I was once a black-and-white, holiness-centered, fireball Christian. But that was exhausting and failed to align in any way with the world I saw around me. I always assumed I was right and the world was wrong, but then I had some time to reflect and study. And rather than getting uneasy about the world, I grew uneasy about Christendom.
But as I studied and prayed more, this malaise regarding my evangelical roots gave way to a more graceful orientation on God. In a philosophical sense, I began to see things from a higher perspective, to try to see things from His eyes. Everything seemed to fit into a pattern, and in a way, the world began to make sense. As complex as this spiritual ecosystem was, it had a sort of elegant integrity to it. But that created a problem.
My old binary life was simpler.
This is best illustrated in one of my favorite old quotes:
For there to be gray, you had to mix some black in with the white.
It was one of my favorite lines because it made life easier. “It’s harder,” I would have argued, because you have to draw hard lines which upset people. But it was easier for me. Today, I see it as moral laziness.
The Complexity of Free Will
I understand now that things are infinitely more complex.
Each person has their own free will, incalculably influenced by each other person’s free will. If I exercise my free will to pray for God to give us a boy, and Clara does the same for a girl, what happens? Or to put it more base terms, if both teams pray to win, which team wins?
Try to truly ponder the mechanics of that in a formulaic way, and one of two things will happen: (1) you’ll give up, or (2) your brain will explode.
And that’s just considering human influences. I remember being taught that angels were something like spiritual robots, automatons executing God’s will without the capacity for deviance. Yet, the Bible pretty clearly teaches that some deviated. So now there are beings I can’t see that also exert their influences with abilities and powers I don’t fully understand.
Oh, and then there’s the nightmares of the cosmos, the forces we only get glimpses of when God lets Job peek behind the curtain of reality. Make no mistake: Leviathan and Behemoth are not fanciful descriptions of alligators or hippos. This is not a child’s storytime version of a trip to the cosmic zoo.
These are powerful spiritual influences that are beyond human (and perhaps angelic) perception and/or comprehension. If there are forces that can fart lightning and belch supernovae exerting their influence on the world, actively combatting God and/or His creation, I can’t even fathom how to fathom their influence on which team wins or which gender we have.
None of us can.
It only seems easier to wield a simplistic mindset in a complex world. In such a world, I must carry the sins of the world on my shoulders, calling out the failures of all in hopes that no one sees my own.
Acknowledging a Complex, Fallen World
Thankfully, God doesn’t call us to exhaustively understand the entirety of the cosmos. He calls us to pray, to follow, to obey, and to love. It’s a complex world, but we’re called to simple things. Good things. And these things are a reflection of who He is.
The God I see in the Bible does not resemble the mechanical tyrant or the kind condemner I had always perceived. The Jesus depicted in life among sinners and in death for sinners hardly seems to be rejecting all the unbelievers in his proximity for the inescapability of their sin.
Hebrews 12:2 does not say Jesus tolerated the mild inconvenience of the cross because he was bored that week. It was joy.
John 3:16 does not say God gave us a loaner because he grew tired of our sinning. It was love.
Isaiah 9:6 does not refer to Him as a hesitant listener, angry God, happy to be a father figure once you get over yourself, prince of purposes you can never fulfill. It was wonderful, mighty, everlasting, peace.
I don’t mean to say there is no judgment, no expectations, no answering to the throne. Of course, there is. But we each will answer to God based not only on his fixed absolutes but also based on our individual accountabilities, combinations of our spheres of influence and our interactions with the Holy Spirit tugging on our hearts. And all the while, He will do so in a manner in line with His character as a holy, pure, merciful, loving Fount of Integrity.
That’s just for personal responsibility. Nevermind all of the rest of the cosmos and all it contains. The infinite (and often infinitesimal) complexity firmly plants a great deal out of reach for my little bitty human mind. That means I can’t always find the answers.
Despite my thirst for knowledge, I have to accept that my finite awareness can never, in all eternity, conquer eternity itself. Even with eternal life, I am but a ray in geometric terms, existing as a one-dimensional entity in a universe of infinite dimensions. If I extend into infinity, it is only in the finite direction that is my own. I will go forever, but I will never be forever.
Progress is what matters. Incrementally overcoming ignorance is the hallmark of humanity. It’s true in science. It should be no less true for our faith.
It’s been a long journey, telling my story. But now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. Facing not only the hard questions but also our ignorance.
And that is where we’ll continue next week.
Originally posted 2017-05-22 08:00:53.