Likewise, the hundreds of differing beliefs that people have about God, and the fact that people dearly want them to be true, do not make them true. God is who he is. God is the authority on God. We cannot design God. We have to deal with God as he is. We have to face reality, like it or not.
I like it. That’s good stuff.
Yet, I think there is a tension between having the right beliefs about God and having a personal knowledge of God—which will always be unique to at least a degree.
To make a comparison: Knowing God is like studying the stars. There are facts that can be known: among other things, stars are hot; are primarily composed of hydrogen; burn out after a time; emit energy; and are generally light-years apart from each other.
However, knowing these facts does not invalidate the “perspective” individuals have of the cosmos. The constellations viewed from the Southern hemisphere do not match the ones people study in the North. Yet the patterns seen do not contradict the truths known: they are all different, accurate, true, perspectives of the same subject. And none of them compare with the view of the astronauts and cosmonauts who have examined the stars from outside our thin oxygenated tent.
When a subject is sufficiently large, individuals will necessarily have differing views of the truth. Even when their views do not contradict, we might assume they do and treat them with suspicion.
I think this is one reason there are so many denominations. Yes, there are some within the Christian faith that flat-out contradict each other. But I’m sure many differences boil down to tradition, perspective, and petty power games.
However, there is a danger in inherent in this reasoning and I would be remiss to not admit it. Like the parable of the blind men describing an elephant (they all come up with different explanations of what they experience), my reasoning can be used to justify religious pluralism: since all men have a different view of God based on their unique experience of him, therefore all religions are equally valid.
This is another part of the tension I speak of.
There is an absolute: he is God. He is unified. He is of a single nature. The problem with using the blind men and the elephant parable (or my reasoning above) to justify pluralism is that in the story, the blind men are all describing something that is a unified, objective reality. But religious pluralism and cafeteria buffet-style faith does not. There is no center, no absolute, no ground, for pluralism to stand on. In truth, when statements are flatly contradictory, they cannot both be true simultaneously.
If there is a Creator of the Universe, and I believe there is, and that he is still present, then it is imperative we know about him, but equally imperative that we personally know him. And since the kind of God that would create personal beings that can love and worship is the kind of God who would reveal himself to mankind, it’s critical we join a fellowship and study the special revelation God has provided in Scripture. It matters less what denomination you join, than that you join one that confesses Christ as Lord.
Thanks for the thought-inducing post, Brian.
[tags]BlogRodent, brian-larson, craig-brian-larson, god, faith, reason, knowing-god, denominations, pluralism, apologetics[/tags]