Category Archives: Revelation

“Theology by its nature is a mystery discerning enterprise” by Thomas Weinandy

“I believe that a distinction between problem and mystery is relevant to how theologians ought to approach issues of faith and theology.

Marcel and Maritain were well aware that, arising out of the Enlightenment, there grew the mentality that intellectual advancement consisted in solving problems that had hitherto not been solved. The former ‘mysteries’ of the physical universe were being resolved by approaching them as scientific problems to be decoded and unraveled.

The scientific and physical laws of nature became transparent and unmistakable. The new enthusiasm and success of the scientific method was the major contributing factor to this mentality.

Science became the means of resolving all kinds of problems and issues concerning nature and how nature worked. All this was done in a concise, rational, mathematical, and experiential fashion.

It was equally eminently practical. Scientific knowledge could solve a host of practical problems, and everyone gloried in its success. This mentality is illustrated in the contemporary belief that technology, one of the fruits of science, can solve almost any problem.

In the realm of science and technology this mentality, that intellectual advancement consists in solving theoretical and practical problems, may be legitimate. However, I want to argue that this mentality, to disastrous effect, has coloured how many philosophers and theologians approach questions of faith and theology.

Many theologians today, having embraced the Enlightenment presuppositions and the scientific method that it fostered, approach theological issues as if they were scientific problems to be solved rather than mysteries to be discerned and clarified.

However, the true goal of theological inquiry is not the resolution of theological problems, but the discernment of what the mystery of faith is.

Because God, who can never be fully comprehended, lies at the heart of all theological enquiry, theology by its nature is not a problem solving enterprise, but rather a mystery discerning enterprise.

This can bee seen already in the early stages of God’s revelation of Himself to the Jewish people. God manifested Himself to Moses in the burning bush (see Exod. 3).

Moses, in the course of the conversation, asked God: ‘What is Your name?’ Since names, for the Israelites, both revealed the character of the person so named and allowed for the knower of the name to call upon the person so named, Moses in asking God to tell him His name, wanted to know God as well as have the power to call upon Him.

God must have chuckled (It was obviously an ‘impassible’ chuckle!) to Himself as He replied to Moses: “I Am Who I Am’ or “I Am He Who Is.’

God did reveal to Moses His name and so Moses now knew more about God than he knew before. He now knew that God is ‘He who is.’

However, Moses must have quickly realized that, in knowing God more fully, God had become an even greater mystery than He was before. Previously Moses in calling God, for example, El Shaddai— God of the Mountain– may not have known a great deal about God, but the little he did know was at least somewhat comprehensible. God was He who dwelt on the mountain, which was the home of the gods.

However, Moses now knew much more about God. He actually knew that God is ‘I Am Who I Am,’ but what it means for God to be ‘He Who Is’ is completely incomprehensible. Moses, nor we today, can comprehend that God’s very nature is ‘to be,’ that He is the One who is the fullness of life and existence.

Here we learn a primary lesson concerning the nature of revelation and theology. The more God reveals who He is and the more we come to a true and authentic knowledge of who He is, the more mysterious He becomes.

Theology, as faith seeking understanding, helps us come to a deeper and fuller understanding of the nature of God and His revelation, but this growth is in coming to know what the mystery of God is and not the comprehension of the mystery.”

–Thomas G. Weinandy, Does God Suffer? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), 31-33.

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“Slow motion” by Donald Macleod

“When it comes to Good Friday the Gospels go into slow motion. They have passed over in silence whole decades of Jesus’ life, and even when they pick up the threads of the public ministry there are weeks and months of which they say nothing.

But when it comes to the crucifixion we have the sequence frame by frame; almost, indeed, an hourly bulletin. The crucifixion narrative goes into slow motion.

It is the pivot on which the world’s redemption turns, and it involves such a sequence of separate events that we assume, instinctively, that they must have occupied several days. Instead we find to our astonishment that they all occurred on one day; and the events of that one single day are reported in meticulous detail.

Our printed Bibles do not, unfortunately, highlight the significance of Mark 14:17, where the evangelist introduces his account of the Last Supper with the words, ‘when evening came’. Unpretentious though they sound, they are momentous.

The Jewish day began with the sunset, and this ‘evening’ marks the beginning of Good Friday. Fifteen hours later, Jesus would be crucified, but these intervening hours would themselves be crammed with drama: the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the betrayal, the arrest and the trial; then the crucifixion, followed by the entombment.

