1. Desperation (A sense of utter dependence on God's enablement). I see this in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." The natural man (all of us without the Spirit's work in our lives) should feel desperation before the revelation of God. He needs God's help. Well the same thing is true of spiritual - but finite and fallible and sinful - people like me, when I meet difficult texts of God's Word. I should feel desperation - a desperate dependence on God's help. That is what God wants us to feel. That is something he has unleashed by inspiring difficult texts.You can read the rest of the sermon here.
2. Supplication (Prayer to God for help). This follows from desperation. If you feel dependent on God to help you see the meaning of a text, then you will cry to him for help. I see this in Psalm 119:18, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law." Seven times in one psalm the psalmist prays, "Teach me your statutes" (119:12, 26, 64, 68,124, 135, 171). Or as Psalm 25:5 says, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me." By inspiring some things hard to understand, God has unleashed in the world desperation which leads to supplication - the crying out to God for help.
3. Cogitation (Thinking hard about Biblical texts). You might think, "No, no, you are confused, Pastor John. You just said that God wants us to pray for his help in understanding, not to think our way through to a solution." But the answer to that concern is, No, praying and thinking are not alternatives. I learn this especially from 2 Timothy 2:7, where Paul says to Timothy, "Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything." Yes, it is the Lord who gives understanding. But he does it through our God-given thinking and the efforts we make, with prayer, to think hard about what the Bible says. So when God inspired texts like Romans 3:1-8, he unleashed in the world an impulse toward hard thinking. Alongside desperation and supplication there is cogitation. Which leads finally to . . .
4. Education (Training young people and adults to pray earnestly, read well and think hard). If God has inspired a Book as the foundation of the Christian faith, there is a massive impulse unleashed in the world to teach people how to read. And if God ordained for some of that precious, sacred, God-breathed Book to be hard to understand, then God unleashed in the world not only an impulse to teach people how to read, but how to think about what they read -how to read hard things and understand them, and how to use the mind in a rigorous way.
Monday, July 31, 2006
John Piper has thought about this question and has put forth four reasons: