The Three Most Convincing Words I’ve Heard From a Christian

It’s been a struggle over the last several weeks.  I seem to have taken on the self-appointed task of trying to “explain” God to various people—those that have a relationship with Him, and those who don’t even feel He exists.

Then, just the other day, I listened to a radio preacher who was explaining a certain . . . I don’t even remember what it was . . . but his answer was so concise, so dead-on accurate,  so true to my own feelings that I just got goose bumps.  Chills ran up and down my spine.  The light bulb went on.

That was it!  Those were the three words I’d been searching for.  Well no, not searching for–I already knew them in my heart but never felt comfortable in saying them out loud.  Yet here he was.  This learned man of God.  Ordained in scripture and teaching.  Saying the very words I had been too afraid to utter myself.

Are you ready?  You sure??  You’re gonna want to post these words on Facebook!  Tweet them to all your followers! IM all your friends.

Here they come . . . .

I.  DON’T.  KNOW.

Yup.  That’s them: Three little words that brought so much comfort and solace to my beliefs and my relationship with God.  It’s the only true, most honest answer I’ve been able to come with in regards to some of the toughest questions of my own faith.

I mean how do I explain to the skeptic a God that wipes out entire populations to make way for His chosen people?  How do I explain the seeming inaccuracies and contradictions of the Bible?  (Although, to be fair, even the skeptics can’t agree on how many contradictions there are. 32? 200? 1000?  I’ve seen all kinds of differing numbers.  By the way, would the differing numbers be a contradiction themselves?  And if so, do I dare to believe they exist?)

How do I explain evil?

It would seem that God needs to fit into a category that skeptics are familiar and comfortable with: either the “Explainable” (microbiology, gravity, etc.), or the “Yet To Be Explained” (quantum physics, nano-particles, etc.).  “The Unexplainable” has no room in their repertoire of conversation, nor in their banks of knowledge.

Yet, “The Unexplainable” is exactly where God dwells:

Isaiah 55: Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have love, pity, and mercy for him, and to our God, for He will multiply to him His abundant pardon.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says 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. (AMP)

And why does He do these things?

I. Don’t. Know.

Why don’t you ask him?  Oh wait, Job did . . . and got his butt chewed out when God said, in essence, “Who am I to owe an explanation to you?” (see Job: 38-42)

And why does he take this attitude towards Job?

I. Don’t. Know.

Probably because He’s God and Job isn’t and it’s the truth.

On second thought, he may very well give you an answer; at which point it would be up to you to accept its validity (which would be difficult if you don’t believe the One giving the answer even exists . . . but still.)  In my own case, I’m okay either way.  I’m okay with a God that lives in “The Unexplainable”.  I’m okay not knowing all.  I rest in the comfort of believing in the One who does.

(On third thought, as my lovely wife just pointed out:  If we are all to one day stand face-to-face with our Maker, maybe God does live in the “Yet To Be Explained”.   Hmm . . . just sayin’)

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9 thoughts on “The Three Most Convincing Words I’ve Heard From a Christian”

  1. I suppose that such a god really could give us all our own personal planets to rule over once we die. And I suppose he could have sent golden plates to Joseph Smith in an unknown language that Joseph Smith perfectly translated and then had that translation (of an unknown language) verified by a linguist. It really makes no sense, but doesn’t that just make it all the grander?

    I’m not trying to be flippant, because I actually agree with your overall point. If God exists, then there are some things about him that we probably can’t understand. And I agree that there’s nothing wrong with answering “I don’t know” to a question. It’s honest, and it acknowledges that we’re all still on a journey of discovery. Those who won’t let themselves answer that way tend to have their eyes closed on the journey.

    However, if we accept that answer to all questions, then we reach a level of absurdity like the one in my first paragraph. In other words, we hamstring our ability to come to a closer understanding of truth because we refuse to acknowledge uncomfortable facts or questions about our beliefs. For instance, Mark says that Jesus was crucified from 9am to 3pm, but John says he received his execution sentence at noon. At least one of them is wrong about the time frame. So that’s not some great theological mystery that we just can’t understand because of God’s greatness. That’s a contradiction, and it only raises skepticism.

    The genocides in the Old Testament are also unexplainable. Skeptics ask the question, not because we’re uncomfortable with “I don’t know,” but because such actions contradict the very nature of a being who is supposed to be the embodiment of love. I recently heard about the Guatemalan Dos Erres massacre that happened in 1982. Wikipedia offers this description:

    In the early afternoon, the Kaibiles separated out the children, and began killing them. They bashed the smallest children’s heads against walls and trees, and killed the older ones with hammer blows to the head. Their bodies were dumped in a well. Next, the commandos interrogated the men and women one by one, then shot or bashed them with the hammer, and dumped them in the well. They raped women and girls, and ripped the fetuses out of pregnant women. The massacre continued throughout 7 December. On the morning of 8 December, as the Kaibiles were preparing to leave, another 15 persons, among them children, arrived in the hamlet. With the well already full, they took the newcomers to a location half an hour away, then shot all but two of them. They kept two teenage girls for the next few days, raping them repeatedly and finally strangling them once they were no longer useful.

    This isn’t too dissimilar to the Bible’s descriptions of the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan. Would God command such things?

    To me, those are the kinds of questions for which “I don’t know” should be insufficient.

    1. First off, I love you Nate. No matter how our discussions go, I still feel that, if we met, we’d somehow develop this weird, symbiotic relationship outside the blogosphere and have some really interesting conversations over a couple beers (or coffee…or really, really big burgers).

