Friday, September 21, 2012

Why Must We Know in Part?

Karl Barth said, "The angels laugh when they read my theology." Paul Tillich said, "Our theology needs to be justified by faith as much as our lives do." Ellen White, the founder of the Adventist church said, "We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed" (Ellen White, Counsels to Writers and Editors, 36-37).

Why would famous theologians and prolific writers say such things? Probably because they recall 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT) which states, "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."

But why must the wisest and brightest among us now only know in part? Dr. Fritz Guy helped me understand a few years ago in a pastors study group I still recall. He said modesty is our realistic appraisal of ability and accomplishment. And that at the bottom of the ladder of modesty is my PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE or what I know. An unbridgeable gap of knowledge above that is ACCESSIBLE KNOWLEDGE or what I could know in principle if I didn't have a job, life, kids and all I did was study all my life. Which isn't realistic since we all have to eat and sleep and live. Above that is another unbridgeable gap followed by ACTUAL HUMAN KNOWLEDGE or what I could know if I studied all things from the pyramids in Egypt to the Space Station up to now. An unbridgeable gap above that is POSSIBLE HUMAN KNOWLEDGE or what the human mind could in principle know under ideal conditions such as no sin and infinite time into the future. But even if a sinless human with infinite time could learn all personal, accessible, actual, and possible human knowledge available, there would still be one more unbridgeable gap to INFINITE KNOWLEDGE or what God knows. Anybody care to guess where all systematic theology and fundamental beliefs and political discussions are on this ladder? What are the implications? How winsome would Christianity be if all our conclusions about it were held dearly but loosely until a "fuller understanding of Bible truth is revealed" or we find "better language in which to express the teachings of God's Holy Word"? (I'm glad these words can be found in the preamble to the book Seventh-day Adventists Believe. I'm sad many don't realize this).



 POSSIBLE HUMAN KNOWLEDGE =what the human mind could in principle know under ideal conditions (no sin, infinite time)


ACTUAL HUMAN KNOWLEDGE=what all human beings know collectively at the present time


ACCESSIBLE KNOWLEDGE=what I could in principle know



No comments: