The parable of the maze

By Peter Corney

There is a Greek myth called the Maze of Minos. According to the myth the maze or labyrinth was built on the island of Crete by the King of Crete. In the heart of this maze lived a terrible and fierce beast, half man half bull known as the Minator.

Because the Athenians had killed a son of the king of Crete he demanded an annual sacrifice from them of seven young men and seven young women, they were sacrificed to the beast of the maze.

To bring this terrible obligation to an end the king of Athens sends his son Theseus to slay the beast. This was a very risky strategy, the maze was a very dangerous place many had attempted this before and failed to return.

It was easy to get lost in the maze. It was full of bypaths, dead ends and false trails. There were shadowy and dark places where one lost ones bearings. Strange mists and gases could suddenly descend to seduce the senses. Spirits and disembodied voices called confusing directions. It was so easy to loose your way or even forget who you were, where you had come from and why you had come. And of course always waiting for you to drop your guard was the monster of the maze, the Minator.

But the young prince of Athens successfully negotiates the maze, slays the beast and returns. The key to his success was a gift from the princess Ariadne, a special jeweled cord. He kept himself from getting lost by letting out the cord as he ventured into the maze. The cord also reminded him constantly of who he was, where he had come from and why he had come on the journey. Because the cord went all the way back to where he had started he was able to find his way back. So the cord, with its jewels sewn in every few meters and given out of love kept him connected to his origins, his purpose and his identity and so saved him.

We can translate this myth into a parable for the Christian life. Every new generation of thoughtful young Christians has to explore the spirit of their age, the intellectual ideas and moral values of the world they live in and the new frontiers of knowledge. They need to face the challenges that these present to their Christian faith and values. They must confront and measure the critique of their beliefs by the contemporary culture. They must evaluate the validity of the current plausibility structure, what people find easy or hard to believe and why. They need to know and reflect on the intellectual history of the Church and see how Christians have responded to similar issues in the past. They have to review the expression of the faith they have received and see if it is relevant to the issues of their day. They have to enter the maze! There will from time to time be a monster in the maze like fascism and the Nazis that the German Christians faced in the 1930’s or the decadent consumerism and selfism of today. Like the maze of Minos the spirit of the age is a very seductive and confusing place it is easy to get lost and never return.

The only way to avoid getting lost or your faith being destroyed in this maze is to have a way of remaining connected to your faith origins, to where you have come from. You need the gift of love, Ariadne’s jeweled cord. You must keep remembering where you have come from, the foundations of your faith and why you began this journey or you may never return.

As a Christian you can do that in a number of ways:

  1. If you have had a conversion or critical faith experience through which you became a Christian or your inherited faith became vital and personal, then do not despise or denigrate it, cherish it. You may no longer feel comfortable with all the surroundings of your spiritual birthplace but it was your birthplace and God called you to him in that place and experience. There may be social and cultural factors, even the style and attitude of the people associated with the event or experience that you no longer feel an affinity with but you should not allow that to undermine the reality and validity of Gods action in your life at that time. Retain the truth of what God did in your life.
  2. Remain connected with the Christian community. In spite of its imperfections, attending the weekly gathering of God’s people with its constant reminder of the fundamentals of our faith, the regular exposure to teaching from Gods Word and the fellowship with other believers is essential.
  3. To keep contemporary and cultural challenges in perspective you need to retain the bigger historic picture. Contemporary challenges to the Christian faith often have a very narrow and historically provincial basis; they are frequently tied to the world view of the day and ignore the larger sweep of the history of thought and practice. Retaining the long view and the bigger picture and the classic beliefs of historic Christianity that have existed in many cultures and epochs is very important to resist being blown about by every contemporary cultural and ideological squall.
  4. Keep reading God’s word regularly and thoughtfully.
  5. Keep praying. Remember Christianity is a relational faith. It is about loving God and loving our neighbor. To keep our relationship alive we need to communicate with God.
  6. Beware of cynicism it is the acid of the soul. It reinforces despair, paralyses action and feeds the loss of hope. Oscar Wild once said “a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

    These are some of the jewels in the thread that will keep you connected to your past and your identity in Christ.

    Now of course you can not return from such a journey unchanged. The experience will deepen and toughen you. You can not battle the maze and its monster successfully without learning much about yourself and a great deal more about your faith foundations and God’s gift to you.