When we presume to have a complete understanding of the God of the universe, we have placed ourselves erroneously on His level.
Last November Skye Jethani did a whole series in his With God Daily devotional regarding what the Bible is and what it isn’t. I highly recommend reading and walking through it if you can. During that series Skye emphasized how the Bible should be treated more as a map than a manual. Specifically the devotional entitled “How to Not Fear Cognitive Dissonance” really struck a chord with me.
Yesterday I was again confronted with a person who emphatically believes that every answer can and should be found in the Bible. You may recall my earlier entry entitled “Am I Doing This Right? — Decon Pt. 1” where I discussed my views on the matter.
Tonight I was pondering again on how to best explain my understanding of how we should use and view the Bible and I was met with a few different analogies:
Imagine, if you would, a portrait of a face or even some sort of being. A being the likes of which no one has ever seen fully. Words fall short to describe this being, yet a number of people are tasked with representing its features and likeness to the rest of us the best they can. Now imagine some years later these portraits, some abstract while others attempting to be realist, are collected in an attempt to assemble a single portrait of the original being. The problem is that each artist’s perspective was just a bit different. Each artist focused on a subset of the features they saw or experienced.
You wouldn’t be able to discern what you were looking at from a distance by any means. It would appear as complete nonsense. When you leaned in close, you might start to pick out various attributes and subtle traits. As you craned your neck to the side you might start to notice a new little facet in one section that seemingly contradicted what you saw standing straight. You might later decide to pull out a microscope to examine the fibers of the canvas a bit to see if there were any more meaning to extract.
This is how I imagine the Bible to be. A collection of fragments of the image of God pulled together in humans’ best attempt to coherently describe something mostly incomprehensible. There are those that look at it from the outside and scoff at the ridiculousness while others dedicate their lives to extracting every ounce of meaning and every formula for life from an otherwise dead source.
Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is immensely useful in helping us try to understand God, but it cannot fully contain God anymore than our minds can fully grasp Him.
Now also imagine I had a friend (who shall rename nameless) that was an especially loud chewer. Suppose I had written that friend a long Facebook wall post where I encouraged him to keep seeking after God and growing, but also mentioned that he might consider changing his munching habits during church service so as not to distract others from their connections with God.
Fast forward two thousand years and now a sect of people that read and scrutinized every word of my post refuse to eat any crunchy foods for fear they would be hindering others from finding God altogether.
I feel like that has happened in one sense or another within the church. Something that was intended for a specific audience in a specific time period becomes irrefutable doctrine that is not to be questioned.
Brothers and sisters, we don’t know what we don’t know. Surely, we cannot think that we have crammed an infinite God into our infinitesimal minds. How then can we have absolute assurance that we have complete grasp and understanding of such glories and wonders. I don’t think we can. I don’t presume I ever will. And that’s OK.
All I know for certain beyond any shadow of doubt are two things:
- Love God with everything you are
- Love people in every way you possibly can
These are mutually inclusive truths. One absolutely cannot exist without the other. We cannot love God completely without loving every one of those made in his image.
Oh, and by the way, love isn’t always mushy gushy and touchy feely.
Love is every bit as messy as it is beautiful.
Love is every bit as heart breaking as it is healing and mending.
Love is every bit of a difficult, conscious decision as it is a natural, uncontrollable force.
May we never presume to have arrived at a full understanding of a mind blowing God.
May we never presume that I have it right and they have it wrong.