From the Last Supper to His burial, a mere twenty-four hours; and so detailed is the account of His last few hours that we know exactly what happened at 9 o’clock in the morning (the third hour), at midday (the sixth hour) and at 3 o’clock (the ninth hour).

Against the background of the previous indifference to chronology, such detail is remarkable, and serves to underline once again the evangelists’ concentration on Jesus’ death.”

–Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 22-23.

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“We are fascinated with ourselves but the Psalms are fascinated with God” by C. Richard Wells

“Apart from biblical illiteracy, there are special reasons for neglect of the Psalms. The language of poetry doesn’t easily connect in a sound-byte culture.

The Psalms call for time, not tweets– time to read, ponder, pray, digest. It’s easy to be too busy for the Psalms.

Then again, the strong emotions of the Psalms make many modern people uncomfortable– which is ironic since our culture seems to feed on feelings.

On top of everything else, strange to say, the Psalms are just so… well… God intoxicated. We are fascinated with ourselves; the Psalms are fascinated with God.”

–C. Richard Wells, Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming the Psalms for Christian Worship (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 203-204.

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“Rest in the Father’s heart” by Herman Bavinck

“God reveals Himself in His works to be such as He is. From His revelation we learn to know Him. Hence there can be no rest for man until he rises above and beyond the creature to God Himself.

In the study of revelation our concern must be a concern to know God. Its purpose is not to teach us certain sounds and to speak certain words.

Its primary purpose is to lead us through the creatures to the Creator and to cause us to rest in the Father’s heart.”

–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1956/2019), 19-20.

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“Only one book has its aim the teaching of the ways of mercy” by Charles Spurgeon

“God has written many books, but only one book has had for its aim the teaching of the ways of mercy.

He has written the great book of creation, which it is our duty and our pleasure to read. It is a volume embellished on its surface with starry gems and rainbow colours, and containing in its inner leaves marvels at which the wise may wonder for ages, and yet find a fresh theme for their conjectures.

Nature is the spelling-book of man, in which he may learn his Maker’s name, He hath studded it with embroidery, with gold, with gems. There are doctrines of truth in the mighty stars and there are lessons written on the green earth and in the flowers upspring from the sod.

We read the books of God when we see the storm and tempest, for all things speak as God would have them; and if our ears are open we may hear the voice of God in the rippling of every rill, in the roll of every thunder, in the brightness of every lightning, in the twinkling of every star, in the budding of every flower.

God has written the great book of creation, to teach us what He is—how great, how mighty.

But I read nothing of salvation in creation.

The rocks tell me, ‘Salvation is not in us;’ the winds howl, but they howl not salvation; the waves rush upon the shore, but among the wrecks which they wash up, they reveal no trace of salvation; the fathomless caves of ocean bear pearls, but they bear no pearls of grace; the starry heavens have their flashing meteors, but they have no voices of salvation.

I find salvation written nowhere, till in this volume of my Father’s grace I find His blessed love unfolded towards the great human family, teaching them that they are lost, but that He can save them, and that in saving them He can be ‘just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly.’

Salvation, then, is to be found in the Scriptures, and in the Scriptures only.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Salvation to the Uttermost,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons (vol. 2; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1856), 2: 241.

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“Where the lamb may wade and the elephant may swim” by John Owen

“We look on the Scripture and receive it not as the word of men, but as it is indeed, the word of the living God… In those very fords and appearing shallows of this river of God where the lamb may wade, the elephant may swim. Everything in the Scripture is so plain as that the meanest believer may understand all that belongs unto his duty or is necessary unto his happiness; yet is nothing so plain but that the wisest of them all have reason to adore the depths and stores of divine wisdom in it.”

–John Owen, “The Causes, Ways and Means of Understanding the Mind of God,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 4: The Work of the Spirit (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1678/2004), 4: 193.

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“Seeing is a gift” by John Piper

“No one decides to see glory. And no one merely decides to experience the Christian Scriptures as the all-compelling, all-satisfying truth of one’s life.

In the end, seeing is a gift. And so the free embrace of God’s word is a gift.

God’s Spirit opens the eyes of our heart, and what was once boring, or absurd, or foolish, or mythical is now self-evidently real.

You can pray and ask God for that miracle. I ask daily for fresh eyes for His glory.”

–John Piper, A Peculiar Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 283.

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