March 4, 2013 — An old joke goes like this:
Patient: “Doc, I’m just not sure of anything anymore.”
Psychiatrist: “That’s healthy. Only seriously deranged people know anything with complete certainty.”
Patient: “Really? Are you sure about that?”
Psychiatrist: “I’m absolutely positive.”
Clarence Vos’s article (p. 18) cautioning us not to be so “dogmatic” might be unsettling, but we need to take it to heart.
For example, I “knew” a lot more going into seminary than when I graduated. It was tuition money well spent. And many “old warhorses” observe that their decades in ministry have made them less sure about more things and more sure about things that truly matter.
Hebrews 11 tells us that the people of faith “All . . . died without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them” (v. 13, NRSV). From far off, we see the broad contours clearly enough but not the fine detail. The faithful (did it matter if they were pre- or post-tribulation rapturists?) taught us to leave that in God’s hands as they expectantly trudged on to the New Jerusalem.
Leaving lots of room for each other on “disputable matters” doesn’t need to spiral into unbelief. On the contrary, the more we study Scripture’s truths, the more we become aware of our own inability to grasp their full height and depth and breadth. We live with the mysteries of creation, incarnation, justification, and sanctification. While we marvel at them, we admit that we can’t possibly understand them. Biblically, a mystery is not something that gets solved by human deduction as in a dime-store novel. A true mystery is something that will always be an object of wonder, always revealing deeper levels of truth and beauty—like a finely faceted diamond.
Take the mystery of creation. Did God make the universe in seven actual days, through some very ancient “Big Bang,” or in some other way? We have some brief creation passages in Scripture and some scientific data out there in God’s good earth and sky. But why would we imagine that our personal interpretation of those is infallible? After all, we were not there in the beginning. The mystery is just too high. We don’t get it. We don’t have to get it. As Vos suggests, if it’s a matter of real dogma, why would we even expect to get it? Let’s show some humility as we continue to allow our faith to reach for greater understanding.
On many debatable issues The Banner has been accused of “pushing its own agenda.” Truth to tell? We open the pages of this magazine to a discussion of such topics because we really and sincerely don’t know, and we love it when folks on all sides exchange helpful, faith-informed thinking on the topic. We learn from that. It is our prayer that our readers will too, whether it changes their minds or not.
A well-functioning family thrives on open, honest discussion that dares to venture out in trust. We don’t grow when everything remains rigidly nailed down.
As an exercise of faith, let’s risk the conversation.