As a young believer, back in the seventies, I used to think of all the questions that I would have to ask of God. I thought about keeping a list, though I did not, and sort of pictured to myself of having an ever increasing list as my life in Christ grew. Presenting my list to the Lord at the end of my life on earth, but beginning my life with him, was, I thought, going to give me all the answers.
Right at the top of the list, I would have asked God about Calvinism, and if all five points were really correct. I would have loved him to explain to me how man is responsible for his choice, and yet God is sovereign. I throw out this question, because I consider it unanswerable from the scripture, and though I have both heard and read many opinions in my four decades of being a Christian, I have never heard one that “covers all the corners”, as I might say. Wouldn’t it be nice to at last figure out what the correct view is? And then to compare it to scripture, and marvel at myself that I did not see it before? I would love that, and take deep joy in at last knowing.
And, in a sense, I believe God may do something like that. Not that I picture heaven as a place where we all submit our lists of questions, and get the answers. Rather heaven seems to be a place where some revelation is going to change us forever, because as the scripture says, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. And again, it says that now we know in part, and then we shall know even as we also are known. I think it is that last verse from the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 that I was misinterpreting.
My mistake was in thinking that I would know, even as God knows. But that is not a necessary interpretation of that verse. In fact, saying it now seems absurd, when it is printed out. It is hardly likely the apostle was trying to tell us that we would know everything, just as God himself does. Rather, it could be pictured better as saying that we will know “Him” just as even now he knows us. We shall become like him in that manner, but hardly in the manner of the all-knowing and all-seeing Creator God.
Even that will, of course, answer many of our questions. For instance, we will at last know what God is like, for we shall see him as he is. Many of our questions will be answered as we find ourselves in the heaven we have so longed for, and we are at the feet of Christ forevermore. We will not have to ask what heaven is like, for we shall be in it. Neither shall we wonder any longer who has received the gospel, for we shall see our brothers and sisters. But in the larger sense, our new natures will have no questions, for in seeing him, I do believe our questions will disappear. For the first time, we will see the most important thing just as He is, and that will hold all of our attention.
A bumper sticker that I remember from long ago said “Jesus is the Answer”. In a sense, that is what I am trying to say. We won’t be concerned so much about whether Luther was right, or whether Calvin interpreted scripture correctly, or whether Wesley understood his God more clearly. Instead we will focus like a laser beam on our Lord, and I am not sure other stuff will really matter.
Of course, I am not pretending that I know at all what life will be like in the presence of Christ—but it does seem to me that we will have drastically changed priorities, and that is as it should be. Theology is all important to us now, for from theology we can develop a coherent picture of God’s will for our life. But then, with Christ, will not all theology diminish sharply? Being a good theologian in this time is a coherent and rational response to the tatters that we find our church in, but it does not make us to be better at showing Christ to a lost world, to feeding the hungry, or to sharing the gospel. I know many good Christians who do not have a great theology—instead they have a great faith and love for their Savior, and I wonder if they are not showing the correct priorities. It is our love for each other that shows a lost world that we are indeed his disciples. Jesus told us to remain in his love, and of course part of that love is remaining grounded in his words, or in theology, if you will. But only a part, and I think that is why sometimes I am put to shame by a Christian practicing that love towards me, and they may not have much theology.
Perhaps it is best if we think of love being the umbrella that holds our theology, along with all the other parts of our Christianity. I can think of several great evangelists who were poor theologians, but it is much more difficult to see great theologians who were also great evangelists. Jonathan Edwards would be an exception. Maybe that is because we let our rules for life interfere with our love for each other. Certainly when we examine Mr. Edward’s life, we see love for his God, and love for his brothers governing much of his actions. All I am saying is that all we do and say to each other ought to be under the umbrella of love. Listen to the prayer of Jesus, perhaps his last recorded prayer before the crucifixion, as he prays to the Father for us. “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me, and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23, NIV).
Before I finish, I am thinking of a song by the Bellamy Brothers, called, “New Man in the Suit”. They sing the refrain, “God don’t put a new suit on a man—He puts a new man in a suit”. It is our new life that we will be rejoicing over, and I hardly think we will have time, or the nature for that matter, to be contentious over getting theological disputes and questions answered. Of course, that is only my opinion, and I am mindful that it certainly does not “yet appear what we shall be like”. Rather than answering all our questions, I would look for the questions which matter to be already answered, and perhaps the others will not matter at all.