One of the things you hear people say over and over is: “The more I know, the less I know.” And it certainly feels true. The more I get out of my comfort zone and am confronted by new situations, the more I realize that maybe I don’t know everything. Maybe the things I assumed – or the things that were true in one situation – turn out to be either outright wrong or at best simplistic.
I believe that intellectual humility is a good trait to have. Historically, even in the scientific field, so many human beings have been absolutely convinced they were right up until the point where they found out they were wrong. And the Bible echoes this idea – just because I think it’s right, doesn’t make it so.
- “For I testify of them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge,” Rom. 10:2
- “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it,” Jer. 17:9
- “There is a way that seems right to a man, but it end is the way to death,” Prov. 16:25
- “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” Gal 1:13-16
So there’s no question that as we learn more, we evolve in our understanding. That goes for our scholastic knowledge, our understanding of society, and even our theology. I should never stop examining and evaluating my understanding of scripture – “testing the spirits”, in essence.
The problem comes when we start to doubt the things that ought to be unshakable. The Bible talks about that, too!
- “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” Eph 4:13-15
- “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self- control, and self- control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” II Pet. 1:5-8
- “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful,” Heb 10:22-23 22
Clearly, God expects that as we grow in Christ, as we grow in our understanding, our faith should be increasing. We should be more certain than when we first believed. And yet more and more, we hear scripture can’t be truly understood. The idea of being certain of doctrinal issues is seen as dogmatism and arrogance.
If our faith in God is growing, then our faith in His word ought to be growing as well. Do I truly believe that the mystery of God’s will for man has been “once for all revealed”? (Jude 3) That it contains “all things pertaining to life and godliness?” (II Pet. 1:3) That it will equip me for every good work? And do I trust God that He has left me a revelation which I can understand and apply to my life? (II Tim. 3:15-16)
I wonder if sometimes the problem is that the more we learn, the less content we are with what we know. Paul warned TImothy that there was a difference between being an apt teacher of the word and being one who is not content with what God chooses to reveal in the word:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,”( 2 Timothy 2:15-16)
Maybe the secret of a full assurance of faith is placing it in something that’s worthy of faith, not in the ideas that result when we’re not satisfied with the word of God. The more we’re willing to simply accept the scriptures as they are, the less likely we are to move into areas where we were never meant to know everything.
The gospel message is a simple one – even though there are some theological points that are difficult to understand and take additional study and prayer. (II Pet. 3:16) While the framework of worship may have changed from the Patriarchal era to the Law of Moses and on to the Christian dispensation, God’s will for man hasn’t really changed:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)