No Desire For Understanding

There are quite a number of Christians who, despite the fact they do not know what God is like, and despite divine solicitations to seek and understand, have no desire whatsoever to address the matter.

Why is this? Well, for openers, knowledge is painful. It is far easier to rest in tradition, or in someone else’s research, than it is to search for understanding as a “hidden treasure.” In addition, once the value and nature of that treasure is perceived, it is painfully easy to spot imitations and synthetics regardless of how well they may be outlaid and embedded in sermons, hymns and Christian literature.

Speaking of hymns, it might be an interesting sidelight to discuss the theological implications of hymnals. They have, it seems, acquired a reverence these days roughly equivalent to the Bible. While the hymns may be inspirational, they are not inspired scripture.

Very few of us would declare a prepared statement without first scanning the text to ascertain its content. Yet how often will we, without hesitation, sing a declaration to God and man without reviewing the “script” first? This is the process whereby a substantial proportion of the Church is indoctrinated. Doctrine is thus acquired by osmosis rather than through Berean quest. (See Acts 17:10–11.)

Another reason knowledge is not pursued by many Christians is the fear that it will diminish faith. The warning of many reformers was that as knowledge and understanding increased, there would be a proportionate decrease in faith.

While the Bible is most certainly filled with admonitions to avoid the wisdom of the world (vain, humanistic philosophizing), it plainly encourages us to “add to (our) faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge” (1 Peter 1:5). We may also consider Gordon Olson’s observation:

If knowledge decreases faith, then God has no faith.

Others find it preferable to adhere to a nebulous, abstract understanding of God rather than discuss certain passages and questions that will, in their opinion, produce disunity.

This is truly a sad state of affairs. If the unity we are at- tempting to protect is rooted in love, then surely we are suffering from an unjustified fear of controversy. What can happen, so often in our effort to procure and maintain a sort of “lovey- dovey” Christian atmosphere, is that we forget that there are two ingredients in true unity—common unselfishness (love) and common understanding (knowledge). The result of this oversight is, as A. W. Tozer warns,

Union for union’s sake … unity is so devoutly to be desired that no price is too high to pay for it … truth is slain to provide a feast to celebrate the marriage of heaven and hell, and to support a concept of unity which has no basis in the word of God. [1]A. W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares, Christian Publications, p. 47.

Englishman Arnold Lunn shed some real light on the issue at hand when he said:

The prevailing prejudice against controversy is partly due to our distrust of logical argument and partly to silly confusion which equates the quarrelsome with the controversial; silly because it is the inability to see another man’s point of view which makes people quarrelsome, and the ability to understand the other man’s position which makes a good controversialist. [2]Arnold Lunn quoted in Christianity on Trial, Tyndale, p. 134.

If the discussion is serious and if the ultimate objective is truth and not mere negation, then disagreement can contribute toward better understanding. Loren Cunningham (International Director of Youth With A Mission) once summed up the issue succinctly by suggesting that disagreements don’t cause disunity, a lack of forgiveness does.

The Bible says “a fool does not delight in understanding …” (Prov. 18:2). For many today, the emphasis on love and unity is nothing more than superficial buoyancy, a sort of fellowship “in the clouds.” Heartily clasping and pumping hands beneath the cloud layer, their heads remain shrouded in theological “misticism.” This is undoubtedly due to the fact that when we stop thinking about knowledge in the abstract, we have to admit that what interests us most is what involves us as persons. We have a modern-day “sin of ignorance” whereby people don’t know and they don’t want to know. This desire to be vague and abstract when it comes to our understanding of God reveals a deep lack of love and discipline.

In any earthly relationship in which the flame of love is burning with fervency, is there any lack of initiative in discovering every detail concerning the object of our love? The answer may be simply put: A lack of discipline on our part to seek fuller understanding of God’s marvelous Person and character reveals the stark fact that we just don’t care!

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? You must understand that God is not referring to passive ignorance but to the willing choice to remain ignorant.

Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:6

Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land … My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
Hosea 4:1,6

Theologian John Calvin in many of his writings refers to a God who cloaks Himself in mystery; a God who wills to hide far from inquisitive curiosity. Unfortunately this teaching has permeated many of the theological institutions of this country. How deeply it must grieve the heart of God to hear this teaching being propagated.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. A. W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares, Christian Publications, p. 47.
2. Arnold Lunn quoted in Christianity on Trial, Tyndale, p. 134.