I read the Sherlock Holmes’ case “The Five Orange Pips” recently, and it struck me that a reader could view the conclusion as a success or failure according to his worldview. The story itself is a bit of a disappointment. The client appears with a dramatic story. Holmes talks through his initial observations, and the next day, he discusses some conclusions. The story occurs almost entirely within his apartment. The final words describe what Watson could ascertain about the suspected criminals at sea.
Once Holmes does the office work to pinpoint some likely suspects, he mails a letter to them and one to the American authorities in order to apprehend them for murder charges in Britain; but all they ever heard was “that somewhere far out in the Atlantic a shattered stern-post of the boat was seen swinging in the trough of a wave, with the letters ‘L. S.’ carved upon it.” Watson could only assume the ship with the suspects was destroyed in the violent storms that day.
How does that strike you? Did the criminals escape justice through an accident which could have killed anyone? Did Holmes fail because he could see the murderers prosecuted? Or did a divine judge execute his own sentence on them through the storm?
In Dallas Willard’s book, The Divine Conspiracy, he writes about some of the words we use to describe our world. We used to use the word heaven to describe the atmosphere near us, the space between planets and stars, and the location of God, angels, and departed saints. We called them the first, second, and third heavens. Now we call them the first two sky or air and space. Do the words imply different things for you? Sky and space imply nothingness or an empty location. Heaven suggests something spiritual. Willard suggests that we hinder our viewpoint by thinking of God in heaven somewhere, removed from us, maybeâ€”we hopeâ€”paying attention to us; but when the Bible was written, part of heaven was the air we breathed. The spirit of God was in the wind.
So when Holmes’ prime suspect are lost at sea, are the victims of blind nature or the subjects of God’s justice? And in our daily lives, are we accidentally alive, no more significant than the ants cued up over the garden stones, or do we benefit from divine provision in the strength we have to walk, to work, and to play?
Here’s another language question based on the same worldview. If a disabled person cannot feed himself, would feeding him be “forcing him to continue living” and would starving him “letting him die?” If so, am I forcing my children to live by feeding them? I call it nurture, and I don’t understand why so many are arguing over it.