I loved the movie 'Lincoln.' If you haven't seen it, there's no excuse for you to be reading this blog. You have something to do. If you have seen it, you'll remember the scene in which the President recalls a bit of Euclidian mathematics as a proof for human equality.
Abraham Lincoln, in the film, refers to this proof from Euclid: "Two things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other." I remember hearing this proof in a logic class in college, and even then seeing its uses in my daily life.
Logic is a terrific servant, but can be a terrible master in regards to theology. We have to remember not to constrain a poly-dimensional being, in this case God, to the three or four dimensions in which we operate. God doesn't feel the constraints of the river of time, so any talk of "pre" or "post" in regards to God can become burdensome and rob Him of His mystery and other-ness. In the same way, any argument which doesn't take into account the ways in which God has operated throughout history or the Scriptures is equally flawed. Which is why we must tread lightly and humbly in attempting to understand such a vast and lofty being.
Back to Euclid's proof. What can we use this for in terms of thinking about God? Does this have any theological significance for us, and does it help our understanding of Jesus? I think the implications of this proof are endless, but I'd like to take a look at one statement Jesus makes and go exploring.
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Jesus is the way. The way is Jesus. Jesus is truth. Truth is Jesus. Jesus is Life. Life is Jesus. Using transitive relation we get the above set of statements. The second set is the one that I find most interesting. Truth is Jesus and Jesus is Truth, so Jesus and Truth are equal to one another. All that is truth is equal to Jesus. Now, there's no way to "prove" this statement, but to a person who believes Christ's statement in John 14, or the Bible itself, Jesus presents an extremely interesting notion of Truth. This notion is basically a hypothetical syllogism because it is contingent on someone accepting an unprovable premise, namely the reliability of the Bible. If you accept Jesus, you must accept what He says about Himself. If you accept what He says about Himself, you accept that all that anywhere there is truth, there is Jesus--even if that truth exists outside of the realm of traditional Christianity or organized faith.
Please don't skip the rest of the article and burn me at the stake just yet.
This slope isn't as slippery as you might think and it doesn't necessarily lead to any heresies I can think of off the top of my head. Instead, it should allow us as believers in Christ to better relate to those outside of the faith and allow us to see God working even in things we once considered to be opposed to Him. Colossians 1:15-20 should always be our guide when thinking of the risen Christ--the One who is above all things, in all things, and in whom all things hold together.
We have to encourage people to seek the truth in whatever way they choose, knowing and trusting that if they truly seek Truth, they will find Him. This sounds dangerous, but if you accept Jesus at His words, there is nothing more certain than those seeking Truth are on the path to Jesus, even if they remain unaware to that fact. Allow me to frame this more carefully: Jesus is the absolute Truth and those earnestly looking for truth based on deviations from His absolute Truth will--if they stay faithful to finding Truth (Jeremiah 29:13)--find Jesus waiting for them with open arms. This isn't universalism, it's an understanding of life based on both John 14 and Matthew 7:7, "...seek and you will find..."
With open minds and hearts ready to accept rather than reject, we can begin to move through the world in the same way He did, knowing anything else equal to truth is necessarily equal to Him. Christianity doesn't have a monopoly on truths, but has the clearest image of Truth. We have to be careful not to fall into a quagmire of relativism, but also to be more aware of our similarities than our differences with all people. Just because we have found Truth doesn't give us license to judge, condemn, or impair any other person in their search. In fact, we are called to be lights in the world. Lights show people the way to Truth, allowing them to see more clearly that which they seek, allowing them to understand what confounds them, and allowing them to see Christ as the way instead of Christians in the way.