One Mystery and Six "We's"... Hard Questions in Homeschooling
In reading through Genesis this last week with the kids, Ben asked, "Why did God even make the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the first place?"
A good, worthy, and ancient question, which comes rambling down through history. And asked of me, while I lay on the couch, pretty much obliterated by the flu. (Which also comes rambling down through history. Cleopatra, Beatrice, and Laura Ingalls also lay on the couch at some point with the flu.)
My young man is asking the same question men have been asking always, "Why would a righteous God create a world knowing evil would be in it eventually?" In other words, "If God is truly Great, how can He also be Good?"
Our little family circle discussed this and searched scriptures for a bit, and then we rested from that labor, started math, and had sandwiches. We can even rest while we do labor to understand.
How can we rest while we labor? We can rest because we know who Christ is, and we know what He did.
We know we can trust Him. We know His purposes are good. We know this based on what He has done.
We know He personally suffered to make it possible for us to know Him. We know "What wondrous love is this...O my soul, O my soul." (Link here)
And the haunting celtic-bluegrass hybrid of Chelsea Moon and the Franz brothers singing same HERE.
I write those things as a Christian and a mom, not a theologian or a scholar. But I do believe when and while we grapple with the mysterious and hard things to understand or accept about God and life -- good and evil, sovereignty and righteousness, the Trinity and the incarnation, etc -- as homeschooling moms, through Scripture and obedience, we are equipped for every good work.
We can be mindful of several things, so that we can rest and not grow weary or lose sight of our Redeemer. Yes, He was wrathful. And His wrath was appeased...by His own death.
There are things we will know with certainty about our infinite God and yet not understand. If you "signed up" to worship and love an infinite God who was made man, you signed up for some Mystery... in the very biggest and most profound sense of that word. Search all you can, but rest in this: one day you will see Him face to face.
Romans 11:33-36. It is enough.
2. We Read the Word.
The things we know about God from His word are most correctly described using the words He uses. He condescends to explain some things about Himself to us in human language, and I think it wise to use His words and concepts found in the Old and New Testaments when we describe Him, too, when we seek to understand.
I believe is is appropriate for men and women to write about God and to love God using words of their own. And clear biblical truths are given other titles as a sort of theological shorthand ("Trinity" being an excellent example). But when we seek to clearly understand and describe this "Trinity" (or other attributes), we are wise to use the words and examples and narratives He uses whenever we can (eg. not "The Trinity is like a three-leaf clover"). Use what He has told you to understand Him. And if you can't use it to understand Him, use it to know Him and believe in Him as He described Himself. (And Rest.)
Our pastor frequently reminds us that "Jesus is found on every page of the Bible." We can go there and see what He is telling us, in His own words, about Himself and life and the mysterious things of both.
II Timothy 3:14-17. ("Every good work" surely includes the study of God, theology.)
3. We See God.
John 14:5-14. Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." When studying God's character and attributes, I think we do well to look intently on the person of Christ as represented in the Gospels and all of Scripture.
In other words, Jesus is the first place we should look to see what God is like, especially when we are confused.
I think it is easy to get so caught up in trying to understand this or that, that we lose sight of our Redeemer as THE Word God gave us about Himself.
During His incarnate life on earth, Jesus Christ interfaced with religious, secular, wicked, loving, ignorant, wise, deceitful, honest, confused, faith-filled people of many ages, both genders, and various vocations. He discussed tragedies, traditions, traitors, and trees (nature). He described God and discussed and did battle with the devil.
How did He interact with evil men and how did he respond to evil deeds on earth? What did he say? What did he NOT say? What did he do? Did He weep or question back... or spit in the dirt and make clay? Does he say why he did these things?
How did He interact with the faithful? With the devil and demons?
What was his role in His own death? What were his views on and reactions to catastrophes, stormy weather, the death of friends, etc.
How did he speak to Pharisees, to Pontius Pilate, to Nicodemus, to the Samaritan woman, to little children?
His recorded interactions give us clues about God.
4. We Fix on the Bright Morning Star. (Rev 22:16)
In our struggle to understand, we must not despair or accuse. I think it is wise, again, to turn our eyes back to our Jesus.
We may not understand (or perhaps we may not like) a given truth. But if we are drawn back to the lovely sight of Jesus and His utter sweetness (not a treacly, Valentines-Day sweetness -- but a mighty, living, pure, vibrant, goodness), I think we will keep our bearings in our search.
This kind of goodness transfixed the Marys and made one pour perfume on his feet and wipe the mucky dirt off with her hair. It bade the centurion to say, "Just say the word..." It bade a hemorrhaging woman to touch his clothes in the street. It drew little children to him. It bade the storm to be still.
Are we captivated by the Bright Morning Star in all our searchings and wanderings? Is He the guiding star for our little ship of homeschool (or personal) theology?
Surely this is One we can love and trust, even as we say "why?"
Can we trust Him with our lives? I believe we can look to Him and find peace, in both hardship and mystery.
He is above reproach. Let us be careful in our questioning not to reproach Him in our ignorance, confusion, distress, or fatigue.
5. We See Ourselves.
To twist a phrase, "It's not business, it is personal."
LINK To "You've Got Mail" scene (because Kathleen Kelly is right on about 100 levels).
Like business issues (awkward segue alert), cosmic questions are really intimate questions. What I or you or we decide about God is very personal to us. As with all truth, this is true whether or not we like it or believe it to be true.
In nature, what happens in the Milky Way matters to the amoeba. In body and soul, who God is and what He does matters personally to you and me.
It's personal to you and me, because in encountering the mysteries of God, we choose to worship and serve Him -- or not -- as He is. We approach Him either as a trusting child looking for knowledge about Him and ourselves... or an smart-aleck schoolboy with just enough information to make him confident in his ignorance. And everything follows from there.
I'm not saying our applause and approval -- or even our belief -- is what makes Him God. Even in America, He does not need our vote to shore up some sort of cosmic, grassroots, Popularity Campaign.
As He once said, He does not need our approval to pour the earth's hot magma, to cause the white goats to calve on the green hills, or to bound the rim of the gray Atlantic.
But who He is matters to us in the most intimate way, for now and tomorrow and eternity.
6. We Respond
We respond in some way to what we know. We may meet Him and respond like the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27), a religious man who claimed to follow all the law -- yet he actually worshiped riches, not God, and so was not obeying the very first of the commandments.
We may find we are like the Roman centurion (Matt 8:5-13), a successful soldier in what may have been the most brutal pagan army in the world -- who understood and bent the knee to authority and had "astonishing" faith." (Man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:6-13)
Or maybe we encounter Him like this (like me) stumbling between the two, "Oh Lord, I believe, help my unbelief."(Mark 9:24) He is merciful, and He is enough.
"Whom have I in heaven but You?" (Psalm 73:25)
God says we will find what we seek. (Jeremiah 29:13) This is very comforting, if you are seeking Him.
If you are not seeking Him, this should be very disturbing.
In my questioning, am I seeking to find God or to do battle with Him? To lift Him up or to lift up myself and my prejudices, presumptions, presuppositions, and opinions?
It's good to know and to rest. He can manage you and your questions.
But can you manage Him?