I attended The Elephant Room 2 conference last week via satellite in Rochester. For those that don’t know, this is an event put together by James MacDonald that brings together eight nationally-known church leaders to discuss controversial areas of theology, philosophy, and practice. The big drama this round was MacDonald’s invitation of Bishop T.D. Jakes, a well-known pastor-author who has been heavily criticized for his unorthodox views on the Trinity. When questioned by Mark Driscoll, Jakes did seem to show more Trinitarian leanings, though the jury is still out on exactly where he stands, and he didn’t really recant of some pretty bad theology he’s embraced in the past. That said, my goal in this blog is not to summarize The Elephant Room or analyze T.D. Jakes. The whole ER 2 conversation (conference and internet chatter) caused me to realize that there is a deep-seated root in our flesh that, if not dealt with, causes well-meaning people to end up with some pretty heretical doctrines.

What it comes down to is that our human nature wants to solve all of our problems with human intuition. God gave us intuition, to be sure, but this cannot be the gauge or means for acquiring biblical theology, especially when God himself said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Such words should cause us to concede that God often operates outside the realm of our human intuition. If His ways are higher, than we must concede that they are not found within the way we would normally act or think. Intuition is only useful if the Bible is our starting point, not the limits of human reasoning.

We in the western world are heavily influenced by Greco-Roman culture. One of the symptoms of this is that we solve everything through debate, carnal reasoning, and laboratories. The danger is that intellect and education become idols, and we reject, often with hostility, anything we can’t fully comprehend with our minds.

The writers of the Bible didn’t live in such an environment. The Hebrews were content not having all the answers and living by faith (Job 38). Paul the Apostle didn’t attempt to answer all the questions he himself had, and was satisfied leaving some things in the realm of mystery (Rom. 9:19-20).

They understood that we can’t fully grasp God’s math. There are certain things we must accept as true even though we can’t fully comprehend them with human intuition. We already do this in the natural (time and space); then why is it so hard to do it with spiritual things?

God’s Math:

The Trinity
The Bible teaches that God is one God, but is eternally expressed in three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Isaiah 6:8, Matt. 3:13-17, Matt. 28:19-20). Human intuition says, “I get it! God is 33% the Father, 33% the Son, 33% the Holy Spirit.” Nope. Here’s God’s math:

1 + 1 + 1 = 1

He’s fully the Father, fully the Son, fully the Holy Spirit simultaneously. Human intuition also might say, “Well, I believe in three ‘manifestations’…God did express himself as Father, Son, Holy Spirit, but never at the same time because that doesn’t make sense.” This is called modalism and is not Christianity. It undermines the nature of God, the biblical Jesus, and is a departure from orthodox Christian faith.

We have to put this one in the box that says, “I Believe It’s True But Do Not Fully Comprehend It.”

The Incarnation
The Bible teaches that Jesus is God in the flesh (John 1:1-2, Phil. 2:6, Col. 1:13-20). This is called the Incarnation. He was God and man. Human intuition says: “I get it. Maybe something like 75% God and 25% man?” Nope. Here’s God’s math:

100% God and 100 % man simultaneously

Box: “I Believe It’s True But Do Not Fully Comprehend It.”

Sovereignty of God, Human Responsibility
Wars have been waged over whether God is sovereign and predestines all things (Eph. 1:11) or whether man has a free will. I would say, as Wayne Grudem says, “That depends on what you mean by free will.” If you believe that God has no power to move the heart of a person to do His will, this simply does not square with Scripture (Romans 9:16-18, Acts 13:48). But if we’re talking about real choices with real consequences, then yes, we have “free will.” But if you’re suggesting that we have a “free will” outside of God’s sovereign will, then no, there is no such “free will” taught in Scripture. I personally don’t use the term “free will” because it’s not in the Bible, nor is it implied as a biblical reality (i.e. I use “Trinity” because it’s clearly implied). I simply say “freedom” though this freedom is never outside of the sovereign will of God. This idea is called “concurrence.” It’s the concept that man is responsible and God is sovereign. Both are true. There is no case in Scripture for either extreme of fatalism or dismissing God’s omnipotence.

God’s math:

God 100% sovereign, Man 100% responsible simultaneously

Box: “I Believe It’s True But Do Not Fully Comprehend It.”

Whether it comes to the Trinity, the Incarnation, or God’s Sovereignty vs. Man’s Freedom, we must begin with the Bible, not human intuition. Worse than starting with intuition, we must not base what we believe on our feelings, which further complicates human intuition. This creates a very dangerous brand of feeling-driven Christianity. For example, one might say, “I just don’t like the idea that God would send anyone to hell!” Such a one “intuitively” believes in God’s love (which is real) but then perverts that love into universalism that has absolutely no foundation in Scripture. Another might say, “I just can’t accept that God would choose some and not choose others.” Does your objection make your view true? Set your assumptions and anger aside, and study the Bible. Give it time to speak to you. In the end, we find very real mystery among very real truth, our awe of God increases, and we are no longer in bondage to carnal reasoning like the world is. God’s math begins to make sense when we live by faith.

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