Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Words, Revelation, and Humanity

"Words are inadequate," "Christ is God veiled in human flesh," "It is a mystery," these statements are often easy for Christians to agree with.


Who hasn't found words to be inadequate? I know how that feels, I've even said it, but what does that mean? Are the words really inadequate? God created the world by his word: he spoke and it was done. Words are powerful. Who can tame the tongue? Are the words inadequate, or do we just not know how to say what we want to say?

And what choice do we have? The Bible is written in words, we preach in human words, we counsel each other and get to know each other by exchanging human words.

Words are hard, yes, but we would not be frustrated by their inadequacy if they were truly inadequate. Words were made for communication. This is what they were made for, but we find it hard to use them. It is not that they are inadequate, but that we do not know how to use them. Perhaps our vocabulary is to small, now, but then we invent words, or talk around it. The trouble is not with the words, but with our ability to use this gift.

God does not condescend to use words, rather we, because we are made in his image, are above the beasts in that we can use these rich languages. Yes, we misuse it, we can be vague, but we can clarify. That words are inadequate is false, but I do appreciate this: we must be careful in how we say things, that we say what is true, and that we say it clearly.

Veiled in Human Flesh

This is a weird phrase. Christ came to reveal God to us! Yes, the glory is veiled so that all who saw did not immediately die from the overwhelming guilt, but that was the fullness of God in him. The veil was torn as Jesus hung upon the cross.

Why do we say that God veiled himself in human flesh? Was he not fully man? Is there something offensive about that? Our problem is not that we are human, but that we are not truly human, for humans were made in the image of God, and we were made to find our joy in the glory of God. It is not what we are that is the problem, but what we are not. Christ's humanness did not entail sin nature, for that is not essential to being human, rather, it is death in us. To the extent that we are sinful, we are not human.


I am comfortable with mystery. I am not comfortable with how we use the term. When people call something a "mystery of God" they often seem to be offering an excuse for why we do not know the answer to something. Excuse! Is that being comfortable with mystery? I am willing that some things may be unknowable, but I see no reason why that should stop us from trying, humbly and by the power of the Spirit, to look into them.

But, honestly, where does the idea of mystery as something unknowable come from? Is that really what the word means in the Bible? Certainly we cannot know all there is to know about God, for he is vast, but that does not mean we cannot try to understand more.

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