It is my belief that one’s understanding of God and the things of God is constantly changing, shifting, adjusting, and being refined. Due to the fact that God is infinite and we are finite, we need to accept that we will never totally understand all there is to know about God. He chose to reveal Himself (in His creation, His Word, and His son) so we are obligated to study and ponder Him. It is a task which we need to spend the entirety of our lives (and the afterlife) studying. We need to be almost obsessed with comprehending God’s character and person. If He was a god who existed but chose not to reveal to us who He is, then we would not need to study His Word to gain more knowledge of him. But He did choose of His own free will to reveal to His creation His character and workings. So we must spend time learning and worshiping the creator of the universe. But because of His infinitude we will never fully understand Him. Our specific understanding of God’s character (in my opinion) should always be changing or in a state of flux.
In my upbringing it seems I was taught to not change my theology
I was raised in a conservative Christian home. We were somewhat legalistic (you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t chew, . . . you don’t go with girls that do) but I did not think at the time that we were hyperlegalistic. But thinking back I recall pondering the mysteries of God and indirectly being told to not change my understanding of that God. I guess the idea was that we read the Bible and have a concept of God and if we then ‘change our understanding of God’ this means that we are changing who God is. For example if the discussion was about God being truth, and then I grow in my understanding of what exactly that means, then some might think that you do not believe God is truth. Which is totally inaccurate, I just understand better the concept of truth and how it applies to God. I assume when you say ‘my theology has changed’ that means I was wrong before and am believing something totally opposite of my initial belief. This cannot be further from the truth. What I am saying is GOD DOES NOT EVER CHANGE, BUT MY UNDERSTANDING OF HIM DOES!
Doing theology is like driving a car
As I pondered this idea of my theology always being in a state of flux, I tried to come up with an analogy to illustrate what I was saying. Here is the analogy I came up with (see if you like it and if it can help you think a little better about this issue).
Imagine God is represented by a totally straight road. And my understanding of God (theology) is represented by a car. As I drive my car (do theology) I am constantly adjusting the wheel to keep the car on the road (stay in line with what the Bible says about God). The road never changes but the steering wheel of my car is constantly being altered to stay on the straight road. If I were to lock my steering wheel (not adjust my understanding of God) it would not take long for me to drive off the road. I must be persistent in evaluating my situation in order to keep moving along the correct path. If anyone who has driven and fallen asleep they know it is a very short time before they are off course. We must be vigilant to keep our theology in line with the Bible.
I have had people throughout my life seem to say they know who God is and therefore they should never change how they think of Him and I just think this is a poor way of doing things. We need to be using every day to better understand our creator and savior.
It is an interesting phenomenon, especially in western post-enlightenment, modernist thinking that we hate paradoxes. People have been so conditioned to abhor logical contradictions that when it comes to pondering the mysteries of an infinite God, contradictions cannot be accepted. This hatred of paradoxes goes far to explain why many good, well meaning followers of Jesus ‘got it wrong’ when explaining some of the difficult concepts in Christianity.
Children are taught from a young age that there are certain laws of nature (also called laws of logic) which cannot be broken. These children are not taught logic explicitly but the worldview in which they are raised does not allow for paradoxes. While I agree that most of life does not defy the laws of logic, I would assert that God being who He is has the ability to go against well understood natural laws. I will discuss these laws of logic briefly then attempt to support my statement that God can and has broken some of these laws.
The 3 laws of logic (a brief summary)
The 3 laws of logic are: the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of excluded middle. The Law of Identity, simply stated is: P is P. This seems an obvious statement therefore due to its nature is confusing but all this means is that a statement is, and is NOT something else. The second law, the Law of Non-contradiction, asserts that it is not possible for something to be and not-be at the same time in the same place. For example, it cannot be raining and not raining at the same time in the same place. The third law (that of the Law of excluded middle) states simply that one has either P or not P, there is no 3rd option. In the example of it raining outside this says it is either raining or not raining, there is no other option for that statement. These three laws hold true for the universe at all times and in all places (except when it comes to God).
So what’s the point of discussing laws of logic when talking about God? I brought up the ideas of the laws of logic in an attempt to have us understand what the phrase, ‘it does not make sense’ really means. When someone says that an concept makes no sense what they are saying often is that the idea being pondered does not fit into their worldview which denies allowances for contradictions. Having said this little bit about logic and how our minds work when it comes to contradictions, I would like to make the assertion that much of Christianity does not make sense, thus is illogical, yet true nonetheless. God has and does defy the laws of logic and sometimes ‘God just does not make sense’.
Does the biblical view of the Triune God make sense?
When pondering some of the basic doctrines that are unique to Christianity, we must come to the conclusion they are biblical, even though they are illogical. One of the fundamental teachings in both the New and Old Testaments is that there is one and only one true God. Genesis 1:1 states “in the beginning God . . .” stressing to readers the monotheistic religion of Judaism (and later Christianity). Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema, states positively “the Lord is one”. Yet there are hints in the Old Testament and explicit statements in the New Testament asserting there is more to the unity of God, there is a triunity. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Christians use these 2 verses and many, many others to show the equality of God the Father, Jesus (God the Son), and (God) the Holy Spirit. If they are equal then they are all God, however, there can only be one God so the doctrine of the Trinity does not make logical sense. Nevertheless for one to be dogmatic on the ‘Oneness’ of God while rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit is unbiblical. The Bible teaches there is One God, yet Three persons are ascribed with divine attributes.
Arius got it wrong, but his way does make sense
A bishop (pastor) of a Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt around AD 300 (his name was Arius) thought he had solved the difficult doctrine of ‘how to better understand the person of Jesus and the assertions that Jesus is God.’ Arius said God is one and therefore Jesus must be a created being (albeit the highest of all created beings). To Arius’s mind and worldview Jesus could not be fully God or there would exist 2 God, which is contradictory to the teachings of the Holy Bible. Arius is quoted as saying, ‘there was a time when Jesus was not’, which would mean He is not eternal, ergo not God. This was logical to Arius and his many followers, however it is unbiblical. In the New Testament we have many, many accounts of Jesus accepting worship that is only fit for God. Arius attempted to put forth a doctrine that was ‘logical’ to him. At the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 3ooish bishops gathered to discuss the idea of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son (Jesus). Their conclusion would later be refined into what is called the Nicene Creed, which states, concerning Jesus,
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.
As you can read they were very intentional and specific on the wording as to not confuse the statement. The orthodox view of Jesus would forever include this understanding of His person.
I believe this statement gives a precise description of the ‘begottenness’ of Jesus. I believe Arius was not intentionally unbiblical, he just wanted to ‘wrap his mind around’ these ideas and his aforementioned statement was the best way for him to understand a very complex (yet ESSENTIAL) doctrine.
So what’s the point?????
Here’s the point of my discussion: Christianity is full of things we just cannot fully comprehend and may not make sense, WE JUST NEED TO EMBRACE THE MYSTERY and do our best to understand it as biblically as possible. I had a seminary professor once (shout out to Dr. Albert George “Joe” Crawford (who I refer to often as Albertus Magnus)) who said one thing in relationship to mysteries of God that has always stuck with me. Dr. Crawford said we as followers of Jesus are to say all the Bible says about any certain topic, no more and no less. And we are to leave the rest up to calling it a mystery that we will never fully understand. We are to be comfortable in living with the tension that exists concerning these issues.
Please give me your input and comments.
Question: Who are some of the people from your past that have made a lasting impression on your thinking. I would love to read a brief description of the person and the ‘words of wisdom’.