Unwilling Prophets

I was just reading John 11 today. In it Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Afterward the Pharisees are angry and want to kill him because, you know… that’s a perfectly natural response to SOMEONE BEING RAISED FROM THE DEAD, right??

Anyway, so the Jews are trying to figure out how to deal with the “threat” of Jesus on their power and livelihood. First it’s interesting to note they don’t even think for a moment on the implications of him actually being the Messiah. As it had been for the entire history of their people, all they could see was their Earthly status and possessions at risk. They cared nothing for the redemption of sins or right standing with the Father.

The even more interesting thing to me (today) is in verse 49-52:

“But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad." (John 11:49-52 ESV)

Sooo…. Caiaphas is prophesying, and not by choice. He’s meaning to say one thing, and in one sense actually saying it, but all the while actually becoming the mouthpiece of God to foretell events to come? This isn’t because he’s a righteous man, it’s because God wills it. It isn’t because Caiaphas chooses to prophesy, God chooses for him and gives him no say in the matter. How does the psychology of this even work for Caiaphas? The more I think about this the more my head hurts.

Here’s a good writeup on this that I really enjoyed: http://www.jimmcguiggan.com/reflections3.asp?status=John&id=362

Something else I read today along the same vein:

“And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel” (Ezekiel 4:9 ESV)

So God actually DECEIVES the prophet, gives him something false to say so as to also lead astray the one inquiring of the prophet, and then destroys him! Actually, if you look at the context you’ll see God destroys both the prophet and the inquirer, but I’m trying to focus on some observations about prophesy here.

More Questions than Answers

I often wonder how the prophesies contained in the Old Testament came to be. Some of them are the strangest thing… the author/prophet delivering them will be talking about something, then at random be clearly talking about Jesus’ coming (in detail), and then continue with what he was saying like nothing just happened. Wait, what???

I mean, did they even realize what just happened? Did they know that they were just speaking of the future or did they, like Caiaphas, have something else in mind to say? My guess is that maybe sometimes they knew and sometimes they didn’t, but even if they didn’t know, it’s funny that for the centuries leading up to Christ the Jews saw these prophesies of the coming Messiah for what they were, even if the prophet didn’t.

I don’t really have any answers here, I’m just making observations. I find it interesting that the word of God is going to be delivered, whether the prophet is a willing party or not. God is no respecter, at least in these cases, of the prophet’s “freewill” and will even use the prophet as a tool of deception to accomplish his own will!

This is a bit of a contrast to a lot of contemporary “prophesy”. I’ll admit I’m not very well studied on this, but I’ve been wondering a lot lately about how much modern day “prophesy” really resembles what’s modeled in the Bible…

but I digress (for now).

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Deliberate Ignorance

I’m ignorant by choice. It’s not because your argument isn’t impressive (though it sometimes isn’t), and it’s not because I’m foolish (though I sometimes am), it’s because I’ve chosen to be.

Several years ago I went through something of a crisis in my faith as a disciple of Jesus. It started when a good friend of mine decided he no longer counted himself a believer. This really rattled me. It’s not as if I’ve never had a friend leave the faith, so I can’t even fully explain why it shook me up so badly, but it did.

The more I questioned the more troubled I became. I think all believers have been there; the questions you ask seem to have no acceptable and logical answer. Fellow believers proudly spout off statements they believe to settle the matter, but they honestly don’t make logical sense. I really struggled for awhile.

But then I had something of an epiphany… I was facing a choice; not a choice of logic or reasoning, but a deeper core choice of what I wanted to ASSUME to be true.

We All Assume

It occurred to me that all of us, regardless of our level of intellect, education, or insight, must make certain assumptions. None of us have everything figured out. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have very little figured out. To compensate for this we look for answers while standing on certain assumptions.

We assume the Earth is round because smart people tell us so, even though we’ve not done the research ourselves. We assume there is a place called Madagascar because smart people made maps of it, but we’ve never been there. We are ok making these assumptions because we have faith in smart people, or at the very least the wisdom of mankind as a collective.

But I realized if my faith in human wisdom, even my very own wisdom, was at odds with my faith in the wisdom of God. That placed me in a really difficult place: could I actually choose to go AGAINST my own reasoning? Is that even possible?

But then, was I so naive to think human reasoning would never hit a brick wall where the answers weren’t there? Don’t all people hit those walls whether they are believers or not? And when we hit those walls, who can claim they’re honestly looking for answers WITHOUT holding certain assumptions? Who out there would be so bold as to say they have no paradigms?

The real choice I was facing was: which paradigm was I ok with?

Can I Really Choose to Deny My Own Reasoning?

