Too Big for Our Britches

Although having newer Nissans (under warranty) means Michelle and I generally take our cars to the dealer for service, I have a mechanic friend, Paul, who I trust completely when it comes to what should or shouldn't be done with our vehicles. If Paul were ever to suggest something that didn't make sense to me, I might ask him to explain, but I would do so as a student asking a teacher—and I would accept there are some areas where my existing knowledge comes up so short Paul might not be able to put it in lay enough terms for me. Of course, given enough time to grasp the foundations, I actually could understand anything Paul does.

If Paul were instead a theoretical physicist, it would be even more likely he'd have to tell me, "Hmmm…Alan…I don't think there is a way I can explain it so you can understand." And although scientists like Stephen Hawking have written some tremendous books to translate what is in their heads into words that we (the masses) can digest, the reality is that most of us get dumbfounded as soon as we see an equation with an unrecognizable symbol in it.

But again, given enough time to grasp the foundations, I could understand anything Hawking does.

In both cases, however, I am not egotistical enough to tell the real mechanic Paul, or the hypothetical theoretical physicist Paul, they are wrong on their subject matter unless I am sure I have competence in the topic we are discussing. I won't tell real Paul how he should fix a 1995 Subaru Outback, and I won't tell hypothetical Paul string theory is only good for hanging pixie-dust evolution fairies.

Of course, neither version of Paul has perfect knowledge, even in the area of their expertise. I have to be on guard so as to prevent the "appeal to authority" logical fallacy from being used. I respect their learning, but am completely aware of its limits…and their humanity.

However, you must admit that ever since the Age of Reason we've put human reason on the highest pedestal we have. Because of that, inspired words like these go against the grain of our psyches:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5, English Standard Version).

What do you mean don't lean on our own understanding?! You want us to blindly follow?!

No…that is not what God is asking, and "faith" is not synonymous with "blind faith." However, if I were to apprentice under real Paul (the mechanic), I wouldn't be surprised if on day one he avoided teaching me how to completely strip down and rebuild a Chrysler 392 Hemi engine with the special manifold option. And, with the Lord…

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).

A verse like that does not mean that we should disengage our brains whenever God speaks. If that's what He wanted He wouldn't have inspired 66 books of instruction and understanding…finally sending His Son to make it so we could really comprehend (see Hebrews 1:1-2).

Not to mention that He is the one who created us with the gift of reason—so He expects us to use it!

But, we are the imperfect fallible finite students, and He is the perfect infallible infinite teacher—something we need to constantly remind ourselves when our questions cross the line into narcissism and disrespect. Even someone as righteous and wise as Job had to get a good tongue-lashing from the creator of the universe, who began his smack-down with:

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding (Job 38:2-4).

God then spends four chapters reminding Job of everything He knows and everything He has done, at a point midway asking:

Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it (Job 40:2).

We humans have no problem finding fault with God, do we? Whether it is atheists or agnostics spurning belief in Him because they refuse to take the time to understand why our Lord has governed a given way…

Or false churches that have replaced the supremacy of Scripture with societal judgments to inform doctrine…

Or us individually denying the Almighty by our actions…

Whether it is a Twitter friend this past week implicitly calling our God a misogynist, or a rabid atheist like Richard Dawkins labeling our Lord genocidal—I pray they, and we, are humble enough someday to respond as Job did to his correction:

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know (Job 42:3b).

For too often we utter what we do not understand…and it is arrogant for us to think we are right when we come up against wisdom from the celestial combination of perfect knowledge and perfect character (and perfect love)…

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Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

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