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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Spirit & Reason

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I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the course corrections that some people are advocating for in cultural shifts of the last couple of decades is a move away from reliance upon the philosophical foundationalism (or strong foundationalism) of modernism that has moved from playing a supporting position to Christian theology to something more center-stage.  In this move away from the "God of metaphysics" and a reliance on objective principles to what some would say is a more biblical approach to the Trinitarian personhood of God rather than the principles of God causes a lot of concern... not to mention confusion and misunderstanding.  Those advocating a "postmodern approach" to scripture can often be attacked by virture alone of the use of the word postmodern.  Or those, like myself, who use the word "deconstruction" to talk about more clearly understanding the cultural, historical, and philosophical influences on our understandings of Scripture so that we can possibly discover more clearly the revealed Word of God sometimes are misunderstood becuase of the fears attached to the philosophical history of deconstruction.  I'm trying to speak into this issue a little bit in order to help provide - possibly - a little clarity that we are not easily labelled as relativists, liberals, or post-Christians.  It's simply not true.  I've advocated earlier for some different understandings of truth that are more personally grounded.  Not personally in the relative sense, but personal in the Trinitarian sense in which we seek to know God in three persons as He is self-revelatory through his written, spoken, and incarnated Word.  A few weeks ago, when I was reading a book on culture studies (which I might comment on later), I read this quote from Calvin's Institutes 1.7.4 [I have not yet looked up the reference, so I hope it's right]:

...the testimony of the Spirit is superior to reason, for as God alone can properly bear witness to his own words, so these words will not obtain full credit in the hearts of men, until they are sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit.  The same Spirit, therefore, who spoke by the mouth of the prophets, must penetrate our hearts, in order to convinces us that they faithfully deliver the message with which they were divinely entrusted.

I'll say it again:  The Spirit leads us into all truth.  God is relational.  He apprehends us by interacting with us.  We do not apprehend Him by acknowledging, believing, or assenting to philosophical categories, truths, or principles about Him.  Principles, categories, and even the traditional "omni's" are helpful to understanding God, but we need to be careful that we do not replace God himself in Three Persons with our philosophical, psychological, or otherwise categorical understanding of Him.

Think of if this way for a moment:  my best friend could go to a psychotherapist.  That psychotherapist along with a doctor and maybe even a metaphsycian could tell me a lot about what it means to be human, what my friend's characteristics are, how his brain tends to function, and even give me a diagnosis based on the DSM IV.  I can learn a lot about my friend that way.  But are those diagnoses a correct description of my friend?  Are they exhaustive?  Do they replace what I learn and even experience of him when I sit down with him for coffee or listen to the pain or joy he might currently be experiencing?  And even what  I learn in that interaction, as I give language and thought to it, I will not have discovered the objective truth about my friend.  I will have learned some basic things that have truth value about him, but do not constitute his being or his truth in being.

Relationship with God takes faith in the leading and guiding of the Spirit as God reveals himself personally to us in ways that defy categories, that blow our minds, that overwhelm our spirits, and that cause our hearts to leap with excitement.  Objective truth categories can never do that.  Believing the truth - consenting to objectively true principles - does not even lead us to salvation.  Remember, even the demons believe and shudder, as James tells us.  Knowing what is objectively true isn't bad (if we can know it), in fact it's very helpful.   It's just way less than enough, less important than trusting and obeying the One self-revealing God who reveals himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The God of metaphysics is a a construction of the modern philosophical age of enlightenment - not of the Scriptures.   The God of the Scriptures is a living, powerful, and interactive Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.


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