Saturday, March 12, 2011

So you want to know what I believe?

So you want to know what I believe?

Just take your Bible and open up to any verse. Read the verse. Ask yourself the question, “Now I wonder what Pat would say about this verse.”

You may rest assured that Pat indeed believes the verse.

“But what sense does Pat believe the verse?”

I would answer to you that I believe it in the plain simple sense, trying to read it just as it was written.

But you might ask, “What about difficult things like the trinity?”

My answer is that I read my Bible. I find that Jesus claims to be equal with the Father, that the Holy Spirit is God also. I believe.

“But that’s absurd,” you say. “You have to explain the triune nature of God somehow, because it is so important.”

“If it is so important, then why did God Himself not explain it to us?” I answer. “Maybe, just maybe, He desired that we trust HIM for what we cannot explain.”

“Oh,” you say. “I never thought of that before. You are saying that we should trust God for what is not explained.”

“Exactly,” I reply. “The Scriptures tell us many things about God. We can build a systematic theology based on agreement of many of these things. Many of the early creeds did just that. But when we try to build out a systematic theology too far it becomes much more problematic. Just look at the disagreements between many of our godly historical figures.”

You say, “But I am a bit dubious. Perhaps you can help me with other examples.”

“I would be glad to point to another example. What is heaven like? I find myself, particularly in my older age, thinking of how God is going to make our lives. If I read my Bible right, we are to live with Christ (Paul says reign) in Jerusalem some day. We will partake of the water which is everlasting, and live with Him eternally. I often find myself, and hear others also, speculating what that life is going to be like. But too much speculation is not good for it goes beyond the ken of Scripture. If I go too far in assuming what that life will be like, I am sinning.”

“How do you mean it goes beyond the ken of Scripture? I can see how one might get carried away. The Biblical allusions to heaven are many, and I like to dream also.”

“Easy. Scripture says, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” We will not know the extent of the wonderful estate God has prepared for us until we get there.

“I chose this example deliberately, because it is rather easy to understand. Jesus tells us that he goes now to prepare for us “many mansions”. But we do not know what that means. I suspect that God has some rather tremendous surprises in store for us, but what they are I cannot guess. I rather think that God desires his children to be surprised.”

“Okay, I get it. You are saying the mysteries of God sometimes need to stay His mysteries until the time comes “when we shall know even as we also are known.” Do you have more examples?”

“Yes, you are getting exactly what I am saying. There are many other examples in the Scriptures where men of God have greatly differed over the years. One is the ordinance of communion. Some older churches think that communion is partaking of the actual blood and body of our Lord. Others think the passage is meant to be taken symbolically. But I read, “This is my body which is broken for you”, and I believe.”

“So which viewpoint do you choose, the older church model, the symbolic model, or the one between?”

“I say to you that it is not necessary to choose one of the viewpoints. It is necessary for me to believe what God says. I find it very easy to believe Him, because I assent to doing so, and I do not want to go beyond the scripture. Perhaps the Catholic view is correct, perhaps the Lutheran, or perhaps the symbolic. God asks us to simply do the ordinance, believing His scriptures. This I aim to do.”

“Oh I see. You are saying that you should again let God decide how it is- rather your job is to have faith in the ordinance. Do you have another example?”

“Yes, an example that I think most Christians will readily see. In my neighborhood, a very rich man has paid for billboards all over town proclaiming the Lord’s coming to be on a certain date in May. This particular soul has once before proclaimed the date of the Lord’s coming, and though shown to be wrong, has evidently not learned his lesson. Jesus himself clearly teaches us that “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Jesus is careful to tell us signs and that we will know the “season” of his return, but the Father has reserved to himself that date that the Son shall return. Many saints of God have gone astray when they have picked dates for his return, and they have always been wrong.

“Simply put, the Bible says that Christ will return as a thief in the night, and Paul tells us that we shall all be changed in a twinkling. Again, it is my job to believe the Scripture and not to go beyond it. He is coming as “a thief in the night” and we saints are responsible to know the season of His coming, but not the day. “For no man knows the day.”

“So are you saying we shouldn’t have developed creeds?”

“No, not at all. I am saying, though, that there are many areas of Bible study that are unclear; sometimes the more we work to clear them up with our understanding, the more harm we do to the total of Scripture. God says it; that should be more than enough for the believer. I have a wonderful quote from A. W. Tozer on the same subject:

•"It is a sure road to sterile passivity. God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, "O Lord, Thou knowest." Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."

We believers have a main job: to preach the gospel to every person with the full expectation that many will hear the Word, believe, and begin to discover the deep love of God for themselves; it ought to be more than enough to keep us busy. “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”