Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Thoughtful Praise

Christians are sometimes leery of theological learning for fear that such efforts run the risk of divesting the faith of mystery. But that need not be the case. If anything, our sense of mystery should be enlarged by our study. C. H. Spurgeon eloquently conveyed this in a sermon on Malachi 3:6:

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go on our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, amid that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought "I am but of yesterday and know nothing."
Theology, properly pursued, should not only inform our intellects but shape our characters. In other words, it should nurture Christian virtues. Every encounter with material that requires me to mentally reach beyond the level to which I'm accustomed and with which I'm comfortable, is an opportunity to practice patience, perseverance, and self-denial. Taking the time to read and reread something that I initially find confusing and/or irrelevant to my immediate concerns can teach me something of what it means to listen attentively to another in love, not insisting that everything revolve around my concerns. And, as Spurgeon reminds us, far from breeding arrogance, our growth in the knowledge of God should strike us with the awareness of how little we really know.

Related to that point is one that Reformation 21's Richard Phillips made recently about the relationship between the Christian worldview and wonder:
One of the best things about the Christian worldview is that it opens the door to wonder. The reason is that Christianity contains something greater than bare cause-and-effect. Ours is a worldview without a roof, so it not only has room for mystery and glory but it constantly points us towards these wonderful things. It is said that the longer Darwin lived, the less taste he had for music, poetry, and literature. His worldview made his life smaller and smaller. But the Christian can and should see wonder in all things. From something as simple as a leaf, to the baby's cry, to the crashing cosmos, Christians should constantly exclaim in wonder, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!"
If our theology does not evoke praise, we have not gone far enough.

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