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Hebrews 4:8-13

03.17.2011

Reading Hebrews thus far has drawn me again and again to a tension between two concepts that I can’t quite resolve.  This is because it has flipped the script on a growing conviction I’ve had about the Gospel, which is that it is not mere information.

We wonder why God remains so mysterious and why, if He wants us to believe a certain thing or say a certain prayer, He doesn’t just audibly or visibly appear to us and give us the message we ask for.  Of course, He did that!  We still don’t seem to be satisfied.  We still find ways to rationalize or deny the things that were seen and heard.

Also, though, God does not do this because the Gospel is not reducible to a piece of information that can be explained.  It’s not a secret, the memorization of which will unlock Heaven to us.  This is why the church has holy sacraments like baptism and communion and marriage, ceremonies and actions which convey the reality of the Gospel.  This is why an intellectual approach to God is inevitably incomplete.  And yet…

And yet…  The impression I get over and over as I study Hebrews is of the Gospel being a message of truth that must be heard and accepted.  So far, we’ve seen the author emphasize the messages that God has sent throughout history, we’ve been called to pay attention to this message lest we drift away, and had the Exodus generation held up as an example of what happens when we reject the message of God with an unbelieving heart.  There’s this ribbon woven through the argument of a truth statement that we must receive and believe.  It’s hard to grasp this truth without thinking of the Gospel as a piece of information in transmission from God to us.

I don’t have an answer,* but I am reminded of John 8:32, where Jesus tells the Disciples that they will know the truth and the truth will set them free.  I’ve found comfort in that verse before because I see in it a resolution of the tension between free will and predestination.**  Maybe that applies here too.  Maybe we are called to know (receive, hear) the truth as we know any information.  But the truth, being so much more than just information, works in us actively (setting us free) as an agent of God’s nature rather than just sitting there passively like my knowledge of state capitals…or something like that.

I think it’s useful to revisit Karl Barth’s (paraphrased) definition of spiritual knowledge: more than just the acquisition of neutral information, knowledge is the process of becoming intimately acquainted with absolute and infinite truth in a way that redefines your manner of thinking and self-perception.  It means to interact with truth deeper than fact and come away changes, set free.

———–

* Gosh, how often do I say that.  It seems like at least once a week.  I sure hope for your sakes that none of you are using this as a resource for your spiritual growth!  Heh.

** Of my own free will, I will know the truth or not.  But my knowing the truth does not set me free.  Only the truth, as an expression of God, sets me free, preserving the sovereignty of God.

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