A Caution on Hard Texts

untitledOur church has been making our way through Romans and this week we begin 9 weeks on Romans 9-11. We should never shy away from God’s Word. In fact, many of the things that make us sheepish when we approach hard texts comes in part because we’re not fully getting the picture. Further study might not solve all your questions but it hopefully will help clear up initial misunderstandings that cause us to ask the kinds of questions that Paul responds to in Romans 9. Two quotes I came across this week provide helpful cautions.

To recall the first quote I actually did a search on my computer because it’s always stuck with me (at least the general idea has). Interestingly enough, I recorded this quote during the first week of March exactly ten years ago. It’s from R.C. Sproul’s book The Soul’s Quest For God.

“At conversion the disposition of the human soul is radically altered. The natural enmity toward the Word of God is conquered but not altogether destroyed. Throughout life Christians continue to struggle with a residual prejudice against elements of the Word of God. Our minds begin the process of sanctification, but they are not yet glorified.  A word of advice I often give my seminary students is this: As you study the Bible, take special care to mark the passages you find difficult to accept. That is, mark the passages you don’t like. Then give special attention to them. Closer scrutiny may reveal that you simply failed to understand the meaning of the text…If you don’t like what the Bible says, there is either something wrong with the Word of God or something wrong with your thinking. By isolating these texts you have a quick and easy way of discovering where your thinking is out of sync with the mind of Christ.  While in seminary I had a card on my desk that read: You are required to believe, to teach, and to preach what the Bible says, not what you want it to say….First, I would be convinced of the truth of the biblical teaching I didn’t like. Then I would see the sweetness of those truths so that I delighted in them rather than despised them.”

The second quote comes from the commentary of John Calvin on Romans 9:14. He reminds us to let the Word of God take you further than you’ve gone before in your thinking and in your view of God, but only go as far as the Word takes you and no further.

“The predestination of God is indeed in reality a labyrinth, from which the mind of man can by no means extricate itself: but so unreasonable is the curiosity of man, that the more perilous the examination of a subject is, the more boldly he proceeds; so that when predestination is discussed, as he cannot restrain himself within due limits, he immediately, through his rashness, plunges himself, as it were, into the depth of the sea. What remedy then is there for the godly? Must they avoid every thought of predestination? By no means: for as the Holy Spirit has taught us nothing but what it behooves us to know, the knowledge of this would no doubt be useful, provided it be confined to the word of God. Let this then be our sacred rule, to seek to know nothing concerning it, except what Scripture teaches us: when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther.”


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