The church has been battered by waves of postmodern thoughts for a few decades. And I believe that the first thing to begin to crack as a church succumbs to the beating is a sense of the absolute knowledge of God! I have heard several things recently that have amounted to a calling into question the ability to really know God through the Scriptures. The argument often starts with a humility that indicates that we certainly cannot know an infinite being comprehensively, and then it leaps to the conclusion that we should chill on our conviction that Scripture speaks authoritatively in a knowable way!
I accept fully the truth that God is beyond my full comprehension. I do not think I will ever know all that there is to know about God! I think I will fall on my face in awe before Him! I think I will be corrected when I finally see Him in all of His glory and splendor and the correction will not go in the direction of, “God, I thought you were more powerful . . .”
But the leap that seems to be growing as a common conclusion to this humility is to soften the reality of the communication of God to us, by suggesting that whenever we say that we know something about God we are being arrogant or somehow worshipping the Bible.
My faith that I have some things right about God does not come from a place of trust in myself. It comes from a source outside of myself. And that source claims to be a God given revelation of Himself and His works in human history. The 66 books of the Bible are not a policy handbook for life, but rather an expression of God Himself. He is not a silent God, but He is a talker! He uses words and condescends to humanity by communicating with us in terms, phrases, syntax, and grammar that can be studied, explored, read, and applied. And I would suggest that He is not just merely a God who speaks, but I believe Him to be an excellent communicator!!
He has certainly not exhaustively expressed Himself in human language, but He has told us what we need to know about Him! He hasn’t stuttered, He hasn’t slurred His speech, and He hasn’t deceived us!
If I am honest, the times I most misunderstand Him or find Him confusing are the times He says things I am not comfortable with. I don’t like the doctrine of hell, so that suddenly becomes confusing (despite so much clear teaching). I am torn over the issue of women in ministry and so suddenly some of the teachings of Paul are hard to understand.
I believe that some of the issue within the church regarding the knowability of God and the revelation of Scripture comes from a genuine reality that there are many different interpretations of given passages. So back to the title, has God miscommunicated? Is His Word defunct? Or in a more noble way do we take the hurt on ourselves and throw up our hands as hopelessly broken and incapable of understanding?
I believe that a healthy approach for a believer is indeed one of humility. If we approach Scripture as a communication to humanity from God, then the pursuit of truth in its pages cannot be surrendered! If we desire to know God, we must start at the place that He has told us about Himself. Further, we must come ready to be corrected by the Bible. If it is God’s disclosure then we need to take it as true about Him and about us!
I believe that the church has begun to slide of opposite sides of the table! On one side are people who read what He has written about Himself and seek to correct it! They want to run PR for God and spin his bio. This of course is tantamount to reading an autobiography and correcting the author, and I want to say, “Wait a minute . . . this is about Him. He can write His own story without our help”.
On the other side of the table scads of people fall off into the abyss of the “I know Him, but have never met him” camp. They don’t really read Scripture. They haven’t read the autobiography. They haven’t truly encountered Him, but they have all kinds of opinions about Him. This is like writing a biography of an author you’ve never met and you have never read their own writings. Conversations with someone in this camp often involve impassioned conviction about fuzzy notions of a god that would never_____. And many of these people are religious! Many of them claim to speak for God!
This is not a problem just in the world out there, this is a problem in the church! I believe there is a crisis of authority cutting right to the heart of the church in America. Coming back to the realization that God is a God of speech, He is the living Word! He created by the spoken Word. And He has created for us a written Word! He is not silent and He is not a poor communicator!