      In regards to paragraph number one: yes, all of that could happen I suppose but as you and I both know, neither of us believe either of those lines of “religious” ideology so in regards to your 2nd paragraph, yes, yes you are trying to be flippant.

      Where I take issue with your argument is in your saying, “However, if we accept that answer to all questions, then we reach a level of absurdity like the one in my first paragraph.” I never said I accepted that answer to all questions . . .only the ones I don’t know. Others, much more learned than I, have attempted to answer these questions, obviously to your dissatisfaction. I guess a more concise point to my post would be that I know my own limitations and I’m not even going to try taking on these issues regardless of my level of knowledge on the subject. The outcome would be fruitless.

    2. By whose logic should it be insufficient ? We all want to put ourselves in Gods shoes without actually being in Gods shoes. We LOVE to make idols of ourselves until we realize how impossible it is to be As God ( First lie told to us in the garden was that we would be as God)

      Theres a lot of possible reasons God could have done it.
      Maybe there were things those populations would have done that would have destroyed many, many more people than their number and God knew this and took actions Only God would take to resolve the situation.

      Perhaps it was to make a cautionary tale to you and I today to see how evil eventually will destroy entire populations of people because theres a price to pay for Sin and God wanted to make sure that thousands of years later, you and I were discussing this exact thing because he will use it to lead someone to salvation someday ( maybe you, or someone simply trolling and reading this discussion) Gods big. Bigger by far than we can imagine.

      It could have even been that he knew that those folks would NEVER come to him ( therefore, being separated from him they would gradually fall worse and worse into a hellish existence ) and asked the israelites to kill them before they got to the point of recognizing their own depravity and realizing they would always be separated from Him ( the very definition of Hell is separation from God, who is Perfect Love and All good) –

      Heres the thing. I could wander mentally around for days trying to make sense of it. I could come up with Lots of scenarios that would make logical sense to you and I , and so could you. Or you could come up with why none of them make sense. We could discuss it for decades and never know There are thousands of pages of different peoples studies on this exact subject on google and in books all over the world. I could throw out all sorts of information from those studies and you could poke holes in them or not.

      But the reality is, I don’t know. You don’t know. And neither of us Ever will unless we ask the Lord when we meet him face to face.
      I’m uncomfortable with God and some of the things he’s done, but scripture says Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and his ways are beyond and above ours- I believe this, trust him and have faith that he is Good and Holy ( he will not suffer evil in his presence). But he also loves mercy and Loves us.
      I sense you aren’t a believer, but I’d say this. We all struggle with God. We cannot even comes close to grasping him. But the question isn’t why do bad things happen to good people ( or even bad people) – Its why do Good things happen to bad people ( all of us are sinful and separate ourselves from God , and yet we live, take breath, eat food, don’t die in car wrecks today, get to experience joy etc…) ,and why would he send his Son to die on our behalf when we slander his name, constantly argue about if he’s even real, and frequently sin against him and each other.
      In any case- Glad to meet you sir!

  2. Isaiah speaks of God giving us knowledge “line upon line, precept upon precept.” We do not have “all the answers” but we have certainly been promised a knowledge that will grow. Maybe the question is how much do we truly want to know the things of God? I love the following scriptures: “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.” and: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth MORE light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” And then, finally: “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.” We are certainly not there yet—but God does impart light and knowledge as we truly seek him and it is a growing process. The more we are willing to receive and put into practice , the more knowledge he imparts. (These scriptures are from The Doctrine & Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, a volume of holy scripture which we use with the Bible.)

  3. Wow! Good discussion . . . . I’m the “lovely wife” (thanks hon) who pointed out that God may be unexplainable now, but He is better described as the “yet to be explained”. Jesus will return, as He said he would, and there will be a day that we meet God face to face. At that time we will have a much greater understanding of who God is and so much will be revealed. Many, many of our questions will be answered, however, as far as trying to understand everything about God . . . . I’m not sure our minds could even get around the concept. That’s why He is who He is! And what if God did appear to us and explained everything in detail, don’t you think there would still be someone who would say . . . NO WAY! That’s impossible! I mean, Jesus walked this Earth and did miraculous things and people just wanted to snuff Him out. He was right in front of them in a very tangible way and they didn’t see. What makes you think we’re any different today????

  4. “I don’t know” is perfectly okay with me. I see the point about it possibly becoming a cop out. We obviously cannot say “I don’t know” to every question, but I don’t think that’s where you were headed with this idea. The dilemma, for me, comes in the need to KNOW IT ALL. The Christian Faith is just that–FAITH. If we could answer every single question, where would faith come into play? If we could answer every question, wouldn’t that make us omniscient? There HAS to come a point when we say “I don’t know” because that’s when we are forced to say, “But I BELIEVE.” And that is when when we please God (Hebrews 11:6). There’s a lot to discuss with an idea like this, but that’s my initial thought.

    1. Thanks Darren. That’s pretty much exactly where I was headed.

      “There HAS to come a point when we say “I don’t know” because that’s when we are forced to say, ‘But I BELIEVE.'” ~ Yes, that’s my take as well. As I’ve said a couple times before, this is one of the hardest concepts, for me personally, surrounding “faith” to try and get across to those far from God. We all have varying degrees of knowledge, varying experiences of personal relevance and varying levels of commitment & spiritual growth; and to try and distill that into a 5-700 word post is nigh on impossible.

      1. Yeah, tough in a 700 word post, but REALLY tough in a 5 word post. (insert smiley face here) Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to actually type the smiley. It feels so 15-year-old-girl-ish.

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