This talk by Louie Giglio has been circulating in my inbox lately from several sources. Giglio, talking about how Christ “holds all things together” alludes to Laminin, a protein in the shape of a cross as the capstone image for the kind of reality the Bible describes. For those of the Christian persuasion, it’s a magical way of seeing Christ in everything, and a Colossians 1 illustration.
Snopes.com has a post that is informative and grounding in its evaluation.
But what I’d like to focus on is the connection between historical fact (and other kinds of accuracies) and religious devotion, what I’ll also call spiritual phenomenology, the esoteric experiences one tends to have through messages like these.
So here are a few questions.
Is it important for one’s personal experience to be accurately connected to a set of data points in history and reality?
It is probable that the cross Jesus hung on was a capital “T” shape with the crossbar resting on the end of the upright pole. I don’t think we’ll ever come to a level of certitude that is conclusive, but it is likely that the connection being drawn between laminin and the cross of Jesus is more based on an “esoteric interpretative spiritual etherealness” than a more disciplined connection between history, current biology, and theology.
So, does this disqualify the teaching as irrelevant or inaccurate?
I would suggest, “no.” Why? Because a spiritual experience is always esoteric and interpretative. Crafting a connection is part of the gifting that God seems to give to communicators (like Giglio), and instead of criticizing its accuracy, we ought to be applauding its ability to move people, bring people to a sense of awe, and wonder.
I was with a surgeon when I saw Giglio give this talk, and she said that she of course knew about laminin but never put the two together the way Giglio did. She felt it was an “interesting” interpretation, and yet was still moved and touched by the commentary our biology was seemingly making on the realities of our existence. Whether or not Jesus’ cross was actually that shape was irrelevant. The point stands on its own without the need to clutter it with historical criticism. And that’s okay.
Is this simply another postmodern “experiential” thing?
Perhaps. While postmodern epistemology values personal experience over objectified knowledge, I would suggest that the mere existence of this kind of phenomena speaks to the way that all humanity has worked and experienced life and spirituality throughout history. For those who simply want to decry experience as some postmodern deviance from a higher epistemological ethic, I would suggest that there is something very real, and very deep within the human psyche that has brought about our current cultural phenomenology, not the other way around.
Does this necessarily disqualify any devotional idea from being “true?”
No. Biblical critics who want to eliminate the Bible or other kinds of texts simply because they find it impossible that a person could be swallowed whole by a big fish and yet survive — or a parting sea, or a man walking on water — should not necessarily discount the conclusion and teaching simply because the means, the illustration, or the physical type is manipulated for that kind of devotion. Like everything, truth could be paradoxically true and phenomenologically moving…so why does it matter so much that the image is concretely accurate?
Is it then reasonable for someone to be skeptical, even apathetic towards these kinds of endeavors?
Sure. “This is a free country” as they say. But through these talks I suggest that the best way to be human is not to deny ourselves the search for significance, casting it aside as some sort of evolutionary fluke, but rather embrace our nomadic wandering through the universe as something to fill our souls with meaning. What cannot be denied is the experience, and I suggest that phenomenology is evidence that humanity desires to be anchored in something meaningful and moving. And that desire, that drive, is never going away.