In ancient times people saw gods in the rocks and trees, idols they made and volcanoes and lightning and thunder. These were gods that were larger than they, but they were accessible. Their gods lived in their environment. Their gods were arbitrary, but they tried to appease them anyway.
Roman and Greek gods were larger than the material world, and they manipulated the material world for their own ends. They controlled volcanoes and earthquakes and lightning and thunder, but they were human-like, even in their imperfections. People could approach them. People could reason with and try to appease them.
Buddhist, Hindu and Eastern gods are not defined by the rocks, trees, lightning and thunder. They do not simply manipulate the material world. They are intimately and intricately part of the material world, and the material world is an extension of them, and the entirety of the material world is all ultimately one and the same in its essence.
Many scientists, like Einstein, who stood in awe of the universe, saw “god” in this way. People can fathom these gods/this god and understand them/it and seek to become one with them/it because these gods are made of the same stuff as people and all of the universe ultimately. These gods cannot be appeased. We can only hope to understand them.
I listened to a Tim Keller sermon about John 1 in which he focused on the revelation that “the Word was in the beginning; the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and God’s Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. You can follow the link in the last sentence to read a summary of the beginning of the message.
Keller made the following statement that is the subject of this piece:
“Jesus is the supreme revelation. If we are to know God, neither rationalism nor mysticism will suffice. For God chose to make Himself known finally and ultimately in a real historical human being.”
Keller doesn’t break that statement down, but he provides an illustration of how rationalism is insufficient to know God. I will summarize Keller’s illustration and provide one of my own for why mysticism can’t be relied upon for knowing God. Neither rationalism nor mysticism are sufficient, alone, to enable us to know God, and the reason why is that God revealed Himself in the person of Jesus.
If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. (John 7:17)
Jesus spoke these words after his own brothers expressed their skepticism about who Jesus appeared to be suggesting he was, the long awaited Messiah from God. (John 7:2-5) He spoke these words to a crowd that was also largely skeptical, wondering who he really was. Some were saying he was a good man, but others were claiming that he was leading people astray. (John 7:12)
I keep coming back to this verse (John 7:17) since I heard Dr. Rosaria Butterfield give her testimony of her journey from liberal, lesbian professor who was highly critical of Christians and Christianity to becoming a believer and later a pastor’s wife and having a ministry of her own.
In her world of academia, she was used to doing research and coming to conclusions before being willing to put her faith in a proposition. That is the academic process.
As she was listening to a sermon after having spent many months becoming friends with a pastor and his wife, reading the Bible, and considering the evidence for Christianity, she made a life changing realization. She was approaching Christianity academically. She was not willing to believe until all of the facts were lined up and could be reduced to a certain answer.
“Now we see as if in a mirror dimly… but then we will see face to face.”[a]
The filter through which we see God is the physical, spiritual, emotional and conscious person we see staring back at us in the mirror. Our perspective of God comes filtered through our own selves.
Think about that for a moment….
If our sense of who we are is distorted, our view of God is distorted. If we don’t see ourselves accurately, we can’t see God accurately. Having an accurate view of God requires us to have an accurate view of who we are.
The wrath of God has long been a source of discomfort for believers and a stumbling block for unbelievers. The subject is one step away from the question, “How can a loving God allow evil to exist in the world?” The counter punch is, “I cannot believe in a God who kills people, who wipes out innocent men, women and children.”
I am going to tackle this prickly subject in a series of writings. I have already written on the subject a number of times because it is a perplexing one.
It seems clear to me that the “answers” one finds are largely determined by orientation. A person who wants to understand will seek resolution and understanding; a person who is not interested in resolution or understanding will camp on the questions and make them rhetorical. I am writing for the person who is seeking to understand.