I hope you can put some of this to use 🙂
As you know, I enjoy studying religion and philosophy. But before I start to dissect my findings, I’d first like to share the some of the difficulties I’ve found in Christianity. I must make it clear that these are not contradictions or errors, merely complications.
I’ll list a short collection of some sophisticated difficulties that regenerate Christians are only able to describe, but not thoroughly solve. I say “sophisticated difficulties” to purposefully distinguish them from unsophisticated difficulties, the sort that are crude (unrefined that is, not obscene or indecent), even when they are polished by the most popular teachers. These are more emotional than rational, and usually raised to challenge the truth of Christian claims, the morality of Christian practices, and the validity of the evidence that supports these. Absolutely all of these questions have been sufficiently addressed by the intellectual efforts of many others, usually as quickly as they arise. None stand to objectively threaten the integrity of historical, orthodox Christian doctrine. Perhaps I might share some examples in later entries.
The following sophisticated difficulties, however, have not yet been addressed to the point of being solved. I mean for example, that if you were asked, “solve the difficulty of the doctrine of the Trinity; how can three be one?”, you couldn’t give a solution that unifies both premises, only a description of the Trinitarian God as He reveals Himself as Christ, in scripture, through creation, the church and the conscience. And while such revelation is certainly sufficient for the Christian, it only serves to trouble the non-Christian. This is not the result of the Christian’s intellectual laziness, nor his ignorance. It is the result of him being humbled by God to submit to the authority of revelatory sources, and the result of his experience of reality. The non-Christian might find it helpful to compare the difficulties of the following doctrines, to the difficulties found in the theories that describe the nature of agape love, the nature of self-perceiving sentient life, matters of aestheticism, matters of epistemology, and so on. While it is difficult to unite each premise in these theories, there they are, existing for our experience nonetheless. Perhaps I might share some examples in later entries.
The sophisticated difficulties that I have discovered fit well into 2 categories:
The nature of God:
– The Trinity.
“Solve the difficulty of the doctrine of the Trinity; 1 can only be 1, and 3 can only be 3. How can 3 be 1?” We can only submit to the revelation of scripture that declares there is one God who is repeatedly referred to in plural. Scripture reveals that only the Father is divine, only the Holy Spirit is divine, and only the Son is divine, leading us to conclude and trust that:
God eternally exists as three persons,
coequal, unified yet distinct,
Father, Son, Holy Spirit,
and each person is fully God,
and there is one God.
– The Hypostatic Union.
“Solve the difficulty of the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union. Every attribute of man opposes every attribute of God. How can Christ be fully God and fully Man?” We can only submit to the revelation of scripture that repeatedly declares that the Son retained full divinity before, during and after his incarnation, leading us to conclude and trust that the Son is both fully God and fully Man.
“Creation ex nihilio, the exodus of Israel, the virgin birth, the Resurrection of Christ; the list is long. How can phenomena occur in a way that is contrary to the empirically observed laws of nature?” Again, we can only submit to the revelation of scripture and its vast number of recorded miracles, all of which bend natural physical laws.
The nature of the relationship between God and man:
– The responsibility of man in the context of the sovereignty of God.
“Solve the difficulty of how man is held personally responsible for his sin, when God is absolutely sovereign.” We can only submit to the revelation of scripture which repeatedly declares that God is absolutely omnipotent in His sovereignty, and that man is held absolutely responsible for both the law he fails to keep and the law he successfully breaks.
– The sinfulness of Christians.
“Solve the difficulty of the continuous sinfulness of Christians. They may improve their display of general morality, but Buddhists, Atheists and many others are also capable of this. Regardless of their “flesh” remaining, if a Christian has received a new heart from God, why is it so rare for him to display authentic love, joy, peace, patience or self-control? An odd outburst once a decade, perhaps, but the hourly complaining, bickering and selfishness? A rare sin here and there, but the endless torrent of continuous vanity, worry and fear, the conceit, the petty superficiality, the laziness and indulgences, the impatience and anger? How can they be so utterly irreverent? Where is their deep, whole-hearted, ever-present delight in God? Is God’s work less potent than a Christian’s flesh?”
Again, we can only submit to the revelation of scripture that Christians are declared righteous by God – not because of their own abundance or lack of morality, but because of Christ’s righteousness. While the Christian is justified completely this way, he is sanctified progressively as God works through him.
So what can be done with all of this? The natural, unregenerate man will oppose such complications because it is impossible for him to comprehend them with his own effort. Intellect on his own behalf, no matter how vast or trained, will do him no good. Eloquent persuasion on the behalf of another, regardless of clarity, will do him no good. None of the temporal resources available here will enable his mind to trust that these matters, with all their complications, problems and difficulties, are indeed right and true.
And I believe that God has purposefully composed these matters this way for a few very benevolent reasons:
-: to confound the natural man. This leaves him no other option but to rely on God for understanding. It is God alone who can regenerate the man’s heart to trust that these matters are right and true. Whether he can fully understand them, whether he can fully unify each premise in the context of current logic; the man’s new heart will enable him to trust God’s revelations.
-: so the new man cannot credit himself for reaching such a position, but rather so he would humbly attribute the work to God.
So Mikey, I hope you’ve noticed that I’ve done nothing to argue the legitimacy of these difficulties, I’ve only described them as the Bible does. I think this is what we should do. Open scripture, and with love and patience and prayer carefully point out its claims. God will certainly use us to call the elect, but in our own efforts we cannot. What can be tricky is distinguishing the work God is doing through us for His own exclusive glory, and what we are doing for ourselves.
I spent most of Sunday writing this for you, because your concerns are important to me. I’m sorry this turned out to be such a big lump of text. You know that this is very bad blogging in my opinion. But let me know how it all progresses, and we’ll keep praying for you 🙂