Theological Juggling/ Spiritual Gymnastics

I don’t know.

I am not sure.

It may be beyond my ability to understand or definitively explain.

Try saying those words.

Seriously.

They are actually quite easy. And if you need the practice, just a little bit will do. In no time at all, those words/ phrases will be rolling off your tongue!

And needed.

Yes, so very needed.

Can we all agree there are things in the Bible we don’t understand?
Can we all agree that God is so vastly outside our human comprehension, to the point we can’t always wrap our minds around Him?

When we don’t know the answers, when we can’t quite grasp, it is more intellectually, theologically, relationally, and spiritually honest to say…

I don’t know.

I am not sure.

It may be beyond my ability at this time to understand or definitively explain.

I grow weary of theological juggling and spiritual gymnastics. I tire easily of bible verses multiplied and added, subtracted and divided, with a great unknown amount of square roots and fractional computations all to prove some already held belief, dogma, or doctrine.

Here’s a rule of thumb: if you have to work that hard to make your point, there is a very high chance your point is wrong.

Here’s another: context is king!

Really?
Absolutely!

Personally, I keep encountering some pretty obscene theological posturing. At the same time, I don’t have all the answers either.

Bet you didn’t know that, did you?

I struggle understanding the nature of the Old Testament God versus the nature of the New Testament God.

The old seems pretty bloodthirsty.
The new seems full of mercy and grace.
And they are the same God.

I know that.
You know that.
And rather than participating in extreme biblical jousting, it is easier, far easier for me to say…

I don’t know.

I am not sure.

It may be beyond my ability at this time to understand or definitively explain.

Please… I am not suggesting we can’t seek to know God better, to understand more fully His Word. With all of my heart, I want a more complete knowledge of God. I am confused by some things; baffled by others. I want answers, but not man made manufactured ones that fall apart in the light of day.

We would all be better off–and closer to the truth if we kept the context of scripture in understanding the meaning.

In the meantime, I don’t understand some important things about the nature of God. I want to, but I don’t.

I don’t understand why God does not intervene when evil invades our lives.
I don’t understand why some prayers are answered and others are not.
I don’t understand why innocence is sacrificed on an altar of despair.

I don’t understand, but I do believe in the One who does.

Come quickly, Lord.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

28 thoughts on “Theological Juggling/ Spiritual Gymnastics

  1. I am often amazed by the mental gymnastics that “we” go through in order to make sense of something that, quite honestly just doesn’t make sense to us. In our efforts to know all the “right” answers we will go through some amazing gyrations to come up with something that fits our teachings and beliefs. The late Jack Exum used to say “context is king” and that simple phrase has really changed the way I view scripture.

  2. “I don’t know” is something we have be comfortable saying when it comes to God.

    Someone said, “If I could fully understand God, I would be God.”

    Someone else said, “If God is small enough for me to understand Him fully, He isn’t big enough for me to worship Him as God.”

  3. There is a lot I think I would like to say. (I agree with you completely). But it seems the appropriate response to your words is simply, Thank You. In your desire to “believe again”, you are helping many of us to believe anew.

  4. Brother, I must be very sure. My trust is not in my feelings but in a Person. The apostle Paul said, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded the He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12). Can any of us be as sure of Christ as the apostle? We better be! What was his certainty based on? It was based on seeing the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. We can be certain based on eyewitness testimony! See 1 Cor. 15:1ff. I put my trust in Him!

  5. Re your “I don’t understand why some prayers are answered and others are not.” Hmmmmm! I’ve always thought/known that ALL my prayers are answered. That’s not to say they’re all answered in the way that I would like them to be. I can either expect a “yes, no, wait” OR an answer/direction/opportunity/nudge that was the furthest thing from my feeble mind.

    • Carol. Of course I understand what you are saying. No answer is an answer. But, if we pray for rain and it doesn’t, we can accept that. But when you pray for safety for your family, did God say no, or did He not answer?

      That’s a tough one for me

      • Yes, it is VERY tough to come to grasp w/ situations such as yours and similar ‘injustices.’ I’ve pondered situations like that for YEARS, i.e., a family prays for safety while traveling and they (or most of the family) are killed in route, along with other real-life scenarios. Still pondering… I’m sure you’ve read books/heard audios re others who have received an ‘injustice’ versus a ‘yes’ prayer answer. What are there thoughts on the matter?

        • To echo Kansas Bob in a comment below, “I hope this does not come across the wrong way Les.” I understand we likely stand at two completely different places with this issue of prayers for safety and I fully understand why you stand where you stand.

          I know this wont likely be any kind of comfort to anyone, but Christianity isn’t safe now and never has been.

          Do I still pray for safety for myself and those I love? Absolutely and I dont think there is anythin wrong with it. I believe that God answers those prayers with a yes at times and no with others. Why? I don’t know. I am not sure. It may be beyond my ability at this time to understand or definitively explain.

          What I do know is that I am thankful for you and your willingness to speak so honestly about your doubts. I feel like there is a lot of “iron sharpening iron” going on here.

