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Chapter 13 - The Unknown
Has the trade of interpreting the Lord's matters gone out, discouraged by the time-worn fact that nobody succeeds at it? No, it still flourishes; there was never a century nor a country that was short of experts who knew the Deity's mind and were willing to reveal it. - Mark Twain
Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. - 1 Peter 1:12
The word 'theology' (the study of God) sounds a little ambitious and possibly irreverent insofar as it implies a subject that can be mastered. There are things the angels do not know. How much more likely that we will not understand some things or even lack the ability to understand even if we were told.
A child does not understand the dangers from which his parents protect him. He does not understand where the food, clothing, and shelter come from. He is often selfish, demanding, and ungrateful. He can even strut around with an imperious attitude of complete understanding. We have a similar relationship with our heavenly father.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 19:14
Seminaries (the main centers where theologians are manufactured) have an incentive to produce those who will be ardent in the advocacy of their doctrines. Truth seems less important than confident assurance of correctness. This often entails providing certainty where realistically uncertainty would be more accurate. For example, the declaration that those punished in hell will be punished forever relies on the assignment of 'eternal' to the Greek word aion. Considering that we do not know if eternity is the end of time or time unending, it seems a little bold to declare that which is beyond our understanding. We can know that those who are not saved will be judged by their works and there will be punishment. If this punishment lasts for an 'age' (the usual definition for aion) or true eternity is not clearly discernable.
There is a pragmatic advantage of declaring hell as 'eternal fire'. Fear can motivate people in the direction you wish to herd them. However, truth is not honored when we exceed that which can be known from Godís word. We begin to insert our own reasoning and conclusions instead of resting by faith in our heavenly fatherís goodness and justice.
Acknowledging that which we do not know leaves room for humility. It also leaves room for faith. We can treasure that which God has chosen to reveal to us and trust in him for that which is not clear.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:8-9
There is a danger is declaring things beyond which we can know.
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, - Colossians 2:18
There is no end to the number of people willing to tell us what to do. However, we have the responsibility to evaluate what is said in terms of truth. It can be easy to surrender to what someone tells us. However, we are still responsible.
But what I do, I will continue to do, [for I am determined to maintain this independence] in order to cut off the claim of those who would like [to find an occasion and incentive] to claim that in their boasted [mission] they work on the same terms that we do. For such men are false apostles [spurious, counterfeits], deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles (special messengers) of Christ (the Messiah). - 2 Corinthians 11:12-13 (Amp)
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. - 1 Timothy 1-3
There are all sorts of reasons we can come to incorporate false teachings in our belief system. We might buy into some strange doctrine because we are too lazy to seek the truth for ourselves. We may be bullied into going along with something. We can be born into an inherited tradition. We can find a particular practice appealing for reasons of vanity, security, fear, or comfort. However, we are going to have to stand in front of Jesus one day at it will be embarrassing to have to say that we were not satisfied to live by faith, but added to his word to satisfy our own desires.
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.- Lamentations 3:40
Others may mislead us for good intentions or bad. However, it is incumbent us to discern that which is true and which is not.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. - Matthew 15:9
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. - John 7:16-18
Jesus speaks to a method of discernment based on doing the will of God. We can see where nearness to God, brings discernment.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: - John 10:27
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