Growing up, I noticed how lots of people were looking for proofs in scripture that would prove their opinions in life as correct. The problem with this continues to be that you are not really learning scripture, you are relearning your own opinion – and probably telling others that your opinion is in scripture. I’ve always thought that this was a backwards way of learning. If something is the Truth, then you should study it and let it transform you, rather than the other way around. As I’ve learned to live a life devoted to God, and learning about God’s story through scripture (which I believe is truth revealed), the journey has been somewhat strange and sometimes embarrassing. Let me take a moment to explain.
In college, I remember being jabbed about this a bit. We had read a book by Stephen Prothero (@sprothero on Twitter) called “American Jesus” (I’m a big fan of the book) and it went about telling the sociological picture of how people have formed Jesus into their own image. There was the feminine Jesus, the masculine Jesus, Jesus Christ Superstar, the Mormon Jesus, and the African American Jesus, as well as the Rabbi and Scholarly Jesus’. It was all fascinating, but it told more about about the communities, than it did about the actual Historical Jesus. Jesus in Hollywood class, I remember talking about the introduction to the book, which exposited the story of the Jeffersonian Bible. In it, Jefferson had taken a razor and had cut out anything supernatural or miraculous, and titled it “The Philosophy of Jesus.” Prothero’s point was that we all have a lens in which we interpret scripture, and that effects how we present the Gospel, and Jesus who is the center of the Gospel story. I was cool with that, but being in youth ministry where we do “Self-Exegesis” in order to discover our lens, I wondered aloud to class – could we be aware of our lens, and gain a whole and full picture of the Gospel, so that we do not taint it? I may be being unfair, but the response I remember was basically, “We all cut up the story in some way,” as if we are slaves to our mish mashed interpretation.
I didn’t like that, and I still don’t. This is basically one of the reasons I went to seminary at Gordon-Conwell. I wanted to go to a place where I could learn the whole story of God up through the story of Jesus. I wanted to learn how various communities have interpreted the story of Jesus, but I also wanted to assess the Gospels as history/as events that actually occurred, so that I could have a historical opinion with which to judge what the Truth was in order to use a standard to judge my own opinion. I wanted to have a construct that allows me to get outside of myself, and learn the story of God (without being arrogant or infallible in my conclusions). Despite my own opinion, or the opinions of others, there is the Truth, which does not change no matter what we believe. The point being, that we should conform.
From our perspective, this is an impossible task, and that is why I think that I was laughed at a bit. I look arrogant when I say that I want to discover the truth about God. What human in their right mind, would think that they have the ability to discern the ways of a Deity? This is something the Greeks struggled with greatly, and I have learned a lot from Socrates via Plato, Plato himself, and Aristotle. Great Philosophers in history have grappled with determining the ways of the Divine, and have been too triumphant in their conclusions, struggled, or given up entirely the quest for true revelation. Man centered thinking will tend towards defeat, or ‘victory’ with omissions (of mystery). Only God can truly give the Full Picture – Only the creator knows how things have happened in a definite sort of way. But does that mean we should give up the quest to know God and His ways?
No – Because there is a reliable text that has been passed down through the ages and preserved, that tells the story of God. From Adam to Abraham, from Esther to Isaiah, from the groundbreaking God-man Christ, through the Acts of the Apostles, to a vision of the Heavenly Kingdom to come. There is a source to discover truth, and it has a certain interpretation that should be discerned apart from our own opinions.
Also – No – Because God is not impersonal. God calls people to himself, and breathes life into more people of different cultures, nations, races, and tribes each moment. As we discover in the wisdom literature in Scriptures, true Wisdom comes from God alone, and those who turn to him will receive the Holy Spirit – Truth becomes available, and true faith comes alive. This is a work of God on the hearts of the people of the world, and the Spirit of God is constantly moving. “Ask and you will receive,” Why wouldn’t we do so? Those who beleive but do not ask for wisdom from God (like Solomon did) are foolish. Why would we not wish to live lives according to God’s truth.
Lastly – No – Because God has given us a Community. That community stretches back to the beginning of human time, and will last forever in the direction of eternity. Many have written down what God has revealed to them, and communities have preserved important documents for our knowledge today. These documents are used practically different ways in different cultures, but the original meanings and original intents (messages) do not change. Though it may be hard, together in community, we can look backward and forward to see God’s one Truth, rather than the multitudes of interpretations. Ultimately, it is God’s one reality connecting to our billions of perspectives. I think it would be well, if we could find a way to bring together all the individual ways God has reached us, and see that all of it comes together to make one whole unit. This unit is reality – the center of this unit is Truth, and God holds it in his hand. He gives it to His people freely when they ask for it, and the community needs to find this Truth together in communion with the saints before, today, and those to come.
So I’ve said this all to say that I love the different interpretations and the stories we all bring to the table, as to the nature of God and His interactions with man. But it is necessary for us to bring our own stories, and our own agendas, and our own wills (whether they be individual, group oriented, or national) and bring them to the center, matching them up to what has been revealed, and what is being revealed through Study, Prayer, Service, and Community. And in all this, we rediscover a God who tells us that we are Loved in the Old Testament, and who demostrated that love by coming to earth and messing up everything for those who wish to mold the world in their own eyes. It is my continual project to live life in devotion to God as lens free as possible. I hope to learn the whole Truth as much as I can contain it, and to acknowledge that there are some mysteries about God that are too awesome and mind bending for me to fully comprehend (The Trinity, for example). But to the extent that I am able, I will not accept that we cannot see the Truth as it is, even if only by the power of God; and I will work as hard as I can to discover with others what that Truth is. We cannot fully attain all Truth, but we can touch it, and from the pieces, we can see that it is Good.