I’ve been trying tremendously hard lately to get my ducks in a row. I am a black and white person, so I like rules and order. If there is a rule, I can follow it. I can know that I am acting and thinking correctly. If rules don’t exist, I feel out of control and begin to hyperventilate, metaphorically speaking, of course.
Even now, as I sit in a coffee shop typing this, I see a sticker on my mouse cord that says “DO NOT REMOVE THIS LABEL”. My first thought was one of total compliance – under no circumstances will I remove that label. The rule is to leave that label exactly where it is, and I know I will be in the right if I leave that label alone. But then I thought, “How silly! I am an adult and the owner of that mouse. I think I have the authority to remove that label if I want to. The world will not end.” But will I ever bring myself to remove that label? Absolutely not. I’m just not wired that way, I guess. And if someone else came along and took that label off, I would feel unsettled because THEY BROKE THE RULE!
This kind of thinking may be beneficial is some circumstances. I am glad that surgeons, for instance, follow the rules. If the doctor removing my kidney stones thought anesthesia shouldn’t be required, I would’ve been in an intolerable amount of pain. And architects need to be black and white people, too. If my house was designed by a man that found no use for a level, I wouldn’t be safe in my own home.
But, in other situations, black and white thinking can choke the life right out of you. Lately, I have fallen into the trap of trying to force God to be black and white in all ways. The only trouble is God exceeds human logic. Even if I correctly applied all my biblical training and philosophical know how, I would still be unable to define all that God is and all that God does. That’s terrible news for a rule-follower like me.
To be clear, I am not saying it is impossible to know anything about God. I am saying it is impossible to know everything about God. We will never have an air-tight understanding of God. There will always be more to learn about Him, and our brains simply can’t process all that He is. A lot of surprises await us in Heaven, when we will have slightly better understanding of God than we do now.
That being said, how can we deduce which of our beliefs about God are accurate and which have to be left open for interpretation? I think God gave us some things to help us answer this question. And, as a black and white thinker, I must answer this question!
Creation can tell us a lot about God’s personality. Nature shows us He appreciates beauty and enjoys being creative. Biology shows us He thinks in complex ways and likes to design things systematically. Man shows us He values relationships and community. Creation points us to truths about God.
The Bible reveals more of God to us. Prophecies and the fulfillment of prophecies show how much of a planner God is and how He drives history for His purposes. Interactions between men and God show how involved in our lives God is and how much he desires to relate with us. Jesus’ death and resurrection show us how seriously offensive our sin is to God and how desperately God wants to reconcile with us. Statements looking forward to Jesus’ return and describing Heaven show us that God’s plan for us and the world is not over.
These are things we can know for sure about God. And they are enough for us to know how to live our lives in a way that pleases Him. There are a lot of other things that are true about God, too, but we will wear ourselves out if we try to nail down every detail. I’d love to have a list of every single thing I must believe to have a correct picture of God. But God didn’t feel that was necessary. Instead, He provided us with a framework and fills in the gaps of our understanding with His grace.