Thursday, November 20, 2014

In love

People are a lot of things by nature. Inquisitive, I believe, is one of the very foundational things we are. It seems like anytime a child asks you about something, the follow-up questions are always "Why?" Even into adulthood, we like to know there are answers, and figure things out. Something deep down inside us says there is a solution, and it's up to us to find out.

I believe it's one of the ways we try to interact with God.

Up until the 15th century or so, Christians largely trusted the word of the priests, monks, cardinals, and popes, who spoke in languages that weren't their own, largely ignorant (because they didn't know any better) of the ways of God. And the Roman Catholic Church had its reasons for doing this. It had become a de facto government in many parts of Europe. It wanted to maintain control. And it largely did until a German monk aired his grievances, not against the whole church, but against some of its practices.

What that set off was this idea that the scriptures could be read for themselves, understood, and applied to their own lives. The thirst for scriptural knowledge, coupled with the Renaissance which brought back disciplines such as natural science, led to a lot of discoveries, many of them very important.

I have to wonder though, did we go too far in that direction?

It is my belief that much of what became known as Reformed Theology, mostly Lutheran and Calvinist, was more reactionary to the Roman Catholic Church. Where the people had been kept in the dark about spiritual matters, the Reformers wanted to know everything there was to know, perhaps even speculating about things they didn't or couldn't know.

Something I wondered about when I was first exposed to Calvinist theology was this belief that God's sovereignty trumps all else, and all He does is based on nothing more than His good pleasure according to His will. So those who are saved by God's choosing have no say in the matter, as well as those who are condemned, and it's based on no merit of our own. So how could someone know they are one of the chosen to be saved? It always seemed to me that to try to figure out if you were one of the chosen, you'd be trying to figure out God's will.

Along with that, if God's sovereignty was His greatest attribute, and He chooses who will and won't be saved, there's much contained within scripture that seems out of place. What good is having prophets being sent to God's chosen people in order to turn them back to God, if they really have nothing to do with whether they obey or disobey, believe or disbelieve, follow or wander off?

The answers I got to these kind of questions was "Well, it's a mystery that only God knows." They never seemed too easy about giving that answer, because deep down it just didn't seem right. And I wonder if, in their desire to learn, they made some assumptions that just aren't so?

Knowledge, while it can be quite beneficial, can also be quite dangerous. The tree Adam was told not to eat from was called "The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil." It's not that God wants us to be dumb, or uneducated. It's that our knowledge finds its fulfillment when we are rooted in Him. It isn't found in any other source.

Plus, anything we know about God does not come from our own ideas, because we are born separated from God. He has to reveal Himself to us. Scripture is not a full disclosure on who God is, nor does it inform us what the council of His will entails. It was always funny to me that Calvinists tried to figure that out. But our fullest and most complete revelation of who God is came to us in the person of Jesus.

When those in Reformed theology try to uphold God's sovereignty above all else, I have to wonder what they do with Philippians 2, which tells us that Jesus set aside His divine rights, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, and took on our frail form of skin, blood, and bones? And why did He do that? John 3 tells us that God so loved the world. Who was God sovereign over before He created everything?

To me, it seems to place God's sovereignty as His primary characteristic causes a lot more problems than it solves. For people who are so driven to knowledge, this can't be a good thing.

I fully believe that God is sovereign over all, but I also believe that His sovereignty is fulfilled best in light of His love, His holiness, and His righteousness. In love He created all there is and declared it good. In love, God sent His Son. In holiness He called us to be like Him and made it possible. In righteousness He condemns sin.

It is a mystery how this all works together, one I can live with. After all, there needs to be room for faith. But to say that God's love is sacrificed for the sake of His sovereignty is contradictory to what scripture says and what was revealed in Jesus. And I can't believe in a God that contradicts Himself.

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