As humans we have the capacity to split ourselves. One minute we can help another, the next we can harm. A friend of a friend of mine recently admitted to taking advantage of another in a vulnerable position. This person seems quite wise. He has good advice when I’m stuck. He is able to see through knotty situations. People come to him for advice and counsel. And to a person they feel the better for it. But now it is evident that he manipulated someone for financial benefit. It wasn’t illegal but certainly immoral and unethical.
How is this possible. Can salt water and fresh come from the same source? It should not be possible but it is. I meditate on this in my own life. I can be gracious to my kids one minute and harsh the next. I can heal and I can kill the soul. We all have this capacity and so we must be on guard against complacency. It is easy to stand in judgment of the one who commits a heinous crime. When this person is a believer, we begin to question their honesty and integrity and disbelieve that any good done prior to the crime was of value. And while we should do that since something was clearly wrong and somehow the person has disconnected from his/her soul, we ought also to explore our own soul for the same disease.
May God help us to be unwilling to entertain or ignore self-deception.
This post is prompted by a sermon I heard last Sunday. Duane Davis, student at WTS preached a wonderful sermon on Hebrews 11:8-22 and Abraham’s journey to the promised land. During the sermon I thought of this application to my own Seminary’s quest to teach and train missional church leaders and counselors for the 21st century. A little background: not everyone has been happy with our move to reach the emerging leadership of the emerging church. The emerging church has been willing to criticize sharply the prior evangelical style of church. In their effort to try new things, some emerging leaders, writers, etc. have tried on theological positions that run counter or at least perpendicular to conservative Christian doctrine. Because we at the Seminary haven’t led with our criticisms of emerging church, that has led some to criticize and attack us. One criticism has been the challenge that the emerging church and Biblical Seminary don’t know where they are going. We’re on a journey that can only lead to heresy and rejection of the Gospel–or so it is thought by some. Enter Hebrews 11.
Notice that Abraham travels with much uncertainty. He surely knew that God called him (at least he knew this enough to leave all his family and homeland at an elderly age) and so he went expectantly. I wonder if he grew tired of saying, “Here, Lord? This looks like a good spot. No, you want me to keep going???”. I wonder if he second-guessed himself. But Hebrews does tell us that Abraham did look expectantly to one thing: heaven (v. 11). In fact, the promise of heirs the number of sand and land was never fully realized in his lifetime. As Duane reminded us, he even had to buy some land to bury his cherished wife. Even at age 100, he had yet to receive the promise of Isaac. Then a few years later he is asked by God to sacrifice Isaac.
We who have the entire canon seem to forget that we too do not know where God is taking us. We have a clearer picture of heaven and clear calls to seek and serve God’s kingdom. And yet we do not know exactly to what God is calling us to. We, like Abraham, may try to bring about God’s promises (these usually lead to bad consequence). God is faithful none-the-less. Unless He returns, we too will not see the full promise delivered.
So, in answer to those who ask whether Biblical Seminary knows where it is going, I say no. We don’t. We do know that God is faithful, the land is foreign, we own nothing, but we trust in his goodness both now and in eternity. We seek to live faithfully in worshipful service to God and in loving our neighbors as ourselves. It would be more comforting to think we had it all figured out. It is tempting to do so since that would make our vision planning much easier. In fact, it is tempting just to say we have it all figured out. That would be more attractive to students and donors. But, we believe a more faithful response is to ask the Lord to send us into the harvest and use as as He can.
One last point. Our lack of knowing just where we are going is not to say we have NO idea nor to say all viewpoints are valid and everyone’s expression of faith is good. Those interested in knowing more what we do seek and believe are welcome to check out our President’s “Missional Journal” at http://www.biblical.edu/pages/resources/missional-journal.html