  6. Hope this does not come across the wrong way Les but I am not sure that we always have to say “I do not know”.

    I do think that we often say it because we are afraid to explore other explanations of the scriptures. For example, when one reads …

    If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. -Deuteronomy 21:18-21

    … they can react in different ways. They can see it two different ways. They can say …

    “I do not know” why God wanted parents to kill stubborn and rebellious children.

    … or they can say …

    Even though Moses genuinely believed God spoke that to him, God probably did not really say that.

    … It really depends on your theological view. So why not just own up to the idea that you have to say “I do not know” simply because of a particular approach to biblical interpretation? Why make things complex when they are really simple?

    In my view it is always helpful to ask the question: “Would Jesus (God the Son) say that?” I think that we should always interpret the scriptures in the context of Christ.

    Not that we will always have an answer. But I think that we may have more answers than we think that we do. 🙂

  7. I work in an academic setting that emphasizes knowledge. “You must know and be able to prove everything.” Yet, it seems to be that the overarching message in Job is “You can’t know. God is above human understanding.” That, to me, is faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.” It is in trusting God in the “not seen” that we truly display faith.

    It’s not always comfortable.
    I like to know.
    But I don’t.
    So I trust the One who does.

  8. Years ago I took a friend of mine (a seeker) to a “gospel meeting” in FL to hear a friend of mine from AL. Had I known the sermon was going to be a favorite CENI on the sin of instrumental music in worship, I would not have wasted our time. So after the nearly hour-long “sermon” on the ever-elusive “law of exclusion” and how that prevented Noah from building the ark out of any other wood, on the drive home my friend said, “So if I understand what the preacher said, you guys don’t use instrumental music in worship because Noah built the ark out of gopher wood?”
    It was embarrassing to say, “Yes, that’s pretty much the point of his sermon. That’s some weird mental gymnastics to come up with that conclusion from those Scriptures, isn’t it?” My friend eventually came to believe in Jesus, but it was in spite of that kind of “preaching.”
    One thing I do know for sure and that is the longer I live the more I realize just how little I know when it comes to God and His Word. But it’s a blast, ain’t it, just to be able to scrounge around in the Word without having to know everything for sure (obviating faith) and enjoying the vast mystery of it all. I’ll forever be in kindergarten when it comes to my knowledge of God. But when He says I’m declared righteous because of my belief in Jesus, I’ll take it!

  9. Just when I think I’ve read your best writing, along comes the next…. you are right. It is much more of a “sure thing” to say “I don’t know” than to either grasp at straws or maybe be off in what is truth.

    I am with you… especially on wanting Him to come now! I’m ready….

    Superb, Les.

  10. You are singing my song Les. I am 80 years of age and I never cease to be amazed to hear some people (in our faith)
    twist the scripture to make it say what they believe. And to say “it” is simple makes me wonder what version they are reading – or who explained it all so well that it became simple??? Did they go back to the original Hebrew and Greek and which “fragments” did they read?

  11. Satan strikes in this world. After all he is the prince of this world. I read recently that 47% of those who call themselves evangelical Christians, 60% of Catholics and 65% of mainline Christians don’t think believe that the devil is real. How naïve and vulnerable does that make us? Though he cannot own our souls he can wreck and imprison us. If he cages us we are rendered ineffective.
    Who then would we hold accountable for evil which we know exists? Humans of course either ourselves (causing despair and hopelessness) or others ( teachers, parents, those who oppose us) because that only leaves mankind to blame. While it is true that we can choose evil thereby making us bear responsibility for acceptance, it does not originate from within man. Satan came forth with it out of his own pride and arrogance. God hates what Satan did to his children just like we hate what wrong is done to our own children. Man was created in God’s own image and therefore we know that we have dignity. That helps us place our angst where it belongs. I keeps us from hating those who slip and fall for the devil knows our every weakness and exploits them to his own satisfaction if allowed but Satan’s days are numbered and spiritual activity is increasing on both sides of the aisle. Love that you are processing the evil done to you and refusing to be used for wrong.

  12. I don’t wish to be intrusive but do have some desire to enter into some discussions regarding understanding God. Of course we can never fully comprehend the unlimited supreme absolute Lord since we are limited by our nature but I do think it could be misconstrued that we should not keep reaching for answers as if there is some negativity in searching. I was particularly concerned that when the subject matter is being discussed without complete clarity we should just accept that as a sign we can’t understand it. I humbly beg to differ in this regard. Some of the deepest realizations arise when the subject matter is complex and we struggle to understand it. That search is actually part of the nature of the soul and is a healthy exercise of our natural gifted intelligence.
    One factor which has allowed such atheistic dogmas as darwinism to take hold is the seeming inability of religion to answer questions which may not be literally explained in the Bible exclusively. The doctrine of looking exclusively to the bible to support the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ has caused a great deal of harm to furthering spiritual awareness. It doesn’t diminish the teachings of the bible to understand them through the light of ancient scriptures but actually increases ones faith greatly. Jesus didn’t teach from the bible but had a message that had a profound impact on so many. One has to seek and then the answer will come. I do believe the point should be never stop searching for the answer does exist. I hpe this doesn’t offend and I would welcome further dialogue if you found it possible.

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