Looking at the Wall...


Implications-- set Seven: the 'codedness' of revelation


  1. We have seen that language, texts, experience, 'reality' (as known through experiment--a mixed interaction of all of these) ALL had a certain 'ambiguity' in them, depending on the 'context' or semantic 'working hypothesis' of the observer. (There are, of course, MANY, MANY other factors--intellectual, social, ethical-- that can radically affect this process.)

  2. At the macro-level, this ambiguity allows us some interesting options in the area of communications.

  3. For example, I can send 'coded messages' via shared statements in meetings to people who share similar backgrounds or experiences. If a sub-group of us are Tolkien-freaks, I can make allusions in a meeting that will be understood differently by the Tolkien-freaks, than by the others there (the latter group will process the reference--assuming it is not a proper name--but not 'get' the coded message).

  4. I can even communicate non-verbally using this flexibility. If I build a pattern of leaving a half-dozen daisies on my secretaries' desk each time she does a good job--over a period of months/years--and then one day, after a huge effort on her part, leave her TWO DOZEN ROSES--the message will be extremely clear, and generally MUCH MORE effective than many alternatives. The gestalt speaks.

  5. Or to take it one step farther-- I could write messages ahead of time, for discovery by the recipient at certain moments. For example, an executive who leaves for a long trip might mail cards to her husband at home, keying the messages to known chronological events in the guy's life (e.g. the little league game on Tuesday, the church meeting on Wednesday).

  6. Twenty-five years ago I read the Foundation trilogy. I remember so little of it now, but the overall pattern of some authority sealing up instructions for the distant future has stuck with me until now. In the plotline, as I recall, the civilization grew and grew and expanded in ever-increasing circles of population and spatial expanse. With each epoch in its history, the civilization faced a new crisis. The wise founding fathers had loaded up time-capsules that were to be sealed until distant and multiple future points in time. When the civilization reached that time period, it opened up the capsule and PRESTO!--there was advice on how to solve the problem they faced right then! In other words, here was delayed communication that was very much STILL communication. [Now, as it later turned out in the series, the communication was FAKE, but as an illustration for my purposes this wouldn't make a difference--it is the notion of pre-build communication that I am exploring here.]

  7. To put all of these together--If someone were clever enough (theoretically), they could compose a compound document with tons of coded messages, each of which would only be appreciated (and maybe only even noticed) by sub-groups of the general population; with enough 'difficult' details to dissuade those the author did NOT want to read the messages; with some time-release data that would have NOT been understood at point of origination (but set up to 'spring forth' as external conditions in civilization provided an adequate semantic context for the 'dots' to become Mona); with deliberate 'power' at a macro-level, and yet with an elusiveness at a micro-level.

  8. And I, centuries later, in a crisis over finances, might read a section in this 'capsule' and 'see' a message that 'sprang out at me' (i.e. a semantic unit that was implicit in the ambiguity of the symbol-stream, but which now was 'selected' by a new and more precise context--my crisis and the questions thereof.) I might have read that section a hundred times before and never 'selected' that nuance from it--having never brought a more specific context to it.

  9. [It is in this arena that I think the 'texts have no definite meaning' camps over-state their case. On the one hand, the case I just mentioned makes the text look more 'fluid' than might be assumed given a historical authorial situation/event, but this doesn't necessarily mean the newer meanings were NOT present in the original event in a less precise concept. And, on the other hand, SOME meanings--although perhaps vivid and life-changing--can be shown to be NOT WITHIN THE RANGE OF AMBIGUITY of the given text. In other words, one can have extensible meanings of a text, without having the text mean ANYTHING a receptor construes it to 'mean'. There is a vigorous interaction between the fixedness of socially-constructing languages and the extensible nature of language and reference--and the archimedian reference point is the pragmatics (and ethics) of macro-level usage--can it be used to serve our 'purpose' in the universe WITH INTEGRITY.]

  10. The bottom line here is that a God (at least of the personal/hyper-conscious sort) COULD construct a message so coded as to allow him/her/they to disclose selected data to ONLY selected groups. The receptor group(s) would have to have similar (but not identical) intersubjective 'orientations' and/or 'working hypotheses' of what such a god might communicate (perhaps constructed through interaction with GENERAL revelation in nature, conscience, culture). What other readers would 'see' in such a message deposit would be patternless data, perhaps conflicting data (if the message had been so constructed), but CERTAINLY no MONA LISA! And there would seem to be little possibility of either side getting the other side to see or un-see their experience.

  11. Let's play with this idea for a moment, especially in the context of personal disclosure: a macro-level experience. At the individual human level, we 'open up to' people with positive approaches to us. We disclose details about our 'inner self' to people who 1) start positive and 2) prove trustworthy and discreet with what we share with them. Conversely, if we detect a negative attitude, mis-trusting, exploitative, closed, etc. we tend to be reserved and contained with respect to our innermost thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, etc. And we ITERATE with these receptors. As I share my life with someone, and they reciprocate, and the trust is honored, discretion is maintained, etc...then I open myself up more to them. And all the more so as their response increases in intensity. The more they 'get into' our sharing, the FASTER I bring them closer into confidence.

  12. The converse is sadly true as well. As I take the risk and share my heart with someone, if they betray that confidence and cause harm, damage, embarrassment--or in some cases EVEN QUESTION MY HONESTY ABOUT THE FACT I DISCLOSED!--I may make attempts to 'confuse' their memory of what data I DID GIVE them--to render it less 'dangerous' for me.

  13. One other observation I have made about personal disclosure. In a first meeting with someone, I can tell if they think I am a 'good person' and I find a natural tendency to respond positively to this experience, and so I open up to these individuals more. If, on the other hand, I encounter a person who already has decided that I am a jerk or a schemer or whatever, I find that I am evasive on personal matters and have a natural tendency to 'keep the meeting formal'. (Now, quite frankly, in my experience over the years, the Lord has built a ramp in MY life that has me 'stay open' longer, giving people the benefit of the doubt for a while, and hoping to 'soften' a hard-souled individual with friendliness...as I have been in the past myself!...so the reaction is not automatic and instantaneous.)

  14. So, if someone approaches me with a NEGATIVE base set of expectations, I deal with them formally. If someone approaches me with a POSITIVE base set of expectations, I open up my life and 'disclose'.

  15. At this point in my thinking, this is exactly the model of special revelation (i.e. revelation above and beyond that in nature and providence--generally focuses on the Bible and theophanies). God has provided this message deposit (i.e. the bible) that contains 'coded' messages for those with some range of POSITIVE base sets (including simple openness) toward His person.

  16. We actually have biblical warrants for this aspect:

  17. So the data SEEMS (at first blush) to indicate that we must approach God with a positive, and expectant view of His goodness. (Notice how different this seems from a skeptical or even academic perspective--the issue is a personal, macro one apparently.) Only in this manner, will God disclose the 'coded' messages in the Bible and experience to us.

  18. [This is, of course, a VERY COARSE statement of the position, but the general drift should be clear. The model of divine disclosure is that of 'personal disclosure' -- a personal sharing with those who respond appropriately.]


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