Paul Tillich was a philosopher and theologian in the early to mid twentieth century who defined two planes of understanding, horizontal and vertical. The horizontal plane is the stuff of the physical world, the finite, and the vertical plane represents the spiritual experience, the infinite. I believe that fundamentalism and doctrinal orthodoxy deal in the horizontal, and love and understanding of the human condition dwell in the vertical. I think that there is a point within a radius of the center of the intersection of these two planes that provides a healthy perspective on faith. In other words, there are realities of our world that that can only be attributed to the physical, but we choose how we understand and approach those realities. Religion deals in the horizontal, spirituality in the vertical, but they are both important in a healthy worldview.
As you know, My daughter went to the doctor again yesterday. She had tests done on Monday to inspect her kidneys and bladder and try to find the source of her recurring Urinary Tract Infections. I have been nurturing her along now for about six weeks as she continues to battle these infections, and I am starting to get scared. The doctor is consulting a urologist because he is kind of stumped. She has a fever today and is starting a new medication. I understand that I need to pursue a vertical experience if I am to have a healthy spiritual life, but I can’t escape the horizontal. I fear for my children.
I pore over our budget. I get excited and angry about the trivial things in my life. The mistake though, I think, is to try to bring God onto my horizontal plane and to understand my life in a purely finite way. Facts and absolutes are horizontal, faith and love are vertical. I believe I may never find the perfect balance, but it is my intent to try.