Monday, December 25, 2017

Great is the mystery of godliness!


Recently, I've been reflecting on some essays I read recently in a symposium on the book Controversy of the Ages by Cabal and Rasor.  The essays were written by Paul Garner and Tim Morris.  The book is about the age of the earth, and as you might imagine, the book is not really friendly to the young-age creationist position.  I'm less interested in the book as I am with Garner's and Morris's comments, because I think they help to expose some assumptions that we scientific believers need to talk about.

Tim Morris's essay Mere Creationism points out the difficulty of relying on science to bolster faith. He wraps his comments in the language of the philosophy of science, but his point is one that I've long been aware of: We've given way too much authority to science in the church. And I might add personally, that goes for all sides.  It's easy for creationists to accuse theistic evolutionists of bowing to science, but when we turn around and claim that all "true science" already agrees with the Bible, we're seeking the same sort of scientific authority.  The Enlightenment has taught us that reason and evidence are the judges of truth, and Christians all buy into that.  That's why theistic evolutionists insist we must reinterpret scripture to accommodate evolution, and that's why we creationists crave the scientific evidence that shows evolution is wrong and creation is right.  Some even try to change the rules of science so that our beliefs are the only truly "scientific" option.  Why?  Because what we believe about creation must make sense to us.  That's the Enlightenment talking.

Paul Garner's essay The Importance of Beginnings implicitly expands on that. He wants us to carefully consider our motivation, what really gets us going, what lights our fires.  Is it evolution and science?  Are we worried that our beliefs make sense in the broader world of scientific claims?  Are we always just reacting to the latest discoveries of conventional science?  Or are we motivated by a curiosity and sense of discovery?  Do we worry about what evolutionists tell us is true?  Or do we want to know more about God's creation?

Let's be blunt.  Who says any one of us will ever understand it all?  Whatever happened to the great mystery of godliness?  Why do we think that we can create a perfectly logical and rational faith?  For generations, believers didn't even understand that God was coming in the flesh, born as a baby, to suffer and die. Even knowing Jesus as we do, we are no better than they.  We all see through a glass darkly.  To suggest that we can or ought to figure it all out is just arrogance.

Once we've given up that arrogance, we can relax.  We are Christians.  Some things we believe make sense, but other things we believe don't, at least not now and not to us.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  God never said truth would make sense to us.  He just asks us to believe.  We don't have to be slaves to our addiction to logic.

You can't understand it all, but you can trust the One who does.

Once we've relaxed, we can turn our attention to greater things: What does God have to tell us in our ignorance?  What can we discover about God in His creation?  How can we follow Jesus even when we don't understand?  Perhaps even more importantly, how can God draw us to Him in the midst of ignorance, disputes, and argument?

So as we celebrate the coming of our Lord today, let us come once again to that manger long ago.  Let us reflect on the unfathomable.  Let us celebrate the incomprehensible.  Let us rejoice in the unthinkable.

Great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh
(I Tim. 3:16)


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