playing religious defense

argue!In my college days at Samford University, I argued and debated theology like it was a recreational sport. One evening, Mark Watkins and I locked horns on the long enduring debate over human free will verses God’s sovereignty. It was a classic duel between two over-confident college students who believed that winning this argument had cosmic importance.

Once our discussion had dragged about an hour beyond its usefulness, there was silence between us. We had defended our ground and both sides were bloodied and word-weary. Our common ground came only by appealing to the mystery of God, realizing for the first time that we had missed the point.

Theology is a mystery to explore, discuss, and experience, but we used it as a weapon for intellectual posturing. As such, it had no life-giving quality. We were exhausted and discouraged until we reflected together on our own inability to fully grasp these things. Then I began to experience something like humility, and it was a relief.

Most of us are defensive about our religious persuasions until we reach the point of being willing to discuss our theology instead of defending it. I recognize that there are many belief systems with tenets that are contrary to my faith, but is Christian theology so frail that I have to defend it? I think not. The source of our confidence is not in our ability to defend the faith. Our confidence comes from God as we “hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9).

6 thoughts on “playing religious defense

  1. great blog… funny I was talking with friend about this very thing this morning and noted we are not God’s defense attorneys… He needs none. We are hand selected and flawed representatives, whose largest role is to point others to our loving and unfathomable God… Who does the drawing and the growing. We plant and water… it is He brings the increase. We cannot convince the stoutest skeptic with our cleverness and we cannot reform the religious in our talk of grace. It’s our calling to share the truth. Period.

    …and to allow God to work in our hearts and make us willing as we endeavor to humbly live it.

    Thanks for your efforts. They are always a refreshing read.

  2. Some of my favorite verses remind of God’s mystery…His unknowable-ness. And yet He remains perfectly accessible. That in itself is mind-boggling.

    Yet it’s comforting to know that I can’t figure God out, that there is mystery, that He truly is higher, wiser, and more infinite in knowledge and understanding than I will ever be.

    And all those things I don’t know in this life will be satisfied when I see His face.

    “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?”
    Romans 11:33-34

  3. It’s our free will that predestine us not to defend God
    No. I meant it’s predestine that our free will not defend God.
    Never mind.

  4. I was right & you are still wrong…….just kidding. Yes, I remember that night and many others. There is a peace in knowing the answers to the big questions – that is why Islam is so appealing to many because Allah’s sovereignty can pretty much answer anything. But I have learned that God is bigger that logical, systematic constructions of our own making. Luke 7:1-13 – some people ask Jesus about a tragedy that had recently occurred (much like Hurricane Katrina in our recent memory). He basically just tells them that they better be ready to meet their Maker and does not expound on the mystery of when bad things happen to good people. Of course that question is the theme of the book of Job & when God finally speaks at the end of that one He doesn’t answer it either. He challenges Job on whether he can truly comprehend the mysteries of the universe & Job humbly submits to God’s wisdom. I still don’t understand free will vs. divine sovereignty completely but I do trust my Lord & Savior because He has proved Himself trustworthy by his grace & mercy on this underserving sinner.

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