Clearly I should have written this post before yesterday’s “Ambiguity, Thy Cousin Is Relativism” article, but when I started, I hadn’t realized what all I wanted to say about the topic. The more I think about it, the bigger the subject gets.
Here’s the bottom line: Satan wants to call into question what God has said. He wants us uncertain.
God, on the other hand, wants us to trust what He says. He wants us confident.
That’s why God’s word is compared in Scripture to a rock, why over and over passages in both Old and New Testament say God’s word is sure, tried, and everlasting.
Why, then, do Christians buy into “ambiguity”? Why opt for the sinking sand when a sure foundation is there for the taking?
Here are my best guesses.
* Today’s Christians, though we have access to excellent Bible translations in our own language, are ignorant of much of Scripture. We’ve fallen into the trap of letting the “professionals” do our Bible study for us. So we listen in church and maybe even read a devotion online, but we aren’t digging into Scripture for ourselves.
* We start with false presuppositions. One such idea is that God’s inspiration of Scripture didn’t mean the Bible is actually His Word. Rather, humans wrote it and copied it and interpreted it, so undoubtedly it’s changed over time and isn’t really an accurate reflection today of God’s heart (it has nasty things in it such as God’s wrath and judgment). Of course, that view completely hangs on the idea that God didn’t miraculously transmit His word to us. It requires a small view of God.
A careful study of Scripture uncovers the position which the Church has held down through the centuries—God spoke through His prophets and those to whom He gave His word in the first century, He has preserved and protected it, and His Holy Spirit continues to guide us into all truth. In short, the Bible is a miracle. This view requires an expansive view of God.
God wants us to know Him and chose, therefore, to reveal Himself to us. Otherwise, we could know about Him through what He has made, but we wouldn’t know Him since the finite cannot reach the infinite. Therefore to know God requires His initiative, His miraculous intervention.
* A third possibility is that we’ve heard people yank a verse of Scripture out of context and parade it before the world as “a sure thing,” only to end up disappointed. This kind of treatment of Scripture has happened for centuries, so it’s not new, but perhaps because of our technology, the claims of these charlatan’s or misguided teachers have reached a wider audience. The kinds of promises range from a date set for Christ’s return to miraculous healing to untold wealth to sinless perfection.
When someone believes they’re going to get a new car, like the evangelist tells them, and they trust with all their heart, but no new car comes their way, what do they do with those dashed expectations?
Even promises of a happy life if you remain sexually pure, marry, submit to your husband, might be dashed by a drunk driver plowing into your van on the way to the church retreat. Where’s the happy life now?
The problem isn’t God or His Word; it’s the false expectations created by someone reading a passage of Scripture and not plugging it in with the entire message of the Bible.
Those who have suffered know God is true though all men be liars. That’s right—those who have suffered. Suffering is often the dividing line. Some suffer, then curse God and die, as Job’s wife urged him to do. Others turn their eyes to heaven and ask God to forgive those tormenting them as Stephen did when he was stoned to death.
What’s the difference? Those who suffer and turn to God understand they don’t have to know why and their rescue doesn’t have to be now. They embrace the One who embraces them and allow Him to carry them through the valley of the shadow of death.
Those who shake their fists at God and turn from Him in anger want to rest in their happiness or their stuff or their healthy bodies, not in the arms of Him Who rescues from the dominion of darkness.
They want to walk on water, not because they want to come to Jesus, but because they want those in the boat to admire them for their ability to do what’s remarkable. Relationship? How cliche, they say. God isn’t knowable like that. He’s to be found by looking within and experiencing Him through the mystical meditation of contemplation.
Which is another way of saying, I don’t believe God is actually a person—he’s too other, too out there.
Well, yes, and no. God is Other, but because He is so much more than what we can imagine, He is also simultaneously Imminent. He is out there, but He is also near, even in our hearts. Which does not mean He is some kind of impersonal panentheistic deity.
Rather, He is very personal which we know because He came into the world as a person—a baby who grew to manhood, lived, loved, cried, died. And even in His resurrected body, He demonstrated His personhood—the marks in His body from His suffering, His repeat miracle of multiplying fish for Peter and his crew, the meals He shared, the bread He blessed.
So here’s the fact: if God sent Jesus, and if Jesus rose from the dead, then God is powerful enough to do anything and good enough to trust. Where’s the ambiguity in that? If I need to see the why or understand the wherefore, then God will show that to me. But if not, I still can trust.
And yes, trust can be scary at first. I think it gets easier the longer you go, snugged to the chest of the Good Shepherd who is gathering His sheep.
– – – – –
Photograph by Rudi Winter via Wikimedia