Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Story Of My Life - Revelation

It is a historical fact that never has a series that's been started on this blog ever seen completion. My posts listing is littered with drafts and random ideas that I've jotted down but never taken the time to fully develop. For that I apologize. I do, however, fully intend on finishing my faith journey series, because I see tremendous value in documenting how I became a Christian and hold out hope that people who are someone along the path I traveled might have a glimpse of where they are heading. Plus, it's all already completely written on my private journal.

Before I go on with that, I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts I've had as I read through Albert Mohler's excellent blog series (now there's an internet author that I can learn many things from) on the Christian worldview. In his first installment, Mohler makes the claim that a central axiom in the Christian worldview is that God reveals himself to us. God is not discovered. He is not conceived of by human ingenuity or formal logic. God is known as he makes himself known to his creation. Furthermore, what we know about God is what God reveals to us.

I think that last point is crucial. J.I. Packer, in his book, "Knowing God", makes a profound observation in that lower orders of beings are dependent on revelation for knowledge of higher orders of beings and that this principle works in degrees. For example, a human can learn much about a tree or a rock just by observation, but less about certain animals if they are reclusive (such as an octopus). As a creature's intellectual order increases, so increases its ability to withhold knowledge; we all have secrets from each other. Thus, if God is truly the highest being over and above all creation, and he is infinitely greater in magnitude over all other beings, then it stands that, while God can have total knowledge of us, he can also absolutely withhold any knowledge of him from us. Any creature can only know as much about God as God reveals to him.

There are two implications. First, God's self-revelation, then, is completely an act of grace. It is by an act of grace that we know anything about our own creator, for it is information that God could have easily withheld from us. He didn't owe to us knowledge of him. Therefore it must be a gift.

And second, having this axiom as a starting point avoids myriad (but not all) epistemological tangles. Divine self-revelation removes the weight of interpretation from fallen, error-prone humans and places it on a sovereign, mistake-free God.. What we know about God isn't dependent on how smart, or clever we are; it's not dependent on whether we've understood him correctly and it's not dependent on lofty biblical scholarship! Scripture's truth is perspicuous; it is plain and ready to understand because God's Word does not return to him empty, but accomplishes the purpose for which he has sent it" (Is 55.8-11). Those who have a biblical degree and have studied Greek and Hebrew and know how to use BDAG in a sense do NOT have a leg up on a lay reader of Scripture because the burden of knowing God does not sit on us, but on God himself. We do not discover, he reveals.*

This latter statement means a lot to me personally, because it was this realization that set me off of a path of despairing self-doubt and put me on a path towards secure, true knowledge. I always held deeply in my heart that if humans have any part in the attainment of something as crucial to life as knowing God, then we were doomed. There would be no hope. All throughout my life up until my third year of college, I felt the weight of pluralism on me, crushing me and suffocating me. There were too many beliefs in the world! If WE were the ones responsible for knowing God, then we're doomed! We're just as doomed as pure democracy once it left Athens. There was simply too much opinion, too much self-interest, too much personal stake. Moreover, there was too much perspective. No individual saw the whole picture, and we were all too selfish to be able to actually cooperate and put the puzzle together.

You know that feeling of having an upset stomach in your sleep? It hurts so much that you'll actually wake up in the middle of the night, but you're never fully awake because you're so tired. And so all night you just have this unsettled feeling; you don't get good sleep and you're so drowsy and groggy that you're only semi-aware of what's wrong. Every day for two years I had that feeling; before I went to bed in my dorm, when I woke up to go to class, during breaks, eating lunch with people, hanging out with people. Every day, for two years. I tried to banish it away; I tried to just fall back asleep, but I knew that the problem was always there, even when I ignore it. That problem was that I didn't know anything for sure and couldn't be sure of anything. I was a philosophy major and my peers delighted in that ambiguity, but I hated it. My professors and classmates loved the agora of ideas; they were indeed the men of Athens who wanted Paul to preach endlessly on a subject. I was only in that damned city because I was waiting for someone to tell me who the unknown god was.

Let me remind my readers that I went to a Christian college. See, this problem wouldn't have been a quarter as distressing had I just gone to a secular institution. But what really sent chills through my soul was knowing just how badly CHRISTIANS disagreed with each other. Gordon College celebrated those disagreements. They called it unity in diversity. My freshman year, the school recruitment tagline was, "Freedom within a framework of faith." Today I vomit at the thought of that. Today, I understand what that statement truly is: a thinly veiled desire to replace any unpleasant parts of your Christian belief with whatever it is that fits your fancy.

The resolution, the antacid to my unrest was when I realized that it was never man's prerogative learn about God. In fact, man, in his sinful state, is completely unable to know God or understand him. "Their foolish hearts were darkened..." Understanding this turned me to Christ, who is both revelation incarnate, and the solution to our blindness. Christ doesn't just come as God himself and say "here I am, now get to know me", but he also overcomes and removes my sin, which was the obstacle to me wanting to know him as who he truly is. I realized that the solution to the problem of interpretation is not a transcendent hermeneutical method, but that the object of interpretation is a self-revealing person. God isn't just knowable, he wants to be known by his people and he demonstrates his knowability in sending his Son, Jesus to earth to tabernacle among his people.

Therefore, a central tenet of the Christian worldview is that it is neither constructed nor discovered by humans; it is revealed as a gift of grace by God.

I thank you God, that you shroud yourself in darkness and yet you send the light of the world to us. I was once walking about in darkness, but a light has appeared. I was once blind, but my sight has been restored. In my helplessness, you reached out to me with your Son and saved me and gave me the truth. Jesus! Jesus! Oh how sweet your name is to me! I was once lost, but you saved me. I was once starving, so hungry. I thirsted, panted, for a drink that will satisfy me, and you were living water. Jesus! Jesus! I praise you for in you I have found my way home. Amen.