Outward authority is cast off and is replaced by the inward authority of the individual thought or experience. Reason here, emotion there, usurps the place of God… every individual becomes a law unto himself in religious matters. God is dethroned, humanity reigns, and in practice humanity means little more than individual man, the thinking or feeling self.
The New Bible Commentary Revised ed.
I came across this excerpt in the introduction to the commentary quoted and had to halt for a moment. My first instinct was outward and the thought that dominated my mind was that of how it summed up the simplicity – stupidity even – of a lack of faith. Refusing to acknowledge God – Keeping Him in the heavens – was tantamount to outright rebellion and all who indulged in it did so at their own detriment. If only there was a way ‘I’ could convince them otherwise. It was at that thought – the ‘I’ – that caused check from my conscience – Holy Spirit time.
It is a strange commission that we have been given: to go into all the world preaching the good news of Jesus. I’ve always wondered – especially when with my intellectual friends – why God didn’t just reveal Himself to them in power like he did for Paul. Why was it that He left it down to me at times to try and defend his cause? Carrying the frustration of failing to convince – to convert even – after throwing all I knew at the person. To aid my arsenal, I read a plethora of books and took an interest in all manners of religious ideologies as well as philosophy: none of which made a difference. The basic fact was that the inward authority of my individual thought and experience was not enough. It would take an outward one, expressing itself – impressing itself onto the individual – to inaugurate change. In my drive to convince, I had kept God in heaven. Professing my faith in factual terms, as the most rational way, meant that I had entered into the selfsame realm of rebellion. Let me quantify this.
Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent (Alpha and Omega): God is infinite and complex. Where would his complexity and magnitude be if ‘I’ – a human being unable to totally comprehend himself – could present God boxed in a present at the end of a rational pursuit. This is what makes proclaiming the Gospel, especially in this day and age, quite a difficult task. We can easily make it scientific, or philosophical, with proof and Logic being the only modes of discourse. Have you ever encountered someone who is as sure of his disbelief in God as you are of yours in His existence? There is the frustration that accompanies the urge to with Reason destroy the erroneous edifice within which your compatriot is hiding, ushering him into the light – and delight – of a relationship with God especially if, like the people I know, they are stubborn intellectuals.
Unless, however, there is that total dependance on His Outward authority, the exercise is futile. Part of the message itself is the call to humility: that is the idea of a total surrender – intellectually as well as emotionally – to the Godhead. Our faith begins with bad math, we have to let go of Logic, let go of proof, and surrender before we are able to see the logic. The temptation is to keep God in heaven so we can reign – inaugurating change on the strength of our argument. But as Paul says…
The kingdom of God is not of talk but of Power
1 Corinthians 4:20
Far from giving me a rod to condemn unbelief – whose symptoms I sometimes show – the excerpt challenged me away from loftiness. As an evangelist – which we all are – the most important thing to be able to say is “I don’t know it all”. It is true because we don’t. Relinquishing our inward authority breeds a reliance on God and invites Him down to earth – or rather acknowledges that He is already here. It is an act of faith – assurance of hope in the face of skepticism – exemplified by Jesus in the garden.
Yet I want your will to be done, not mine
Think on this
The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity: and whoever is moved by faith to ascent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience
More musings to come.
Feel free to comment or query.