Faith and Mystery
Two questions that have been asked in “Alpha” have something in common. One question is about the Trinity. How can Father be God, Jesus be God, and Holy Spirit be God and yet the Bible is clear, there is One God? The other question is how can we explain that our eternal salvation is our choice to choose and yet the Bible says God has chosen those who are going to be saved from the foundation of the earth?
These seem like direct contradictions. Some philosophers take a “postmodern” view that truth has many view points: “This can be your truth and that can be my truth”. As Christians, we do not believe that. We believe in the law of non-contradiction. We don’t believe that 2+2 can sometimes equal 4 and sometimes equal 5. Scripture is not a contradiction to reason. In Acts 26:25 (NIV), when Paul was arguing for the truth of Christ before King Agrippa, he said, “What I’m saying is true and reasonable.” Peter said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you for the reason of the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15, NIV)) In other words, faith is reasonable but our faith goes beyond what reason is able to prove.
When we see apparent contradictions, we believe these truths are simply part of the multifaceted wisdom of God and come together in the large frame-reference from which God sees. You have heard how five blind men described an elephant differently, depending on what part of the elephant they could touch. One, who touched the tail described the elephant as a snake-like creature. Another describing the legs said an elephant is like a huge tree.
There are some things humans cannot come close to comprehending, much less describing or explaining the infinite truths of God’s wisdom. We are like ants trying to explain the internet. Think of how inadequate our language is when trying to explain our world. For example, try to describe the taste of coffee to someone who has never tasted it. “It tastes sort of ...uhh... coffeeish?” If language is so inadequate to describe earthly things how much more inadequate is it to describe the infinite attributes of God?
God refuses to allow us to subpoena Him to go before the court of our human reasoning. Our minds would put God in a box and actually keep us from knowing and experiencing Him in His fullness. God has chosen to put Himself beyond the limits of our mind in many things because He wants to establish our relationship with Him based on trust and not just our reason. I think of it as a 5-year-old who questions everything you are trying to teach him. “Why? Why?” But a 5-year old does not need to understand everything about an electric wire, that has the potential to harm him. For now, you have to just insist that he trusts you enough to obey. The famous philosopher said “Don’t seek to understand so that you can believe, seek to believe so that you can eventually understand.”
In the questions about the Trinity-three in One and free will/selection, the arguments for both sides are grounded in the Scripture. While the two sides of these truths don’t come fully together in our mind, they do provide a strong foundation for knowing and experiencing God more.
You may have heard quotes like, “Pray as though it all depended on God, work as though it depended on you.” These illustrate one of the critical keys to Bible and truth interpretation.
I’ve always appreciated Deuteronomy 29:29 (NIV), that gives a beautiful interpretive key about truth. It says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” In the Scripture, we find God gives more than enough light and reason to validate our belief in Him, but not enough necessarily to erase the doubts of those who would choose not to believe.
God is adamant that a relationship with Him be built on trust, that is rooted in humility. We acknowledge the gap between what is true and what we can fully understand. This trust causes us to rely on an understanding that the Bible speaks of as “revelation”. Revelation is where the Holy Spirit of truth, who is with us and in us, deeply confirms God’s truth to us. Job had this experience after questioning why his family had been killed. He said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5 NIV) Job didn’t get an answer to his question but received a greater revelation of the wisdom and love of God. This empowered him to trust and know God had a good plan, in spite of his understanding. This verse also points out that in God’s Word, there is everything we need to confidently know His will for our lives and the power that enables us to do His will. He may not reveal to us how many angels can fit in a room, but He will give us full knowledge of how to love our grouchy neighbor.
As it relates to the Trinity, the unity of God is essential for many reasons. It is important to realize God wasn’t standing by watching His Son suffer; this was God Himself suffering for us in our place. God is One. At the same time, by understanding the unique role of the members of the Godhead we are able to grasp how the Father is the owner of the house, the Son paid for the house, and the Holy Spirit is the keeper and the One who dwells in the house. With a revelation of the Trinity we see the Lord with us in every area of our need, giving us a sense of special access to His resources.
As it relates to free will and God’s sovereign selection, we cannot fully grasp it. One writer described it as God being the Author of a playscript that has a designated ending. However, each actor is free to write their own script, within or without the will or intent of the Author. Although their parts are not “determined” by an external irresistible will, the Author always yearns and pleads for every actor to choose the script intended for redemption. However, because the Author from eternity knows who will make the right choice, he designates their choice before the play has begun. He also orders the path of those making the right choices to be guarded and protected.
In the end, we must find strength in recognizing both sides of these amazing truths. In Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV), Paul says it this way, “Work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” We are to take complete responsibility in owning the brave next choice that leads to God’s destiny. We are rowing in His heavenly direction at the same time we are resting in His power to pull the boat.
When Charlton Heston was being trained in chariot racing for the movie “Ben Hur”. Heston expressed concern that he might not be able to win the race. His trainer assured him, “Look, Charlton, it is your job to stay in the chariot and it is my job to see that you win the race”.
As Christians we are being trained. Let’s seek to understand as much as we can about God’s truth but not limit God by putting Him into a box of our natural thinking. Let’s embrace His light and honor His mysterious wisdom that “surpasses all understanding”. Let’s do His will by abiding in His truth and He will see that we win!