A necessary caution & comfort

These days it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate misguided sincerity from crass advertising, but differing motivations can share the same deleterious effects.

Some time back I posted a quote from Thomas Weinandy on a pitfall of modern theology:

Many theologians today, having embraced the Enlightenment presuppositions and the scientific method that it fostered, approach theological issues as if they were scientific problems to be solved rather than mysteries to be discerned and clarified.

This statement made a lasting impression on me as I realized that the problem-solving quest isn’t unique to theologians but is part of the Christian culture in general. With decreasing attention spans and sound bite theology exploding on social media, it should come as no surprise that we have a very low tolerance for the mysterious, the unanswerable, the unmanageable.

Nowhere is this more evident than in so much talk about spiritual encounters in a worship setting. These days it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate misguided sincerity from crass advertising, but differing motivations can share the same deleterious effects. So for those tempted to buy into the hype that exhilaration is proof of God’s presence, Lewis offers a word of caution. And for those tempted to despair because they have no proof of God’s presence, Lewis offers you a word of comfort.

The presence of God is not the same as the sense of the presence of God. The latter may be due to imagination; the former may be attended with no “sensible consolation” . . . The act which engenders a child ought to be, and usually is attended by pleasure. But it is not the pleasure that produces the child. Where there is pleasure there may be sterility: where there is no pleasure the act may be fertile. And in the spiritual marriage of God and the soul it is the same. It is the actual presence, not the sensation of the presence, of the Holy Ghost which begets Christ in us. The sense of the presence is a super-added gift for which we give thanks when it comes.

Problem vs. mystery

The more God reveals who he is . . . the more mysterious he becomes.

Thomas Weinandy’s book on the doctrine of impassibility  has been on my wish list ever since I heard Carl Trueman reference it a couple(?) years back. It did not disappoint [thanks, AJ!]. I’m not sure if I’ll come back with any comments on the content (still ruminating) but I thought this helpful reminder was worth sharing:

Many theologians today, having embraced the Enlightenment presuppositions and the scientific method that it fostered, approach theological issues as if they were scientific problems to be solved rather than mysteries to be discerned and clarified. However, the true goal of theological inquiry is not the resolution of theological problems, but the discernment of what the mystery of faith is. Because God, who can never be fully comprehended, lies at the heart of all theological inquiry, theology by its nature is not a problem solving enterprise, but rather a mystery discerning enterprise…

Here we learn a primary lesson concerning the nature of revelation and theology. The more God reveals who he is and the more we come to a true and authentic knowledge of who he is, the more mysterious he becomes. Theology, as faith seeking understanding, helps us come to a deeper and fuller understanding of the nature of God and his revelation, but this growth is in coming to know what the mystery of God is and not the comprehension of the mystery.

–Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer?