Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Mystery of God

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

One of the great struggles I have observed in evangelicalism is that in seeking to be truly “fundamental” and “biblical” in our belief we have shunned and rejected that which is a “mystery.” While I am not supportive of “mysticism” (which focus on the internal subjective truth of self rather than external objective truth of God’s Word) I do believe there are things of God that are just too mysterious to wrap our fallen human minds around: "For 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 are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Clearly our western culture has lost its admiration and respect for a power and an authority beyond itself. I believe this a danger that Christian churches of all kinds continue to face. Without some sense of mystery in our faith, human reason and spiritual pride ultimately replace reverence and awe. Even in our deepest understanding we must embrace a sovereign God who is mysteriously beyond ourselves. The apostle Paul tells us we "must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience" (1 Timothy 3:9). In his book Living Prayer Robert Benson says this:

Our forebears’ fear of ostentation has pretty much faded from our memories. Our shirts say Polo, our shoes say Nike, our cars say Lexus, and our luggage says Hartman. Our lawns say we are successful, our houses say we are well off, our church buildings say we are pretty fair fund-raisers.

But I think our lives are saying that we need some sacred spaces and some sacred things in them. We need some things that are mysterious as the Mystery itself. What might happen to us and among us if we regained the sense of mystery that we have replaced with a list of answers and formulas and glib slogans that are of little help in the face of the troubling questions of our day?

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