22. Make Room for Mystery
So finely are the lines of truth drawn, so delicately are the scales of wisdom balanced, that it is not a wonder that some tender-minded Christians become confused and adopt a discouraged attitude toward the Word of God.
The beginner in Christ will not have read long in the Scriptures fill he comes upon passages that appear to contradict each other, He may check the various versions or, if he is fortunate enough to read the Scriptures in the original languages, he may consult all the lexicons and still be forced to acknowledge the contradiction. As far as he can see it is there and there is no avoiding it. Now what?
Well, he may do one of several things. He may, for instance, quit in despair and conclude that he can never understand the Bible and that there is no use to try; or he may worry over the contradictory passages until he gets himself into a dangerous state of mind; or (and this is the worst of all) he may consult some of the rationalistic-orthodox theologians who in fancied near-omniscience presume to resolve all Biblical difficulties with a wave of their word-processor. This last is sure to be fatal to true spirituality, for the whole heart attitude of these expositors is wrong and they cannot but lead their disciples astray. They belong to that class of persons mentioned by Cicero, who "fear nothing so much as to appear to be in doubt about anything." They proceed on the false assumption that everything in heaven and earth can be explained. And than this nothing could be more glaringly false.
Far better than the attempt to understand is the humility that admits its ignorance and waits quietly on God for His own light to appear in His own time. We will be better able to understand when we have accepted the humbling truth that there are many things in heaven and earth that we shall never be able to understand. It will be good for us to accept the universe and take our place in the mighty web of God's creation, so perfectly known to Him and so slightly known to even the wisest of men. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way."
To those who have (unintentionally) degraded their conception of God to the level of their human understanding it may appear frightening to admit that there are many things in the Scriptures and more things about the Godhead that transcend the human intellect. But a few minutes on our knees looking into the face of Christ will teach us humility, a virtue whose healing qualities have been known by God's elect from time out of mind. Coleridge gave it as his considered belief that the profoundest sentence ever uttered by human lips was the spontaneous cry of the prophet Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones when asked by the lord whether those bones could live: "And I answered, 0 Lord God, you know." Had Ezekiel answered yes or no he would have closed off his heart to the mighty mystery which confronted him and would have missed the luxury of wonder in the presence of the Majesty on high. For never forget that it is a privilege to wonder, to stand in delighted silence before the Supreme Mystery and whisper, "0 Lord God, you know!"
The pitiable attempt of churchmen to explain everything for the smiling unbeliever has had an effect exactly opposite to that which was intended. It has reduced worship to the level of the intellect and introduced the rationalistic spirit into the wonders of religion. No one should be ashamed to admit that he does not know, and no Christian should fear the effect of such a confession in the realm of things spiritual. Indeed the very power of the cross lies in the fact that it is the wisdom of God and not the wisdom of man. The day we manage to explain everything spiritual will be the day that we have (for ourselves) destroyed everything divine.
Let it be known that in this matter the Christian is definitely not on the defensive. Let the wise of this world insist that we Christians explain our faith and they put into our hand a sword with which we can put them to headlong flight. We have but to turn and ask them to explain this world and we shall see how confused they can become. Jesus said on one occasion "If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?" If we are compelled to explain, so are they, and we both do a poor job of it, for mystery lies all about us from the atom to the soul of man, and all any of us can do is to bow and say, "0 Lord God, you know."
Probably David lying on his back on the green meadow at night, brooding over the mystery of the moon and the stars and the littleness of man in the total scheme of things, worshiping the God who had made him only a little lower than the angels, was a truer man than the astronomer who in his high pride weighs and measures the heavenly bodies. Yet the astronomer need not despair. If he will humble himself and confess his deep inward need, the God of David will teach him how to worship, and by so doing will make him a greater man than he could ever have been otherwise.
From The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Root of the Righteous - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.