// through a glass, darkly

I am not Tom Carlisle. Tom has kindly thought about and agreed to open his blog up to some of his friends over this season of lent and let us (much less eloquently) communicate some thoughts.

You know that experience where you’re worried you’ve drawn on your face, or have a really sticky up bit of hair, or mascara under your eye… and you look at your reflection in a shop window. But you can’t really see, can’t entirely make it out. You know for sure you’re reflection is there, but can’t clearly perceive all the details. You’re seeing in a glass, darkly.

This was something I’ve been thinking about during the Next Generation 10 conference, specifically with regards 1 Corinthians 13: “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Although we are in receipt of so much revelation about God, through life, through creation, through models of human relationships, through the church and through the Word, we do not and cannot know it all.

There’s a tension here, so please don’t misunderstand me. I think it’s absolutely imperative to think rationally about our faith and how this underpins a coherent (-ish) worldview. And I am so grateful for the wrestling people have done before me and now to come up with good theology about God. I love theology and (usually) apologetics. I grew up in wonderful tradition with strong grounding in biblical theology, and only narrowly escaping Sunday school catechism classes. I would never want to go so far the other way so as to lose that. But there’s so much more to it.

We are called to seek after this God who we cannot fully know. Seeking God and earnestly yearning after him is not primarily an academic exercise. But for me, something I’ve been learning more and more, is that a true faith isn’t one that sits down with a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith and thinks about it until I ‘believe’ in the sense of ‘give intellectual assent to’ every article therein.

It reminds me of the passage in where James writes “you believe in one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” It strikes me that when we stand and confess together in church “we believe in one God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” we are saying more than that we consider this is an objective fact, but something that we care about, will spend ourselves on behalf of and that is important. Something bigger. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong but I was told that in John chapter 1 when John says of Jesus, ‘to all those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” the word ‘in’ could be more correctly translated ‘into,’ so that the promise is for those of us who “believed into” his name. It’s a belief that changes me, it’s a belief that it’s not only true but that is important.

It’s not primarily a belief that every day considers every point of the shorter catechism to be true, but a belief into a church, a family, into a relationship with God that sometime defies explanations and a belonging. You can take a step back, stay in control and ‘safe’ and decide what you intellectually ‘believe in’ (and what you don’t believe in), but to ‘believe into’ takes a leap of faith, jumping off into the mist. Believing into a church, believing into a God who’s full of complexity and defies neat, reductionist explanations.

Someday I will know in full. But for now just because I can’t tie down and get a handle on the specifics doesn’t mean that He isn’t good. I can embrace these complexities, the God whose fullness I can perceive only darkly, but who knows me fully. And as he knows me fully, I can trust him with my doubts, with my struggles, with the bits that I’m supposed to ‘give intellectual assent’ to but find I can’t fully agree with.

I believe that the speed of light is 3.0×10^8 but I probably wouldn’t even be bothered to get into a heated debate about it. I can’t say that at every minute of every day I am surecertainconvictedundoubting that God definitelydefinitely exists and that I know all of the time there’s no chance I’m singing to an empty ceiling…

But it’s a belief I’m willing to live and die for.

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    • anon
    • March 10th, 2010

    Like puddleglum.
    This post really got me thinking; thank you!

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