Sometimes I have to laugh a bit at human endeavors into knowledge and understanding. Sometimes I have to laugh at myself as I attempt to learn and, of all things, teach people about God. Sometimes I want to give it all up and throw in the intellectual towel and head East, where mystery is much more accepted. I have taught theology for over a decade now. I have written more than a thousand articles (if I can call a “blog” and article!) articulating my understanding about the Bible, God, and human nature. I have evaluated, contemplated, discussed, and fellowshipped with who I believe to be some of the greatest living “scholars.” I have a Th.M. Translation: Theological Masters. Therefore, I am a “master” of theology?
Chuck Swindoll used to say, “Sometimes you think you are something on a stick. You are not something on a stick.”
The truth is when I am at my best, I realize how little I know. God is infinite, I am not. People often get insecure when they encounter someone who, from the world’s perspective, is “learned.” We call them “academicians,” “experts,” and, my favorite, “scholars.” Sometimes we put Ph.D.s and Th.M. after their names. In Christ’s day, they were called “scribes.” Same meaning, different time. We give away awards and prizes for people whom, from the perspective of the awarder, has made significant contributions in this field or that.
I wonder what God thinks of these type of things? Does he think we are something on a stick?
Simply put, God is incomprehensible. I was reminded of this as I have been in correspondence with a “seeking” atheist over the last few weeks. Her inability to even grasp the concept of God as I explained him caused me to once again realize that I don’t grasp it either. As I described his infinite, transcendent, holy nature, I was describing things that were beyond my ability to fathom. The conversation was pushing my buttons of ignorance and finitude. My theological legs began to shake as I realized once again the ineffability of God. Our inability to fathom these things does not make it any less true. It just puts us in our place.
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
Problems arise when we begin to think we can comprehend the incomprehensible. Bigger problems arise when we think that in order to qualify for belief, it must be understood. So many people our there are like this young atheist saying, “Explain it to me until I comprehend it, then and only then will I believe it.” We think that we are something on a stick. We think that we can rise to the heights of God and look him in the eye.
I love what A.W. Tozer say in Knowledge of the Holy when speaking about the doctrine of the Trinity:
“Some persons who reject all they cannot explain have denied that God is a Trinity. Subjecting the Most High to their cold, level-eyed scrutiny, they conclude that it is impossible that he could be both One and Three. These forget that their whole life is enshrouded in mystery. They fail to consider that any real explanation of even the simplest phenomenon in nature lies hidden in obscurity and can no more be explained than can the mystery of the Godhead.”
What naive people we so often are. How lofty are our thoughts of ourselves. In reality, we don’t understand much. Oh when surrounded by others of our caliber (humanity in general) and then comparing ourselves to the most base of animals, we can push our self-admiration up a notch or two. Our IQ can get to 150 and we are placed on a pedestal for being fifty points smarter than the next, while the IQ of God cannot be gaged with human numbers. We look through a microscope or telescope and describe what we don’t understand. We are ants looking out of the ant farm window describing, as best we can, the anatomy of the world, and then giving each other high fives for our great wisdom.
In reality, we don’t understand much. Yet, ironically, when the One who understands all speaks and graciously explains reality, we test him by the standard of the “best of” in our ant farm.
We love the truth of God. We love understanding. In fact, God has said himself, “let him who rejoice, rejoice in this: that he understands and knows me” (Jer. 9:24). God has revealed himself to us truly, but not fully. We can be confident that when he speaks, he speaks the truth. The comings and goings our our “great understanding” are just that: comings and goings. While there is no sense I would advocate giving up our pursuit of knowledge and understanding, there is a time when our accolades and pats on the back must make God laugh.
Who are the scientists of the ant farm? Who are the philosophers? Who are the theologians? Where are the scholars?
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Where were we when I thought of the idea of light? Where where you when I made the hydrogen molecule? Where were you when I created Andromeda? Where were you when I created the color blue? Where were you when I had the idea of taste, touch, and smell? Your ant farm had not even been created yet. And you think you can look me in the eye?”
We are not “something on a stick.”