Friday, August 16, 2013

Can We Access the Mind of God?

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

"Fundamentalists in any religion are literalists. ...they're cocky enough to think they believe they have access to the mind of God. " (pg 11,) These words come from a novel I just got from the dollar store (!), "Adam and Eve" by Sena Naslund--hailed as one of the most imaginative and inspired writers of our time, with keen insights into the human condition. Only a few chapters in, and I can tell she is exceptionally gifted, but it is the quote that I want to direct our attention to. As we are in a series on developing a biblical worldview, she raises THE key issue of anyone's worldview--what is our ultimate authority?

Her novels, as a bestselling author, are both reflecting and shaping our culture, as are innumerable other influences. Certainly the line I quoted reflects the ethos of America in 2013 (as opposed to 1913 when God speaking to us was not an issue) Whether we have access to the mind of God or not effects everything--and I mean everything!

At first glace, especially in a society that has swallowed relativism hook, line, and sinker, the claim to have access to the mind of God does sound cocky or arrogant...even dangerous. The fictitious book speaks of two recent finds which will hopefully nullify the madness of religious literalists, who are seen as plunging mankind into a third world war if not stopped--extraterrestrial life and a document which proves that Moses was not the author of Genesis. The hero/heroine believe these two finds will gut the worlds three major religions. I have to fight the urge to follow this bunny trail (very significant bunny trail!), but gotta stay on task. Back to the "madness of accessing God's mind"...

Puny, finite humans know the mind of the Infinite?! That is lunacy....or is it? You see, it is instructive that this same character, a few pages later,  asserts with certainty that "God is ineffable"..which means it is impossible to express what God is like. At least she is consistent with the "no access" assumption--if we have no access to what God is thinking, then we are left with the ash heap of agnosticism. An ineffable God is of no use to anybody...up there swimming in blissful unknowingness and unknowability. Very different from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Let me shift gears and share a text of scripture (which claims to reveal the mind of God!) Speaking to Pilate Jesus said,"For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice." Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38) As the truth, Jesus fulfills the teaching of the OT (Jn1:17) and reveals the true God (1:14,17;5:33). Jesus states that the reason He was born, was not just to die for our sins (praise God He did!), but also to reveal truth regarding God. That is why we have access to the mind of God--Jesus is God incarnate who revealed God. Truth is not just data... Truth is a Person! The bible, and supremely in Jesus, the mind of God is revealed. For modern men and women, this is an especially astonishing and beautiful fact. An ineffable God--by definition-- cannot be known or enjoyed.

In our discussions (this is key) with folks regarding the truth of Christianity, we need to address precisely this question--do they think it is possible to access the mind of God? Why/why not? You may have to raise to their conscience awareness that which has been unconsciously assumed for years. For us, God and the bible is our source of ultimate truth...what is theirs? (autonomous experience, intuition, observation, and so on). Everybody has an ultimate source, authority, or guide. If they mock the notion of accessing the mind of God, are they aware of the horror of great intellectual darkness that that leads to? And, what is their alternative? This is epistemology--the nature of knowledge-and far too often we argue over the evidence before discussing presuppositions which color how we see the data/evidence--and we end up talking past each other.

One quick proviso: we cannot know the mind of God exhaustively or comprehensively, but we can know His mind accurately or truly. God is infinite and we are finite, but He has made us personal beings like Himself. He could not give us access to His mind by speaking His Trinitarian language (we could not understand it), but there is no reason why He could not speak to us via the medium of our, human language--Hebrew and Greek--translated to English. In other words, God's infinity is not an insuperable barrier (as many folks assert) to meaningful and accurate self-disclosure to His image-bearers. Jesus tells us in the above text that we do have access to the mind of God, and the cockiness lies in the autonomous thinking of those who deny this wondrous fact. In light of God' gracious self-revelation, humility is NOT synonymous with uncertainty regarding the truth in the bible. Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the bible) is one, long celebration of the fact that we can access the mind of God in the written Word.

However, note Pilate's reply--ironically, he was charged with determining the truth in this matter, but he glibly dismisses the relevance of truth in the very presence of the One who IS TRUTH INCARNATE. (Jn 14:6) Evidently, Pilate assumes that Jesus is merely a babbler of philosophical abstractions. He asks, "What is truth?" but he does not wait for an answer from the only One who could answer that question. It seems that Pilate neither expected nor wanted a reply to his rhetorical question..he spun around and walked away. Pilate gives us a clear picture of how NOT to pursue spiritual truth. That is, he shows that he is not an honest seeker of truth.And if one unthinkingly presupposes that we cannot have access to the mind of God, then that is being intellectually dishonest.

A glib response to attempts of explanation of the truth is very common, and is a guage of how honest one is in their seeking of paranormal/spiritual truth. Being a writer and author I am painfully aware of this dismissive tendency....but what joy when the truth connects, and some say that the truth actually saved their lives!

Prov. 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge...and also wisdom. This is wonderful! "Knowledge" in Hebrew is the idea of an accurate understanding of the nature of the world--seen and unseen. A deep reverence for God, and reliance upon His revealed Word, enables us to see the paranormal through His eyes...thinking His thoughts after Him.. "Wisdom" is knowing how to apply that knowledge in life in a way that is pleasing to God. But both knowledge and wisdom are only possible due to having access to the mind of God. And again, this is the centerpiece of our worldview.

My plea with you is to realize that there are millions of folks who are wandering blind in a paranormal wasteland--they were promised the wonderment of benevolent spirit guides and direct spiritual experience, but instead are under a crushing load of darkness and demonic oppression (or worse).Like heroin, the paranormal is a lie... They NEED for us to really take seriously that we do have access to the mind of God. . Will you follow Jesus or Pilate?