Spiritual Truths

But what about “spiritual truths”? In the previous entry, “Revisiting the Knothole“, I explained why I believe my Master reveals more of Himself through others than He does through me personally. But that’s not the whole story, it can’t be. There’s a question I left hanging in the air that I intentionally avoided. If our Teacher is the Holy Spirit, then why do disciples of Jesus disagree so often about theological points?

I mentioned three systematic theological categories, ecclesiology, anthropology, and soteriology. I also mentioned that I differ from a lot of people in those categories. So, how is that possible? If the same Spirit teaching me is the same spirit teaching those who differ in how they define those categories, then who’s right? Think through that quote from Jeremiah again:

Hebrews 8:10 (NASB, emphasis mine)

We make a lot of the fact that our Creator will “write” on our hearts, and “put” into our minds, but we don’t really think through what He writes and puts. His “law” is what He puts in our minds and writes on our hearts. As disciples of Jesus, we aren’t subject to the law, though. Well, we’re not subject to the old law as a means of righteousness, that’s true. But it seems that our Creator still has a set of standards for us as His disciples.

Notice what isn’t being written on our hearts: systematic theological categories. He doesn’t write on our hearts things like whether we can walk away from Jesus or not. He doesn’t write whether people have an extra-dimensional existence or not. He doesn’t write whether we can experience Him outside of a congregation of disciples or not. He’s not writing those things on our hearts. Instead, He inspired the vague answers we have in Scripture.

You see where I’m going with this? We know that we should be loving toward each other, because He has written that on our hearts. We know that we should serve one another, because He has written that on our hearts. And we know that He saves us from our failures in those areas because our Creator is merciful and forgiving. He is our Savior as well as Creator. That much we know from the presence of His Spirit. We are saved by grace through faith. And even that faith is a gift of the Spirit of our Savior.

Theological vagaries, these are not as important to our Creator. They can’t be. They’re simply areas where we live, walking about in His presence. And we do so together, each of us seeing a different aspect and truth of the same Creator and Savior, yet all consistent with the Spirit indwelling His disciples, and the Scripture He has inspired. Yet, this throng lives and moves, sharing partial views of this incomprehensible Person. And without the sharing, we limit our views of Him, for He is simply too vast for even Scripture (John 21:25).

Okay, that’s my view through the fence today. What do you see?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation


The God I Worship

I probably shouldn’t write angry, and so, this post may never see the light of day. I am angry. I have stumbled upon a practice that smacks of idolatry, and does so from Scripture. We sometimes forget that Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus as he tempted our Savior in the wilderness. Just because a believer quotes Scripture and relies on an interpretation of Scripture does not guarantee a valid view of our Creator and King.

The scary corollary to this is that, to follow a path along a wrong interpretation leads to idolatry. Was that saying too much? When I think about it, it angers me. When I assert my Master to be a certain way, and He has revealed Himself through Scripture in a way contrary to my assertion, I have a choice. I can either recant my assertion, or worship my god, the one of my own making, and not my Creator. Perhaps that is to state it too strongly, but I feel very strongly about this. I’m angry, as I have bleated repeatedly.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered as I’ve studied Scripture for the last 30+ years:

  1. God appears contradictory. He does, it’s inescapable, and we may not like it, but it remains true. We don’t have to fix it, it’s not something to be “figured out”, and it wasn’t a “mistake”. He reveals Himself that way on purpose.
  2. God defines “good” and “evil”, “life” and “death”, and is the Creator of all four of them. And, because we don’t understand these terms very well, we often miss that He causes all four. It doesn’t bother Him, that’s how He reveals Himself, wrestling with that is part of our walk with Him.
  3. God saves. He rescues people from the problem of death by providing life. He doesn’t have to, He chooses to. To do so, He chooses to suffer on our behalf. If a Creator capable of suffering is antithetical to your philosophical categories, then you have crucial a choice. And it is a choice between life and death.
  4. God loves and God hates. As with “life”, “death”, “good”, and “evil”, He defines “love” and “hate”. We either love and hate according to His definitions, or we choose our own definitions of those terms. Our terms will be wrong.
  5. The four preceding views are subject to change as my Master reveals more of Himself to me through Scripture.

A pause to calm down occurred between point 4 and 5. It’s been over a week now since I wrote the preceding paragraphs in anger. I feel much better, and clearer now…I think.

Here’s an example of what I mean. One of the characteristics of claimed of our Creator by many theologians, especially from the Renaissance, is that He is immutable: He cannot change, He never changes. The reasoning is that if He did, either He wasn’t perfect enough before the change, and improved; or He was more perfect before the change, and degraded. The basis for this are verses where God claims not to change:

God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Numbers 23:19 ESV

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

Malachi 3:6 ESV

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17 ESV

So, with such an array of Scripture behind such a view, how can we think otherwise of our Creator and Savior? Unless, of course, we have other Scripture where our Savior did change. One of my favorites is below:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Philippians 2:5-7 ESV (Emphasis mine)

How does an “unchangeable” God empty Himself? And if He didn’t actually empty Himself, how then was Jesus fully man? If He was fully man as Jesus, was He fully man before? I don’t think Scripture teaches that. In fact, what seems to be taught here in Philippians is that this humanity of Jesus was a change.

In other words, while clearly there things about God that He refuses to change, His purpose for instance, there are things that, to achieve His purpose, He changes about Himself. He was of a mind to destroy Israel in the wilderness, but changed His mind. God “repents” of a decision. He even was sorry that He made man, then sorry that He wiped out humanity in a flood.

So, what’s the point? It isn’t about the “mutability” of my Savior. That’s a minor issue in the face of the real one. The point is the danger of idolatry when we persist in our belief that our Creator and Savior is somehow other than how He reveals Himself in Scripture. That’s a serious problem, one where we prioritize ourselves and our culture above our Creator and Savior. Yet, even for this sin, our Savior has patience, and calls for repentance.