When I was a child, there were time I pushed the boundaries of logic with my parents. Don’t get me wrong, I was using child like logic that made sense to me. It’s like the kid who keeps asking the question, “Why?” after every explanation. My teachers and parents got frustrated with this tactic and would often try to end the circle by saying, “Because I said so.” If I could get them to this point, I was generally satisfied with myself having driven someone crazy with all my questioning. Not surprisingly, when my children were young, they did the same thing to me and I would catch myself saying, “Because I said so.”
I am significantly older now, and my children are adults with kids of their own. Yet, I have been reflecting on that childish logic. Maybe it is not so childish. The motivation of causing others’ frustration was certainly childish. But the logic is, I believe, sound. To be honest, I have never stopped asking, “Why?” The difference is that now, I really want to know the why of things. Over my lifetime, I have frustrated more people than not with my incessant questioning. Not that I want to over-generalize, but I think there may be two kinds of people: those who want to know as much as they can about this world and life in it, and those who are happy to just go along and accept things as they are. There is no moral judgment in my conclusion.
However, I cannot find satisfaction in the latter. I have to know, and I really have to know the reason. I suspect that those in the latter category are really of the former but have gotten tired of asking or convinced themselves that they really don’t want to know. For example, there are scientists that are so convinced that the theory of evolution is the way things came to be that they act as if it is not a theory at all, but a fact. Their science, then, is not an investigation testing the theory, but a philosophical religion. They mock religion as foolishness and not scientific and are not willing to recognize that their faith in materialism to the exclusion of anything else is a religious posture that needs to ask a lot more questions. In the end, evolutionists must become interested in asking why and less apt to support their theory with further theories. You cannot make the world fit your presuppositions, and neither can I.
In theology, the tactics I am describing are called exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis required one to put aside their theological convictions and search for what the Bible teaches. Eisegesis reads into the text of Scripture my ideas of what it should mean. No matter how convinced theologians are that the former takes precedence over the latter, actual practice has demonstrated repeatedly that eisegesis is dominant. No one can approach Scripture without doing so within the framework of their presuppositions. However, serious students of Scripture are willing to acknowledge the influence of their world view and intentionally place it on trial seeking the truth.
So, let me get down to brass tacks, so to speak. I attended a Christian college steeped in the world of dispensationalism. I quickly learned that few faculty members were willing to field questions challenging that system of thinking. I also discovered that few pastors I knew were able to respond to such questioning. The whole system of dispensationalism is founded upon the shaky background of one man who popularized it. The first Bible my parents gave me was a Scofield Reference Bible. It didn’t take me long to develop a skepticism of any study Bible or thematic Bible. Human thoughts placed along side of Scripture encourage people to not ask why, but to simply accept as authoritative the conclusions of the notes in the margin. There is no difference, by the way, when people who like their pastor cling to everything they proclaim from the pulpit as the truth of the matter.
Asking questions is not to challenge another’s authority. No matter how studied a pastor is, he is not an authority on the truth. Jesus is the truth. The job of the pastor is to present, as best as he can the Word of God. He should also raise the inquisitiveness of the members of the congregation. Sadly, and I say this as carefully as I can, there are too many pastors enamored by the cult of celebrity and too many congregants desiring to have their ears tickled. You may say that this is just my opinion, but I would then suggest you challenge my thesis with questions that go deep into the where, how, and why I say this. Nevertheless, preaching is a good dose of teaching with application to life. Those who listened to sermons in churches influenced by the Reformation would hear a pastor preach for an hour or more. The sermon would not just be long, but highly detailed with Scripture.
It is my experience that if the entire service is longer than an hour, the pastor is on thin ice. If the message is full of Biblical information, it is called teaching, not preaching. And, if the message is longer than 20 minutes, people in the pews begin to squirm and wiggle because they just can’t sit that long. There are many reasons for this and the issue is more complex that I can go into now, but I wonder if the lack of intention span is partly due to a lack of hunger for knowledge. I never want to preach a “Because I said so” sermon. Popular or not, the truth is infinitely deeper than that.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.”Psalm 8:3–6, ESV
I love these verses from Psalm 8 because they ask a question that forces self-awareness and deeper truth. “What is man that you are mindful of him?” Why would God care about me? Why should I care about him? Because he created me and has crowned me with glory and honor. Furthermore, he did not do this for me, but for the task he has asked me to do. I was mad to have “dominion over the works of [his] hands.” So have you. Our existence goes back to the ultimate why. Our purpose is to tend and expand the work of God throughout the earth. Fulfilling this purpose brings glory to him.
If I am not willing to ask the deeper questions, the questions that go to the heart of things, then I will never know all that God would have me know. None of us can reach the peak of inquisitiveness in this life. There are two conclusions, then. First, I my current estate, I will never be able to bring God the glory he is due. This is a quality issue, not a quantity one. Why? Because at any point that I stop learning about God and his creation, I stop glorifying him.
Second, the more I grow in the knowledge of Christ, the closer I grow in him, and the more prepared I am for eternal life with him. Humans were made to care for God’s creation. He called this caregiving dominion. We are the highest of his creation hear on earth. We were made to rule the earth. This reign is designed for the glory of God. There is no question that we failed. But Jesus came to pay for our failure, and to restore us to our job. We thus are to restore the glory.
By the way, the knowledge of this comes from our asking followed by our working. Why? Because he made it so.