This was really hard for me because it deeply wounded my pride. I like to consider myself a pretty intelligent person, and I prefer it when others see me that way. The “academic” thing to do is never approach a problem with presuppositions, but to look for unbiased truth. I had, however, dismissed that this is even truly possible at all. We’re terribly biased creatures, every one of us.

Yet deliberately choosing to hold to a presupposition is frowned upon loudly by the people who’s respect I would want. I mean, doesn’t such a choice make me ignorant? Doesn’t it make me small minded? Narrow minded?

But… if God is real he most certainly is immeasurably smarter than I am. And if my answer to every wall I hit is to lean on my own understanding rather than his, where am I putting my faith? Can I actually be ok with CHOOSING to believe him even when it doesn’t make sense? When the wisdom and intellect of my peers is overwhelming and yet counter to biblical teaching, what will I believe?

Coming to Terms

So I chose to be ignorant. I drew a line in the sand and stepped over it by making a decision to look at the Bible for what it says, and then do my best to proceed on the assumption that it’s true. Not because it makes sense, not because I like it, and most certainly not because it’s popular or even safe, but because I choose to believe it. I know that means I’m approaching my search for truth with a bias, but I’ve chosen to be ok with that bias. I’ve decided I know very little, but one thing I do KNOW: God is good and has given us his word that we may better understand and glorify him.

Since having made that choice, God has transformed my life in ways I would fail to articulate. I have found an attraction to reading the word I never had before, because in it I find LIFE.

Sadly this also has put me at odds with even fellow believers from time to time. Heck, it has put me at odds with MYSELF, but shouldn’t it? I’ve had to change my view on many things I’ve always held to and been taught by people whom I love and respect, but when I find those things don’t line up with biblical teaching I have no choice but to change my mind.

And this means I have to accept certain things: I accept that I’m only a man, and God’s wisdom is infinite. I accept that in a world filled with men who count themselves as wise I will often appear a fool, but I choose his wisdom over theirs. I accept that this will lead me to unpopular decisions, or even sometimes put me in sharp disagreement with people I so badly want to be in agreement with… but with all this I also accept God’s goodness and mercy. I accept his transforming power in my life.

The truth is I accept that I already am ignorant no matter what choice I make, but I believe wisdom comes only from God and therefore CHOOSE to ignore even my own intellect to seek his instead.

Homosexuality and a Divided “Church”

A quick rant…

I think I’m only just starting to see for the first time how truly divided the church is over the issue of homosexuality. I’m not sure why I haven’t noticed sooner, but professing Christians are truly polarized over this.

I really enjoy watching preachers/speakers on YouTube. I also like to peruse the comments. I rarely engage in them, but I find it to be a sort of thermometer on where culture is at. It only just dawned on me today that the debate over homosexuality isn’t just between believers and secularists, but between believers! The debates aren’t even over how Christians should respond to homosexuality, which I could understand. The debates aren’t over the role/validity of politics on the matter, which I could also understand. Christians are actually arguing over whether it’s a sin at all!

And while this is baffling to me, it also seems to be yet another sign of a trend I’ve noticed recently: believers making their decisions based on opinions, science, and culture rather than the Bible. More and more I see Christians first seeking to be relevant, and only afterward do they try and reconcile their thoughts with scripture. They don’t look to scripture in the forming of their thoughts, but they prefer their thoughts as a tool for forming scripture to their liking.

I lack the skills as a communicator to express how troubling this is. As professing believers, shouldn’t we first look for answers in the word, no matter how crazy those answers seem, and then proceed as though they are true? Shouldn’t we first stand on the infallibility of scripture? If not, then on what shall we stand? Human reasoning? Philosophy? Our heart? Science? I know many would be content with any of these answers, but it should be said plainly that to build our beliefs around these things is a contradiction to God’s word and ultimately an affront to God himself.

Let’s examine the issue of homosexuality as a test case; not because it is a special category of sin or any such nonsense, but because it is a cultural hotspot. What I see is Christians that are unable to reconcile the biblical texts they read (I’m not even addressing the scripturally malnourished who flat don’t read at all and therefore don’t know) with the deluge of cultural influence they are faced with. I see “believers” that are faced with the discrepancy between the Bible and accepted understanding and simply cannot choose to stand on the word before seeking understanding.

And THAT’S the problem I’m trying to address here. It’s not that they are ill-equipped with fine arguments to counter the culture. That isn’t the problem. The problem is one we will ALL face at times: “I’ve seen for myself that the Bible says this thing, but all my reasoning and all the common knowledge around me says another. How do I respond?”

Are we willing to stand on God’s word simply because it’s God’s word? Not because it makes sense to our reasoning, not because it makes us feel good, not because it’s relevant/compatible with culture… no, just because God says it?

And my fear is that the answer is increasingly “no, that’s not enough.” We need it to be palatable first.

God, help us…