Don’t Be So Sure

Editorial
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A true mystery is something that will always be an object of wonder.

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.

About the Author

Bob De Moor is a retired Christian Reformed pastor living in Edmonton, Alta.

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Comments

"Don't be so sure."- As I have grown in my faith through the study of Scrpiture over the years I have grown more sure, and am convinced that God means exactly what he said in His word. Bob you said about creation "we were not there in the beginning. The mystery is just too high." But you are missing the obvious fact that God was there, and that He told us how it happened. Science confirms that evolution is impossible. We know that Satan always has a counterfeit deal going on to deceive mankind, holding them captive.

Dogma is essential to the Christian faith and if we do not have it, we will fall for anything. Uncertainty should never be toted as the the new truth. The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 1:19 "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as a light shining in a dark place." If we want to move forward as a church, Biblical discernment is paramount to truth, otherwise it will implode. I think it's fair to say truth is under attack.

 

There is an irony in the title "Don't be so sure."   Are you sure we should be uncertain?   How would we decide with certainty, what is debatable or disputable, and what is not?   How do we achieve a "greater understanding" which results in a greater uncertainty?    Wouldn't the increasing uncertainty lead us to conclude that we understand less?     Our humility should be based on God's magnificence, not on God's inability to convey truth to us, nor on our unwillingness to receive it. 

To be sure, there are some things that we should always acknowledge we might be wrong about, but we have long taught the perspicuity of Scripture in its core doctrine.  We should not toss that clarity or that assurance aside.

But then, that's kind of what Vos is saying as I read his article. 

The question then arises, how do we express that openess to being mistaken?  There are times when I must choose, and I have chosen, which is why I baptize infants, for instance, and serve in the Christian Reformed Church rather than a Lutheran one or a Pentecostal one.  I make no apologies for that choice, and I think I am right in what I believe, but as long as my brothers and sisters take the Bible seriously and go to it for answers to these kinds of questions (among others), I am content to merely argue for what I believe and not pronounce anathemas against them.

As to the BANNER pushing its own agenda, of course it does.  One doesn't take on editing a magazine without an agenda else there is no point to it.  I have had my disagreements with Rev. DeMoor, some of them quite vigorous to say the least, but I deeply appreciate the openness of the BANNER to multiple viewpoints, particularly in these comments section.  This is a far more open and welcoming forum for debate than is the denomination's official site, and the Church as a whole is far better served by it.

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