The Rosebush

A man wakes in the middle of the night to find a rosebush growing resplendently in the middle of the bedroom.  He knows it’s his bedroom, his bed, his furniture, his floor, yet from that floor sprouts this magnificent rose.  Since he is sure he knows where he is and what can and cannot be, he concludes that the rosebush must be a dream.

Then the scene changes.  The bedroom walls he knows so well start to warp and weave.  His bed seems to be melting, his furniture shape-shifting, and his floor no longer solid but liquid.  Trembling with confusion and fright, he reaches out to touch the rose and is bloodied by a thorn.

This says G.K. Chesterton is what has happened to modern man, and he said it in 1920 in an essay “The New Jerusalem, Collected Works, Volume XX, p.312ff.  Newton gave man the certainty that a wall was a wall, a bed a bed, a floor a floor.  Darwin came along operating on the fixed laws that Newton discovered and promptly used it to say what Newton never would:  Not just that there were very few miracles but there were no miracles.  Not that the supernatural was improbable in the natural world but impossible.

With this worldview modern man, felt secure in pronouncing something as strange as a rosebush in your bedroom or the Rose of Sharon (the Man who is God) unreal, a dream, an impossibility.  God couldn’t create in 6 days in their world; Jonah couldn’t be swallowed by a giant fish, and Bread couldn’t be Body and Wine couldn’t be blood.  But then Einstein happened.

Einstein talked of a fourth dimension, time, and not of dots (atoms) that one could definitely connect together but of electrons that one couldn’t predict with certainty and therefore couldn’t reliably connect.  This made modern man uncertain of his own bedroom walls, bed, and floor.  Science via quantum physics, the theory of relativity, and other things man can’t get his head around is destroying what man thought he knew.

In this state of crisis man is willing to reach out for the unexplainable, particularly when it remains constant amidst a world of change.  As his bedroom walls, bed, and floor shimmer and gleam like specters, he reaches out for what Darwin confidently told him couldn’t be, and he is surprised when the rosebush Darwin assured him couldn’t be real is.

Of course, what really needs to happen is for modern man to pull back his hand from the rose not with his own blood on him but that of the Rose of Sharon.  What Chesterton feared would happen is that modern man while discovering the reality of spiritual things in the universe would fail to realize that not all could be trusted.  A rose by any other name might still smell as sweet, but not every sweet smelling thing is the Rose of Shaorn.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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