The Faith of Sherlock Holmes
by Armando Heredia 9/19/2006 / Christian Living
Sherlock Holmes is the single most profound literary influence on my faith in Jesus Christ. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s elementary, my dear Watson. (It’s funny, Sherlock only said this once in any of the original stories, he also didn’t wear that goofy hat but it was used in an artist’s rendering and there you go.)
The incredible observations made by Sherlock Holmes point me to a greater truth than what is happening in the plot of the story. There is a secret in those stories, a spiritual secret that whispers in the background and beckons us in the shadows of Watson’s descriptive narration.
Sherlock Holmes walks in revelation, knowing through keen observation how things happen and why people have done things and where everything is going. Poor Watson is in the dark most of the time and in the end, after Sherlock explains everything he sees it and remarks how simple it all really was.
Of course I know that Sherlock Holmes isn’t a “real” character and his life is the creation of a very imaginative author, and that, my friend, is the point. You see, Sherlock is based on the image of a real character, fleshed out in a time frame with a beginning and an ending. His sole purpose is to reveal the wisdom of his author’s foreknowledge. We are “alive” in this world to choose where we will spend eternity in the “real” world. Jesus Christ is the author of our “story.”
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 KJV
A side note, the reason we have a hard time hearing God speak through literature or art is because we have, in our compartmentalized thought process, relegated Him, The Author and The Artist, to Sunday sermons that are usually shouted by red faced preachers who think that volume can make up for substance. Sorry, we’ll go back to Sherlock.
Sherlock Holmes lives a life of design, with no random chance and no coincidences. You know why? It’s because Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the series, knew the end from the beginning. He went into the story knowing the answer to the mystery and he revealed it through his character to the world a little at a time.
That’s us, you and me! We are created in the image or likeness of God (Genesis 1:26) and His intent was that through the church the manifold wisdom of God would be made known. (Ephesians 3:10) Jesus Christ not only knows the answer to the mystery of life, He is the answer, and He’s using us to reveal Himself to a world that is as clueless and blind to the facts as the pompous inspectors that begrudgingly employ Holmes or even Watson himself.
Just like the Baker Street team, you and I have had what seemed to be the most bizarre coincidences, random happenings and unusual circumstances happen in our lives, and as fragments they made no sense at all, but then we come to the understanding that our lives are a story, written by an Author that knows the end from the beginning and everything becomes clearer.
“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” Isaiah 46:10 KJV
The more I read, the more I am convinced that God not only exists, but is in every minute detail of our lives. The smallest coincidence, the most obscure pieces of evidence are pointing, declaring, proving that He is and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 KJV
The word “seek” in this passage of scripture is from the Greek word “ekzeteo” which is a compound word. “Ek” is a primary preposition denoting origin… out (of place, time, or cause; literal or figurative) and “zeteo” means “of uncertain affinity.” (blueletterbible.org) Affinity is an attraction between two elements. God placed within us an inherent desire to know Him, to scrutinize Him, to hold him up close to our faces and put a magnifying glass on Him. To see how tall He is by looking at the distance between His footsteps, to understand His vocation by looking at His hands.
“And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” Zechariah 13:6 KJV
To seek Him is to find the secret place where the attraction becomes so strong, that you become one with Him. Jesus said, “ And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22 KJV) Jesus was from that secret place and He dwelled in perfect unison with the Father.
Here’s the difference between us and Sherlock, he sees and observes. We pass by the same truth everyday, but fail to comprehend it because we look at it, but we don’t look into it. We are caught up in all of the distractions, but he has a single purpose, to unveil the mysterious. Every detail along the way is only pointing him to that one thing. I love how he is able to take the most foolish things (in and of themselves) and diagnose the character, habits and other details about a man or his circumstance and leave his clients and colleagues confused and bewildered. How does he do that? Simple, the author reveals it to him and through him.
The same thing happened to the prophets of the scripture. God peeled back a part of the veneer called time and revealed to those characters in the story a future event, sometimes just an allusion, other times a picture that was so detailed the prophet had no capacity to adequately describe it. Actually, He still uses the same modus operandi, using some obscure passage of scripture preached through the frail lips of some flawed preacher or a word from a friend or stranger that speaks to your present situation. That’s time within infinity. Here’s how Paul described it to the church in
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:” 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
At first glance Sherlock’s world seems more finite than ours. You can read the last chapter of “The Final Problem” when Sherlock tumbles into an abyss and dies along with his arch nemesis today and then read about how he and Watson met tomorrow. That’s how eternity works. Look, if there is no time in eternity, than time cannot be an event, it must be a place, like a book on a shelf. We think God is writing all of this as we go along and He’s surprised when we do something great, make a mistake or even sin on purpose, but to Him it’s already done. Who knows how many times our chapter has been read and re-read by God, or even ourselves. Whoa, that’s a little hard to wrap your brain around, but think about it. If we are someday going into eternity, than what does time have to constrain us from pulling the Book off of the shelf and reading it? He does it in Revelation:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Revelation 20:12
Of course that brings up issues like predestination, but we’ll tackle that at another time.
The most profound concept is not the fact that we exist or that God does, but the fact that you and I will one day step out of this story, this place of finiteness and see Him, The Author, face to face. That would be like Sherlock Holmes stepping off of the page and sitting down for a chat with Arthur Conan Doyle and as absurd as that sounds, that’s what the Bible points us to. We don’t know what we’ll be like, but we’ll be like Him, wow.
So what is this story that He’s writing? Why a love story, of course, or maybe it’s a mystery, although sometimes it really feels like a tragic comedy. It’s everything, sometimes all at once, sometimes one genre or another, but it’s definitely about Him saving His Bride, that’s us.
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Hebrews 5:9
So, as Sherlock Holmes says, “Eliminate all of the impossibilities and whatever remains must be the truth, however improbable.”
2009. Armando Heredia
Armando serves as co-pastor of Tapestry in Granite City, IL and is an artist and author.