This morning, I listened to an amazing sermon by John Piper about why God would inspire biblical texts that are difficult to interpret and understand, given that he is omniscient as well as a perfect communicator. Piper’s main ideas were that difficult texts make us more dependent on God as we strive for understanding:
After noting this, he then went on to extoll the virtues of education’s being a God-ordained institution of transmitting not only knowledge about God, but also the ability to think, meditate, and ponder God. As I listened to this, I kept nodding my head, completely agreeing with our need of education in terms of our need to understand God more and more. With about 12 minutes or so of his sermon left, though, he stated that he wanted to “balance things out.” He then went on to start with the premises, God is love and God is God. God, Piper argued, is both characterized in his simplicity (God is love, and he is accessible even to a simple child) and his infinite complexity (God is God, and there is no one like him). Piper’s most profound statement was this:
Open my eyes, that I may beholdThink over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
wondrous things out of your law.
(2 Timothy 2:7)
That God is love tends to create extroverts and evangelists; that God is God tends to create introverts and mystics. That God is love helps foster a folk ethos, and that God is God helps foster a fine ethos….[Folk] ethos revels in the intimacy of God. That God is God unleashes another ethos…and those who are gripped by this impulse revel in the transcendent majesty of God.
The point, he argued, is not to create some churches who specialize in one thing or the other; instead, the point is that we all must strive–despite the fact that we all lean one way or the other–to see God as both simultaneously simple and profound, intimate and unfathomable.That said, I am involved in a college ministry that strives to make God accessible to everyone; I am also on the fringes of another college ministry that strives to plumb the depths of God’s infinite being. Personally, I lean toward the latter, the “God is God” side of things, but I have always been struck by the genuine nature of the faith held by some people I know who certainly lean toward the “God is love” side. I suppose the first thing I must do is repent (again) of all the times I have felt contempt for those who have little interest in tackling the mysteries of the universe, because I bet that my intellectual nature can sometimes seem quite cold to those who gain the greatest satisfaction from crying “Abba! Father!” Sometimes, though, this problem can be merely a misunderstanding. I have often felt that, when a person is trying to emphasize one aspect of something because he is speaking to a people who either reject or dimish that aspect’s importance, it can come off that the person either minimizes or rejects the other aspect’s importance, when he simply wished that the other aspect would be the common ground of the conversation. For example, when speaking as a Calvinist to a group of Arminians, I might emphasize so strongly God’s sovereignty and providence, that the Arminians might think that I do not believe at all in human responsibility. Indeed, we must be careful in our speech as well as in our thoughts. Ultimately, though, Piper’s sermon raised two very large issues on which I desparately need prayer and meditation:
- By the grace of God, I must personally grow to revel in God’s intimacy and simplicity; and
- By the grace of God, I need to help those who lean toward the “God is love” side to see how great and awesome and mysterious and profound our God is.