Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
May 13, 2011
The secret to spiritual significance
NATO bombs have struck government buildings in Tripoli, while unrest continues in Syria. Meanwhile, headlines around the country are announcing that Ashton Kutcher will replace Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men. This is news we need to know?
The Bible never makes that mistake—every word is practical and significant. We do our best theology when we share the biblical focus on here-and-now relevance. For instance, in reading with gratitude your comments on yesterday’s essay I especially appreciated one reader’s response to another reader: “if your view is right or Jim’s is right, how would it change how you and I live our lives today?”
We are speculative people. Our Western culture has inherited the Greeks’ love of logic and order; we agree with Aristotle that non-contradiction is the test of truth. We want to know how the dinosaurs died and whether or not there will be a rapture.
However, the Bible was written within the Hebrew practical worldview. It doesn’t tell us everything we want to know, but it reveals everything we need to know. In the 27 years I’ve taught philosophy of religion and systematic theology courses, I always begin with this observation: if the answer to our question wouldn’t change our lives, we may be asking a question the Bible isn’t intended to answer. That fact doesn’t make our question wrong, but it probably indicates that we won’t find the cut-and-dried biblical solution we seek.
If I could tell you precisely how old the Earth is, what would that information do for you on this Friday morning? If I could prove that one of the seven most popular approaches to Revelation is correct, how would that knowledge change your life today? The Bible doesn’t tell us all we would like to know about death and eternity, but it tells us what we need to know—believers will spend eternity in heaven, a fact which should change the way we live today.
If we don’t live for heaven, you and I will live for this world instead. But God warns us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world” (1 John 2:15). Paul testified, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). He instructed us to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2), for “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
G. Campbell Morgan was a great expositor and a powerful man of God. His secret? He said, “Every morning when I awaken I remind myself that I must be ready to meet God today.” Jonathan Edwards was the greatest theologian America has ever produced. Why? He resolved “never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.”
If we live every day as though it were our last, one day we’ll be right and every day we’ll be grateful.