Bob Woods: 'Come, let's reason together'

— We Christians have a tendency to lock ourselves into untenable positions on certain issues.

While we must take the Bible seriously, if we mistake it as the final authority rather than our living God, then we shut out the possibility of further revelation, limit the scope of future knowledge and create a paradigm in which intellectual inflexibility often ensues. Sadly, mental rigor mortis can be mistaken for firmness in the faith.

One of those inflexible places is scientific progress. We tend to build barriers against thought, but that is not what our religion and our God ask of us. And naturally, our critics will assume that we have abandoned thought simply by virtue of being Christian, but at times our religion has opened up the doors of intellectual progress, and has challenged us to look forward to further revelation.

God calls us to learn from the best books, urges us to get all the intelligence we can, tells us to see true religion and all other true knowledge as compatible, and teaches us that the Spirit works not just on our hearts but also our minds.

The Bible is not just about the word made flesh, the Bible is also about the word speaking through flesh.

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And at no point, throughout the whole Bible, does God cut the conversation off.

In fact, the message of the Bible is that as long as we call on God, God will hear and answer. And the message is that as long as God is speaking, it behooves all of us to keep listening. We all should be glad about the fact that God is still speaking. You know its one thing to know what God has said in the Bible. It's another thing to know what God is saying to you and me through the Bible in our particular context.

We do not know it all (and do not have a monopoly on truth). No text written by inspired humans, copied and edited by humans, translated by humans and printed by humans can possibly represent God in perfect accuracy, but even if it did contain all that God had revealed with no loss, no error, no human influence of any kind, and no limitation in language, it would still be incomplete. It would not be the final authority on all matters, for that authority resides in God, not in any physical object made with human hands.

God has not finished speaking - nothing in the Bible says this, and Revelations and other books of the Bible indicate that there will yet be more prophecy and more revelation. Paul says: "Despise not prophesyings" (1 Thessalonians 5:20).) We don't know it all - and that is a remarkably liberating thought. It inspires us to continue learning, to revise old assumptions when they appear to have been wrong, to assimilate new data.

When faced with new knowledge that seems to challenge our preconceived notions, we do not need to flee or build walls to keep the new knowledge away. We can examine it and move on. We keep our trust in God, and look to God as the ultimate authority, knowing that when previously revealed information does not provide what we need, we know God can and does reveal more.

This implicitly warns us to avoid thinking that we know all there is to be known about the Creation. No text that passes through human hands is infallible.

"Michael Eric Dyson, noted author and theologian, says that when we close the Bible, we do not close God's mouth, and we do not close God's mind. God is still speaking."

And the God who still speaks is also the God who still listens. I hear God still speaking, saying, "Come, let's reason together. Talk to me. I know you feel sometimes that your work is in vain," says the Lord, "but talk to me. I know you get discouraged and I know you feel like giving up, giving in, giving out, but" God says, "talk to me."

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though they be red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

God says, "Talk to me. Come ye, disconsolate, where e'er ye languish, come to the mercy seat. Fervently yield. Here bring your wounded heart. Here, tell your anguish. Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. God says, 'Talk to me.' It's amazing what a little honest, open, candid conversation can do. It's amazing what can happen, when we stop talking about one another, and start talking to one another. It's amazing."

Let us rejoice in the continuing revelation. How expansive, and how intellectually exciting the continuing revelation from God is? We should rejoice in this matter and look forward with great earnestness to receiving yet more from God. Let us not hold back because of our own fear. Now get out those scriptures and study - and take time to learn from the other "best books" that came from sources outside our religion as well. The more we open and fill our minds, the more God can add.

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