Sunday, February 17, 2008

Like the ocean floor, God is...

Fair Warning: This might be a post you'll want to skip if you don't like thinking about and discussing theology.

Our church does a lot of church based training. I'm currently taking a Biblical Theology class in which The Unity of the Bible is our primary text. It's the book that John Piper says shaped his thinking more than any other. It's basically the deeper, more academic, and more boring version of Piper. (BTW, did you guys see Piper light it up on the prosperity gospel?!!!). That's not a good sign if you're favorite authors are Francine Rivers, Max Lucado and Phillip Yancey (all of whom I happen to enjoy).

In our Friday class, we entered the depths of the ocean, that is God. Only this ocean is much deeper and wider, with vast undiscovered waters. We examined questions like,

"Why did God create the world? Why is the Trinity "necessary" and the creation a "free act"? What can illustrate from life experience and the Bible why the Holy Spirit has a necessary function in the Trinity? If God didn't create the world, would certain attributes never have the chance of being expressed (i.e. mercy, justice, grace, wrath)? Was a sinful world God's intent from the beginning (i.e. Was sending Jesus plan A or B)? What is the overarching theme of the Bible? Why is God's delight not in making demands, but in meeting needs?"

As we were discussing this, someone in the class raised the objection to the in depth examination of these questions: "In the Bible, God spends two whole chapters telling Job that he'll never understand the depths of God (Chapters 38 and 39). Is this discussion really worth it? We seem to be merely speculating about things we'll never really know for sure."

My response to the class via email:

Fellow Biblical Theology Class-

I wanted to follow up our class on Friday with some thoughts. The discussion, though seemingly futile at times, is well worth it. Generally, these discussions will bring one of three responses…

Spiritualized Apathy: “It doesn’t matter, we’ll never know here on earth. So sitting around discussing it is a waste of time. We should focus on more practical stuff like evangelism, etc”

Pride: “Look at how many big words I know and how I’m able to plumb the depths of God.”

Humility: “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are things- to him be the glory forever… Come, Christian Triune God who lives, here am I, shake the world again.” – Apostle Paul in Romans 11, and Francis Schafer

All three of these could describe me on any given day. Obviously we need to avoid the first 2 like the plague- but #3 makes it all worth it.

[Unnamed Student], I think I disagree a little with your use of Job to show why the conversation was pointless. In Job’s situation, he was seeking an answer for his life situation in an accusing way (“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” 40:2) That’s what seemed to illicit the string of rhetorical questions from God (Ch. 38 & 39). I don’t think that was really the intent of our discussion. [Unnamed Student], what do you think? Was that your point in using Job, or did I misunderstand?

Moreover, after 4 breathtaking and mind boggling chapters on God’s sovereignty, Paul ends with the aforementioned quote from Isaiah. The point is that Paul didn’t write that prayer right after chapter 7, he went on to explain God’s steadfast love, sovereign choice of Israel, and ends with 11:32, which is right along the lines of what we were talking about in class. These things are “unsearchable,” as Paul says, and yet he searches them. He could’ve gone further, and I think we’ll be eternally in awe of these truths. But the searching always ends in worship- with greater awe of a bigger God.

Similarly, just because we’ll never fully grasp a concept like “grace,” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think long and hard about it, then let it drive us to our knees. That the ocean will never be fully explored is not a good argument for not trying.

In short, these discussions will bear much fruit if we approach them with a humble, childlike wonder of God. And in applying ourselves to learning from Fuller- learning new vocabulary words, reading and striving to comprehend complex sentences, stretching the limits of our minds with new ideas, pondering new questions we’ve never thought of, thinking about biblical themes and God’s “storyline”- we’ll be “loving God with our minds,” clearly something we’re commanded to do.

I can’t wait for next class!


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