art cannot be exhausted, summed up, or written off. It continues to suggest more.  Mystery in literature often presents us with elements that are not spelled out because to do so would ruin the art.  Matters are best left fuzzy and unfocused.  This leaves us with the opportunity to keep returning to tease out a little more of the meaning each time we read.  We keep waiting for the hints.

Equally, literature asks us to live with the paradoxical and to stay open to metaphors.  A paradox cannot be fully explained, or it ceases to be a paradox.  Metaphors at their best overflow with additional meaning; they show us the world in a way we had not previously seen it.  And that too is following Christ.  Mystery, after all, asks us to wait patiently that we might know more.

Central Insight: The experience of mystery in literature is analogous (but not identical) to the experience of mystery in faith; it shares with it a certain kind of stance towards life.

Suggestions for Application: Locate a particular use of mystery, mystery, or complex metaphor in a literary work.  Be sure to discuss the specifics of this.  Draw an analogy between this and your own faith experience.