I know it has been a while since I last posted but we must continue to the end. It is important that we are able to distinguish between truth revealed and truth invented. In theology we are concerned with the truth revealed in a Person as being the only means of contact between humanity and reality of who God is in Himself. This truth cannot be contained within our field of knowledge. At no point do we strip away Jesus Christ, build a premise or a theory or any foundation built on the best of knowledge we have so far and then reattach it again to Jesus Christ. Because of the Incarnation, the knowledge of God impacts us in a deeply personal that is so utterly staggering.
Let’s take into account Paul’s own testimony in the first chapter of Galatians verses 13 – 17.
For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
Paul’s understanding of the revelation he received was given by the Spirit of Christ. It was the Spirit of Christ who taught him the inner truths of the gospel and its implications. He experienced an unveiling of the reality of the Son in me. Once the truth of Christ in Him became the reality, he preached this good news beginning with Christ in you, the hope of glory. Yet having such a remarkable life changing encounter with Jesus Christ, Paul was aware of his limitations of grasping the knowledge of God.
God is not limited by our limitations of understanding and He is entirely free to disclose Himself entirely to us for our benefit. At the same time, knowing what we know, we are humbly aware of our own limits of what we may know of Him. We must be aware of our own preconceptions. In addition, we must be wary of any other preconceptions, especially from other fields of science outside of theology. Having knowledge of our Creator does not necessarily mean we have access to all the knowledge of our creation. There is still so much we are yet to learn. The knowledge we have now is always subject to revision.
Our premise always begins with the Person of God, Jesus Christ who is in union and communion with the Father and in union and communion with our humanity. Such is the closeness and intimacy between our person and the Person of Jesus Christ, no one is able to come between this relationship. It is Jesus Christ who is the ultimate teacher on all matters regarding who God is and His relationship to us. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ commands we listen to Jesus Christ (Matt 17:5). The Spirit of Christ is sent to remind us of everything Jesus said (John 14:26). The New Covenant reminds us we will know who God is for ourselves and no man, or brother, or sister, or neighbour shall teach us anything to the contrary (Hebrews 8:10-12). When we hear Christ teach we become bound to His freedom to know and to be known. To be kept in freedom is to find teachers who will point to the only One who is free and is the source of our freedom, Jesus Christ. When one becomes aware of the truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ, then the will of God from before the foundation of the world is actualised and realised in that person. Good teachers will play their part to keep this actualisation and realisation alive.
Growing in confidence in our union with Jesus Christ likewise helps us to have confidence that the Spirit of Christ is already teaching what we know deep inside those around us. We endeavour to teach what the Spirit has revealed to us by teaching the very same with the knowledge and confidence those around are taught the very same thing by the very same Spirit. We may play a role in guiding others. However, it is in a way that is helping those we guide to depend on the Spirit of Christ within them rather than on us. The risk of a dependency on a teacher and/or teaching is the possibility that the teacher and/or teaching is limiting the vision of their disciple through a blindspot to the degree the teacher and/or teaching is blind who make others blind to the truth and freedom found in Jesus Christ. Once a teacher and/or teaching begins to lay down the rules and conditions for adhering to their ‘blindspot’ these become rigid concepts that produce a false god.
If someone has been studying theology for years and years achieving the highest standards and producing world class papers, they may still have a distorted view of the truth. Basing the authority of a teaching or teacher on the credibility of one’s qualifications will only go so far. The credibility of a teaching should rest on what the Spirit of Christ is already teaching us from within. If it does not resonate within us, then we have the right to reserve our decision, exercise caution or keep ourselves at a distance if we have reservations. Good teaching is accompanied by the fruit of the Spirit i.e. it is expressed in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Any sort of pressure to conform because of qualifications, position of authority or the threat of expulsion is not teaching within the freedom and fruit of the Spirit of Christ. Even Paul encouraged the Ephesians to test for themselves what he was teaching and know from within that he is speaking the truth. Through any qualifications or authority, the picture of Jesus Christ as a Person in intimate union with our very beings should increase.
The central key to real freedom of the gospel is relationship. It is the love and kindness of God who penetrates us far deeper to a place that is far beyond the reach of any other in the whole universe. It is that special and mysterious moment where we realise the reality of Jesus Christ from within. Quite often for many, after this moment it is taken away piece by piece and before long, we become accustomed to a God far different than the One who convinced us in the first place. Suddenly we are drowning in so many rules and regulations questioning all the time whether we have repented enough, have enough faith and perhaps whether we are truly saved. Once we re-establish our relationship with our Creator, especially as our High Priest, Jesus Christ, the loving assurance flows from out of our being from which Christ in us dwells. We realise when Jesus Christ disclosed Himself to us from within, we had indeed changed our mind and the faith of God is rooted in our hearts. Once we know the Person, we know the reality of our salvation lies in His Personhood. The whole nature of the gospel is grounded within us but has its origin that was outside of our control and knowledge.
The danger for the church is the ever present threat of somebody trying to introduce ideas from other disciplines in such a way they may stand in between the revealed knowledge of God in the Person and work of Jesus Christ and the believer. These ideas can subtly creep and encroach on our freedom. This erodes our ability to think intuitively and instinctively. Before long we come under the control of this foreign teaching and lose our sensitivity to the teaching of the Spirit. This is not to say we cannot explore the ideas outside of the discipline of theology. Just so long as they do not become rigid premises that govern the relationship between Christ and the believer. Knowledge in natural science is not exhaustive knowledge by any means. Healthy science understands there are limits to what we are capable of knowing. As we endeavour to understand the truth of the knowledge of the natural world, distortions in our understanding of it may arise. The risk of introducing so called truths exterior to theology into theology is we may unknowingly introduce a distortion.
Our primary function is to point people to Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, we declare what is revealed and stick with the truth disclosed in Him. The truth in Him is the truth that resides in all. As we focus more on God revealed in this Person, we help people to recognise His truth in such a way that is consistent with His truth in them. They they will know the Truth of Him for themselves and it is this truth that will set them free.