At least he was very polite about it.
A guy came to me a few years ago and said he and his wife weren’t coming back to the class I was teaching. The reason? During a series on Creation, I expressed the opinion that I was not 100% sure how God created the universe.
He went on to say that the Bible makes it clear that God created everything we know in six literal 24-hour days and that the universe was only thousands of years old. If I couldn’t accept that, he said, then he couldn’t sit under my teaching for anything else.
On the one hand, I understand. There are absolutely non-negotiable things when it comes to the Christian faith. Further, we call someone a heretic when they claim to be a believer and yet deviate from these fundamental doctrines.
That said, as in the case above, often it is not a doctrine itself that is questioned, but rather how God practically brought this article of faith to life.
Of course, God created the universe. But how did he do it exactly?
Of course, we are saved by grace alone and by Christ alone. But what is really going on behind these saving curtains?
Of course, there is evil in the world. But how do you reconcile this with the existence of an all-good and powerful Creator?
Sometimes we are given enough explicit content in God’s Word to make such decisions and get the answers we seek. But sometimes we don’t. And when that happens, we find ourselves in the somewhat uncomfortable position of having to live with the mysteries of God.
Avoid two extremes
When we wade through these discussion waters, there are two extremes to avoid. On the one hand, the group “everything is a mystery”, well illustrated by the movement of the Emerging Church, of which we fortunately do not hear any more.
Represented by names like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, etc., and rooted in postmodernism and deconstructionism, the emerging church had a deep mistrust of certain doctrinal beliefs. Its brain trust has stated that all core theological beliefs and points of doctrine must be held with “humility” (i.e., “uncertainty”) and open to ongoing dialogue, in which all opinions and perspectives must be accepted and affirmed.
For example, speaking to Christianity Today, Rob and Kristen Bell said, “I grew up thinking that we understood the Bible, that we knew what it means. Now I have no idea what that largely means.
The other extreme is to think you have it all figured out in God’s Word. The embodiment? You know exactly how it went down to the smallest detail. The Trinity? No mystery for you.
In the past, I’ve worked sick in my attempts to be a card-carrying member of the latter camp, and have become extremely edgy when I couldn’t uncover every aspect of a doctrine. Today, I still find myself far from those who claim that we cannot know anythingbut I certainly don’t claim to know either everything.
Years ago I was listening to a long series of podcasts about the creation of William Lane Craig, one of the world’s top Christian apologists and theologians. For days as I trained in the gym, I listened intently to him go through all the young earth/old earth theories with their pros and cons.
At the end, Craig said, “Now I’m sure you all want to know which theory I think is right.” “Here we go,” I thought, “I’m finally going to get the answer I’ve been waiting for.”
What was Craig’s response? “I have no idea.”
No doubt those working around me must have thought I was crazy because I subconsciously shouted, “Say what?!?!?”
Craig went on to explain what combination of theories he found believable and in union with Scripture, but maintained that he was still not 100% certain how God created it all. That God created everything? Yes. Exactly how? No.
At the time, it bothered me, but since then I have become much more comfortable with such a position.
How about another example. Let’s take the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross for you and me. About this we are told: “…this man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and the foreknowledge of God, you nailed him to a cross by the hands of ungodly men and you put him to death” (Acts 2:23).
The doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary death is undisputed, but reconciling God’s predetermined plan with the free will actions of those who murdered Jesus remains a mystery, whether you are a Calvinist, Arminian, or Molinist.
How about resolving the existence of evil and God — something in theology called a theodicy? Do you think you have it all figured out?
If so, do you remember that thorny book called Job in the Old Testament? Remember how it ends? It ends with God asking Job and his friends over 60 questions and saying that if you can’t figure them out, you’re not going to close the book on why he allows evil.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
No doubt some of you will misunderstand what I am saying and claim that I am arguing that we cannot know the truth or God’s plan. That’s not it at all.
What I am saying is, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8-9). Therefore, there will be times when we cannot understand everything about God.
So get comfortable with that and remember that such a thing is more than okay – it’s part of another fantastic doctrine called “faith.”
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has authored numerous articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented apologetic events. He holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce, a master’s degree in Christian apologetics and a doctorate. in the New Testament. His latest book is, Confident Faith: Winning People to Christ with the Apologetics of the Apostle Paul.