July 2008


Mine must be higher...

Mine must be higher...

From www.britannica.com:

Doctrine – the explication and officially acceptable version of a religious teaching. The development of doctrines and dogmas has significantly affected the traditions, institutions, and practices of the religions of the world. Doctrines and dogmas also have influenced and been influenced by the ongoing development of secular history, science, and philosophy.

And from the American Heritage Dictionary:

Theology –

  1. The study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions.
  2. A system or school of opinions concerning God and religious questions: Protestant theology; Jewish theology.
  3. A course of specialized religious study usually at a college or seminary.

 

(In this discussion I often group the concepts of doctrine and theology together and refer to both when the word “doctrine” is used except when noted otherwise.)

We humans are limited, God is unlimited; our knowledge limited while God is omniscient. We form theologies to try to understand an infinite Being and doctrines to try to explain how He relates to us and how we should relate to Him. Because we are limited in our knowledge these doctrines and theologies fall far short to describe this wonderful unlimited Being we know and recognise as God almighty. Yet we claim our doctrine or theology better and more perfect than the next person’s. We group ourselves with others with the same doctrine/theology and the more people we assemble around the same the more perfect we claim it to be. If someone dares to question some small part of our sacred doctrine we launch out in full attack and claim their doctrine to be at worst heretical or best erroneous. We are like children building towers with building blocks and the highest claims to be best. When another threatens to be higher we’ll throw a tantrum and try to knock theirs over.

We have an inherent need for God and try to reach out to Him and His perfection (Acts 17:27). With these doctrines and theologies we try to reach the perfection of God just like the people who built the tower of Babel.  We try to reach to the heavens.

Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (NIV)

Now here is the catch. God stooped down from heaven, became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, walked among men, died on a cross and rose from the dead. All that is needed to reach out to God is belief in Christ Jesus and submitting under His Lordship. That is it. Nothing more than this.

In building our towers of doctrine higher we are missing the point. God is not to be found somewhere up there where the highest, most perfect tower can reach. He is to be found in the humility of surrender.

Doctrine and theology is useful because it help us understand (to a certain extent) what we belief. It is useful in figuring out how we should live out this submission to Christ and conduct ourselves while we do not know in full (1 Corinthians 13:12). But it is not essential for salvation.

My prayer is that God will knock us off of our towers of doctrine and that we will fall into His grace that is able to save and restore.

 

 

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Sometimes I feel that I just don’t get it. Things just doesn’t make sense. Faith doesn’t make sense. God doesn’t make sense. Yesterday I saw some light. Well… I should rather say I was reminded of the comforting knowledge that I am not the only one feeling this way. On the blog CRN.Info Jerry answered a question from Neil. His answer struck me because it resonated with me on so many levels and explained how I feel in much better words than I could ever put together. With Jerry’s permission I repost his reply here.

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Neil: “Would you expound on the relationship between “certainty” and “desperation.”?”

Jerry: Neil,

You know what it is? Last week I was at a camp with four kids from KCU. One has a 13 year old brother whose body is riddled with tumors.

I have a brother whose 30 year old brain is being crushed by a tumor. He is 30 years old and cannot control his piss any longer, eats paper, wanders aimlessly around the house. In short, he’s dying. 30.

I am about to take on a mortgage for my family, rejoice in God’s blessing, while others in the world are starving. Rejoice in all things, he says. And yet, I want this house so bad for my wife and sons and I shouldn’t feel badly that I have to have a place to live and that after 14 years of preaching I’m tired of living in a parsonage which provides nothing for my future or family.

I believe in Creation and the theological importance of such a belief. But what if Darwin was right? (I”m not interested in debating this so please spare me.) And why is what’s so obvious to me so hazy to others? (I’m not interested in debating so please don’t bother. Here I’m sharing those ‘certainties’ and ‘desperations.’)

What about all the lost? The Calvinist escapes this fear and angst by attributing all the lost to God’s just election. I cannot do that. Every person that dies without Christ tears me apart. What about hell? I don’t want to imagine it in any way.

What if David never really did exist?

What if I die some glad morning and I don’t have the requisite wings to fly away?

What if my sons grow older and end up hating God like my youngest brother does?

Why won’t my church grow even though I am preaching Sola Scriptura? Why does one man in the church continually harp on me about the length of the worship? Why have I been stuck preaching in small churches since the day I graduated while many of my peers have done far more?

Even on the mountain when Jesus ascended some doubted. The problem I have is that sometimes doubts have no answers.

Why have I had to struggle the way I have had to struggle with certain sins? No matter the prayers. No matter the faith. No matter the resistance. Struggle. Struggle. Struggle.

You know what it is? Grace. I cannot, no matter how much I believe and preach it, understand God’s grace. I am desperately clinging to that grace. Desperately.

PS. I don’t get dispensationalism either. Then again, I don’t get mathematics. I cannot reconcile Calvinism with Scripture and yet there are some who see nothing but ‘Calvinism.’ I don’t get ‘Left Behind’ and yet some see nothing but Left Behind. I play guitar and sing, but I don’t understand music. I am desperate.

But I’m learning that I am more desperate for Jesus than I am for answers.

I’m learning to live in the ambiguity of it all. Isn’t it strange that God could have give us straight answers–like the straight forward Laws of Leviticus–and yet he chose more often than not to give us ambiguity? Am I the only one who finds that strange, dissatisfying, and completely unfair?

I guess that’s what faith is about, huh?

jerry

Sorry for the long reply. Maybe this song is helpful to explain my position:

Well, sometimes my life
Just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something
I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

–Rich Mullins

I had this Sunday off from church, the first in quite a long time. I took the opportunity to go to the Walmer Methodist Church. It was a very pleasant experience. The sermon was out of Psalm 61 – how David handled difficult situations. It was very relevant in the current South African situation.

Psalm 61

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.

 1 Hear my cry, O God;
       listen to my prayer.

 2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
       I call as my heart grows faint;
       lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

 3 For you have been my refuge,
       a strong tower against the foe.

 4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
       and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
       Selah

 5 For you have heard my vows, O God;
       you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

 6 Increase the days of the king’s life,
       his years for many generations.

 7 May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
       appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

 8 Then will I ever sing praise to your name
       and fulfil my vows day after day.

Dillon the Engineer

Afterwards we went to the Port Elizabeth’s Model Railway Society which runs their trains every first Sunday of the month. From the moment we drove through the gate I felt like a child again. To say Dillon and me were mesmerised is an understatement. The amount of detail that is in these locomotives is just mind boggling. It was also one of the cheapest family outings imaginable – R3,50 per ride. Dillon gave every locomotive names as he saw fit – Thomas, Emily, James…
Maneesha was just as impressed and was a bundle of laughter all day long, waiving to all the people at the side of the track.

 

 

Today was one of those days that will stand out in my life.