Friday, May 23, 2008

What are we - Part 2

In the previous post on this topic (found at this link), I posited that we don't know who we are. Our hearts (the seat of the will) and our minds are clouded by sin and we can't know ourselves. I posited that Paul's statement "your life lies hid with Christ in God" applies to all people and that only by knowing God through His Son, Jesus Christ, do we have a chance to know ourselves.

So, knowing God is the path to know ourselves. This brings up the question of how do we know God.

There's a story that my Systematic Professor told us. St. Augustine of Hippo was on the beach and saw a small boy bringing water from the ocean and pouring it into a hole in the beach. Augustine asked: "Son, what are you doing?"

"I'm trying to put the ocean into this hole." the boy replied.

"Son, it will never fit." Augustine commented.

At that moment, the boy changed into an angel and said to Augustine: "Neither will God fit inside your mind."

Since God will not fit inside our minds, we can't know God. It would seem to be futile to try to understand ourselves by trying to understand God or to know ourselves by knowing God.

And it would be futile except for one small thing. God loves us and wants a relationship with us. God actively seeks us out for fellowship and friendship with Him. Because God can't fit in our minds, God has chosen to reveal Himself to us so that we can apprehend Him (and, so, know our selves). Further, God continues to reveal Himself to us through the Holy Spirit.

This is good news - This is Great news! But here is the rub, how do we know what the revelation is? One of the early mystical theologians of the 4th or 5th century world who titled himself "Dionysius the Areopagite" said it simply. We can't know God - we can't comprehend God, so we are limited to what God has chosen to reveal about Himself.

As Christians, we see two types of revelation. First, there is the revelation that Paul discusses in Romans 1. This is what can be know about God from nature or the natural order. This used to be called "natural law" and is the basis for a lot of common morality among the nations. Almost no people believe that lying or theft is good. C.S. Lewis' book The Abolition of Man discusses this aspect very well.

The second source or record of God's self-revelation is found in Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture has both a divine origin - it is inspired by God - and a human origin - it was written by men in specific times and at specific places with specific cultural contexts. So, how do we come to understand God from Holy Scripture?

That is a topic for yet another post.

Phil Snyder

Update: Read Part 3

1 comment:

Jill C. said...

Off topic -- praying for Elizabeth. And we've added her to the parish prayer list. May she feel God's healing presence and come through with flying colors!