"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

Young, Naïve, and Anti-System

Posted in Theological by matt on Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A couple weeks ago while I was on Spring Break a buddy of mine named Neely Carter(Hehe, I love random hyper-links that embarrass people) jokingly told me, “Slim, the reason you love criticizing The Man is because you’re young, naïve, and anti-system.” Knowing he was right I laughed, we kept talking, eventually finished our food, and went on with life. But Neely’s statement got me thinking: why am I so anti-system?

So, if you don’t mind, please allow me to explain why by considering a few of the apparent-contradictions found either explicitly or implicitly in the Bible (Please note that I call them apparent. I am not saying that there are problems with the presentation of the Scriptures’ contents, but rather with how we have chosen to handle it. But more on that later…).

(a) God is three and God is one – triune. Or “three Persons, one Substance” as the old-school phrasing goes.
(b) Jesus was fully human and fully divine – incarnate. Or “one Person, two Substances.”
(c) God is just, yet full of mercy.
(d) God is not only good in His actions, but He is goodness itself. Yet He, being sovereign, allows evil to exist and to persist. Thus you have what is called the problem of evil. Remove one of these three truths (God’s goodness, His sovereignty, and evils existence) and there is no discrepancy within the realm of human reasoning.
(e) Or here’s one that’s more hotly debated: Scripture indicates that God elects some to salvation, yet it also says He desires all to be saved.

Now, these five that I’ve pointed out do not comprise a complete list of apparent contradictions (How stupid would it be for me to systematically attempt to point out the futility of Biblical systems!) and they are not all equally challenging. Many see both (a) and (b) as being an impossible mystery and don’t even attempt to resolve the logical tension. Others may read (c) and think that there is no real logical tension and that (c) can be easily explained (which very well may be the case). But, of the five, (d) and (e) are probably the two more addressed issues within Christian circles of the five – particularly (e). Regardless, I believe there are varying levels of incongruity within each one.

So what does all this mean for us? It means that our reasons for studying the Bible must be something other than finding all the answers because the Bible doesn’t create perfect systems, the Bible undermines them. The Gospel isn’t something that can be mathematically mapped out – every system has holes – and the deeper we dig into God the more mystery we discover (I ranted a lot about this paradox in a previous post). God has chosen to be glorified in the foolishness of the message of His cross. Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 1:

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

The main purpose of studying the apparent contradictions within Scripture is to grow in Christ – even if we don’t do away with all the question-marks. A husband and wife don’t spend decades trying to understand one another so they can have each other totally figured out; anyone will tell you that’s impossible! They attempt to understand one another because that’s how they grow more intimate.

We’re too finite to figure everything out, but the humble pursuit of Truth leads to a thick, rich kind of life that is not in vain – even if it doesn’t all make sense.

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