If you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God. | Proverbs 2.3-5
In the sermon last Sunday we dove into one of those grey area topics in the Bible: the intermediate state. To be more specific, we were looking at the Lifeless body of Jesus and chose to tackle that controversial phrase from the Apostle’s Creed: He descended into hell. In this, we attempted to bring some clarity to a very mystifying part of God’s design: the afterlife.
When we approach the Bible, we will find things that are clear and accessible and questions that are not answered. I have found that Deuteronomy 29.29 is a helpful reminder as we attempt to know God:
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
There are truths that God clearly lays out for us and there are the things we want to know that are not addressed. There is also a 3rd category; one that sits in between these two. There are some things that God alludes to in His scriptures, without giving full clarity. The question is: what do we do with the things that God hints at, but never gets around to fully detailing? How are we supposed to deal with parts of the Bible where there isn’t consensus?
I have found there are 2 main ways people answer this. Some people, in an attempt to figure God out, will read into verses and connect the dots to create an overwhelmingly detailed picture. This is often true of the end times, the spiritual realm (demons and angels), and the afterlife. In order to ‘make sense’ of the verses given, a great deal of story is inserted to fill in the gaps. Often these added details take on a life of their own; people are not really sure where scripture actually speaks and what has been added to embellish (the robust details with which Satan’s fall from heaven have been told to me are an example).
The other way of dealing with these difficult ideas is to chalk it all up to mystery. It has become a virtue to claim mystery without doing the hard work of searching; to excuse yourself from the struggle for the sake of ‘humility.’ The problem is that this often sidesteps any verse or concept that is complex; whole portions of the Bible are ignored under the banner of ‘not a salvation issue.’
I would argue that God has given us some ideas simply for the sake of pondering. He has alluded to heaven without giving us every detail so that we can imagine and dream without ever being able to land with certainty. He wants us to know there is a spiritual realm and a battle going on, without outlining with specificity what it looks like. We are to be aware of it without being obsessed with it. The question that this leads to is: why would God do this? Why give us a hint of something without enough detail to solve it?
God wants us to know Him. Not just know things about Him, but to truly know the Divine. The truth is that we often seek truth as a detached reality; something that exists by itself. Instead, the truth of all things flows out of God. As we search for answers, even answers that He doesn’t give us in entirety, it draws us to Him. Any truth that we are able to explain we treat as something that we possess. By keeping truth as a process of seeking, our reasoning becomes a means of knowing God. Knowing His complexity. Knowing our limits. Knowing His sovereignty in even the way He unfolds the mystery of Himself through time. It is valuable to ponder, discuss, and struggle even when the end isn’t full confirmation. God gave us brains to seek and find, in the effort as well as the answers.