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Sherlock Holmesian Theology

new_sherlock_holmes_by_allegator-d4ll8lpI’ve been enjoying the TV show Sherlock lately. Its nice to get into a show that is relatively clean, and its very clever and engaging (portrayed right is Benedict Cumberbatch’s incarnation of Sherlock Holmes—he does a great job). Watching the show has motivated me to do some reading about the character Sherlock Holmes, who is a fascinating figure. He is famous, of course, for his prowess at deductive reasoning. Holmes claimed that “from a drop of water a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other.” This is an amazing thought, and quite true: deductive reasoning gives us the ability to draw valid inferences from the tiniest of premises to the largest of conclusions. The most miniscule point of data could be the footprint of an infinite source. Anything can be a “clue.”

I can’t think of any reason why this Holmesian dictum would apply to the physical world but not the metaphysical. So it makes me wonder: what could it mean for the realm of theology? Suppose that everything that God has revealed of Himself through creation and redemption is compared to a single drop of water. Everything from the vastness of the heavens to the miracles during the Exodus, from the intricacy of molecule to the personality of Christ—it all boils down to one tiny drop. What kind of Atlantic or Niagara might we infer from it? If the gospel gives us a little prototype of what the glory of God must be like in its eternal and infinite reverberations, what kind of detective work might we do with it?

I’m not fully sure how to answer that. But the metaphor reminds me of the vastness of God, and how little we yet see of Him. And it makes me think that things like joy (and love) are a lot Huger and Realer than my tiny experience of them.

“These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.” -Jonathan Edwards


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I’m excited to be teaching an online cohort on arguments for Christianity. We will dive deep into 6 topics, with a view to real conversations and the pressing questions of our culture. Lots of time for interaction. This will be fun! You’re invited to join us!