“Mmmmph,” said my aging and aching husband, who had just crammed the upper half of his body into the cabinet under the bathroom sink in yet another heroic battle against an apparently permanent clog. It would have been a painful task even for a young fellow, and I admired his persistence.
As it turned out, we didn’t start the puzzle that morning. But as I drove down the gray streets toward the stores that at least add some color to our bleak winter landscape, the image of that jigsaw frame kept dancing around in my mind.
At first, I thought it was just wishful thinking, because for some reason it’s the part of puzzle-making I like the least; perhaps I was hoping I’d come home to find that Dave had already completed it.
But later, as Dave and I sat and watched an AFC divisional playoff game between the Broncos and the Patriots (a game of little interest to us, since the Packers had weeks earlier been eliminated from playoff contention), I picked up my knitting and found that the puzzle frame was still hanging around in the back of my mind.
“Get lost,” I thought to the image. “Maybe we’ll get you started next weekend.”
It grinned at me like the Cheshire cat – no doubt because I’d seen Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” again just before Christmas.
“Okay,” I told the image. “What are you trying to tell me?”
The analogy suddenly became obvious: A finished jigsaw puzzle represents truth. And the frame – that all-important first step in puzzle-solving – represents one’s worldview.
I wish I could say that this was an original idea, but I’m quite sure it wasn’t. Although to my shame I can’t say specifically which of the authors I’d read over the previous five-plus years had used the jigsaw analogy, I know that more than one had done so.
But thanks to these writers, whoever they may be, as the Broncos were whipping the Patriots, I saw my jigsaw frame as a worldview.
It winked at me, Lewis Carroll and Walt Disney conspiring to entertain me into thoughts deeper than defensive strategies and the knit-one-row, purl-one-row scheme of my sweater-in-progress.
What if we could see the Truth in a jigsaw puzzle – a puzzle so enormous and elaborate that it couldn’t be completed in this life, but one that anyone with any sense is compelled to work on?
Well, then, we would start out just as I wanted Dave to begin our mystery puzzle: By identifying and positioning the corners, each having two straight edges, as well as the pieces making up the frame’s four “legs” – those having a single straight edge.
These pieces would share certain characteristics making them trustworthy as contributors to the worldview of Truth. There would be none based solely on speculation or emotion or fantasy; all would be verifiable. There would be no missing pieces, and no pieces that merely came close to fitting. In the end, they would all have to fall into place perfectly, without the need for force or distortion. And there could be no edge pieces left over, to be discarded because they just didn’t fit into the framework.
I liked this idea. My fingers flying fast and furious on automatic pilot as I knitted up the no-need-to-count sweater back, I tried the idea out on various worldviews.
For instance, I figured that if we chose the frame of biblical Christianity, we might find that the corner pieces are the evidence for Jesus Christ’s resurrection, for a young earth having undergone a catastrophic hydraulic event, for the Bible’s unfailing historical accuracy, and for thousands of detailed prophecies fulfilled. And we might find that the rest of the frame is composed of associated evidences, everything from archeological findings at Jericho and Sodom to modern science’s discovery that the sun does indeed have its own orbit, just as Psalm 19 revealed thousands of years ago.
From what I’d learned over the last five-plus years, was there any piece that would fit only when forced, or one that would have to be discarded because of incompatibility with the biblical framework? I couldn’t think of one, not even from all the atheist stuff I continued to put to the test.
Dave woke me from my reverie with a disgusted groan. I focused on the TV again: Denver had apparently scored again, putting the game out of the Patriots’ reach. Not that it mattered, of course, but because Denver had defeated the Packers in SuperBowl XXXII, whereas we beat the Patriots in SuperBowl XXXI, we would’ve been slightly happier with a Patriots victory in this game.
“Oh well,” he said, returning to his paperback thriller.
“Oh well,” I agreed, returning to my knitting and phantom jigsaw puzzle.
I tested the framework of evolution-powered naturalism, and immediately ran into a problem with what would have to be a corner piece: positive, additive genetic mutation, the mechanism evolution relied on for transforming creatures from one kind into another. This sort of mutation is necessary to this worldview – and yet the evidence says it doesn’t happen: Instead of adding information to a creature’s DNA, genetic mutations almost invariably distort or destroy existing information.
I tried substituting another corner piece: TBD, as in To Be Determined. “Scientists just haven’t figured it out yet,” an advocate of this framework would say. “But they will some day.”
But TBD was speculation – way too shaky a premise to serve in the framework of a worldview, let alone as a corner piece. It wasn’t verifiable. And that meant we were left with another gaping hole in our frame.
I took a spin with what I knew about pantheistic religions, and again found myself without decent corner pieces. “Because it works” just doesn’t cut it when “it” involves entirely subjective criteria.
I tried the “everyone’s right” philosophy of One World Religion and noticed immediately the two-sided “Jesus was nothing more than a great teacher” piece. That ruled out this framework; I’d determined long ago, with the help of writers from C. S. Lewis to Lee Strobel, that this idea had no legs.
“Go Steelers,” Dave said.
The Patriots had just been intercepted, ending any chance of a miracle come-back.
“Or Colts,” I added. We were torn. We liked Bill Cowher and his Steelers a lot. But we’ve always liked Tony Dungy a lot, too, and he and Cowher would be facing off the next day.
“Or Colts,” Dave agreed.
It struck me that for years, I’d been willing to use any Jesus-free worldview frame, even though they provided practically nothing to work with; that’s probably why I figured no one could answer these big-picture questions. I was immediately grateful that I was no longer stuck in that no-man’s-land, because now my puzzle was coming along very nicely.
It won’t be finished this side of heaven; we can’t even imagine what the finished picture will look like. But there’s only one spot for each piece – and every time I put another into place, I get another glimmer of eternity.
(from Heaven Without Her, pages 186-190)