Saturday, March 06, 2010

Answers


Answers are overrated.

Answers to difficult questions about God and His relationship to mankind are overrated, anyway.

I don't mean to completely downplay the value of having good, reliable answers to honest and fair questions. Unlike the poster (at left) seen in the quaint-but-ominous "Village" of the enigmatic mid-1960s British TV series "The Prisoner," my purpose is not to discourage curiosity or control freedom to ask.

I just want to point out that at a certain point, human wisdom ends (Ecclesiastes 1:16-17). At a certain point, God's willingness to explain Himself ends (Ephesians 1:9). At a certain point, our ability to understand what God might try to reveal to us, ends (Job 38).

Where believers too often go wrong - to the right or to the left, as the books of Moses say - is in latching on to the answers/interpretations of one man (or one group of men) and anchoring our souls to them as if they necessarily were the very words of God.

May I suggest a rule of thumb? If a belief system has the name of its human creator attached to it, or can be traced to a human creator; if it has "ism" at the end of its name, it is a teaching of man (Matthew 15:9 et al). It is not a doctrine of God. It is a disputable matter (Romans 14:1). It goes beyond a doctrine of God; beyond what God was willing to teach us in His word (2 John 1:9).

And it's not worthy of your time or mind or heart ... certainly not your soul.

Oh, it may have value in illuminating some aspect of the questions you have in your heart; I don't discount that for a moment.

Calvinism has much to teach about God's sovereignty (Psalm 68:20; Jude 1:4) - as long as we don't let it persuade us that His sovereignty invalidates the gift of choice He has given us.

Universalism reminds us that God, indeed, is patient and is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) - as long as we don't permit it to convince us that "... but that all should come to repentance" is somehow optional.

Even legalism can serve to nudge our memory about the importance of obedience over mere "mental assent" belief - if we see obedience as the response of a grateful and believing heart rather than as the works by which we somehow earn salvation (Philippians 7:11; Epehsians 2:4-10).

"Being certain of Scripture's authority is humility. Being certain my interpretation is always right is arrogance." ~ Rick Warren, on Twitter (not too many hours ago)

"Faith is not opposed to knowledge; it is opposed to sight. And grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning." ~ Dallas Willard, Hearing God

I don't have to agree with everything these two fellows teach in order to see wisdom in these words. What they - or you, or I - might be wrong about does not negate what we are right about, and what we know: God's grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9); that His revelation of His will for us is sufficient (Romans 1:16-17); that His grace supplies everything that we need (Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 9:8).

So if you catch yourself thinking (as I still frequently do): "I have to understand the answer to this, or I just can't believe anymore!" - just remember how much He has already revealed, provided, given and therefore forgiven:

His Son, in a manger, on a cross, in a tomb, now at His right hand.

Don't you think that's enough?

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." ~ Romans 15:13

4 comments:

nick gill said...

I think that'll preach. I've been striving so hard this year to give up all -isms.

That's really good news, Keith. I do think that's enough.

Keith Brenton said...

Thanks, Nick. Of course, I ought to add that the reader should regard ALL teachings of men with a skeptical eye and one hand ready to search the scriptures - including this blog!

laymond said...

Mt: 15:9: But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Jn: 7:16: Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
1 Tm :6:3: If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
4: He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
5: Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

mmlace said...

Really good stuff, brother. And very true. Thanks.