No Cheating

You study the scriptures, thinking that by them you have life… yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40

There are two ways in which a person can arrive at the answer to a sum: You can get it from someone who already has it (with or without his/her consent) or you can work it out for yourself.

If schoolteachers are to be believed, the latter way is by far the preferable one.

But even here conditions apply. Years ago, way back in primary school, I was awarded one point out of ten for a perfect answer to a quite complicated sum. The teacher disregarded the innovative way in which I had figured the answer out in my head, explaining that I would not be able to do the same with larger numbers. I lost the other nine points because I had ignored the tried and tested formula. I had set myself up to become a maths heretic.

I learned the lesson well in my formative years, but had to unlearn it when I finally graduated into seminary. Here everything was about answers. The sums had already been figured out and we were expected to learn the answers without thinking too much in the process.

The only problem was that another theological school, a mere few blocks away, were teaching their students different answers.

I sometimes wish my mathematics teachers taught me theology. She would have insisted that I became a thinker instead of a parrot. But she would have forbidden me to use my own independent judgment in my thinking. I would have had to think according to very specific rules and within very defined boundaries.

That’s the whole idea. The knowledge of God has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ and is preserved in Scripture and the ongoing teaching of the Holy Spirit within. You cannot have the one without the other. True Christianity is not memorising doctrines or living by laws. It is not to blindly accept the conclusions of another, no matter the brilliance of his/her scholarship or any reputation whatsoever of great understanding or guru-like insight. It is to work it out for yourself: Personally, experientially, uniquely. Yet it is to do so within the clear objective boundaries of Scripture.

If you say “Lord, Lord”, but you don’t know how you got there, you are in for a surprise.

There is nothing as exhilarating as the discovery of truth. It is to find a fine balance in the midst of the mightiest bursts of revelation imaginable. It is big wave surfing in every sense of the term, an encounter with the might and beauty of God, but with a focused concentration and skill that makes the required balance possible. This skill cannot be taught in a classroom, yet the method of obtaining it can. It has to be discovered in a way that will make you feel you are the only one who has discovered it. It is an experience that is wholly unique and original, yet it is one that takes place within very narrow boundaries. It is totally original, yet the scope for innovation is extremely limited. It is your own discovery, yet it can only be discovered according to a method that is so precise that it can be described as a science.

Truth is to know Jesus Christ personally and intimately, but never apart from the clear guidelines presented by Scripture.

Where this happens, the answers will present themselves.

(This article has appeared in abbreviated form in Bloemnews.)


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