Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reconciling Belief with Knowledge

Reconciling Belief with Knowledge
By Kevin Finkenbinder
     Life seems to be full of many things: troubles, pain, insights, learning and joys.  In a traditional social economy, each person is trying to minimize the first two items while maximizing the last two items.  Saying that God's economy takes the opposite view would be false, yet it is false to believe that God wants us to seek insights, learning, and joy at the expense of avoiding who we are in our innermost beings.  It is also false to believe that God does not want us to experience troubles and pain.  I have known these truths in my head
for many years; recently God has seen fit to teach my heart as well.  Those of you who have fully dealt with this problem please don't bother continuing to read.  For the rest of us, I have some thoughts.
     In general, we Christians tend to be at least paradoxical if not hypocritical.  We know that God will do what is best for us, but we tend not to believe those items which we know.  For instance, we know that God works all things together for the good of those that love him and are called together according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)  How many times do we look at this and think that God has promised that we will not have problems.  The promise is not that all things will be good; it is that all things will be used to create a good result.  Because our hearts believe something that is a corruption of the truth, our confusion tempts us to doubt what we know or get depressed because God has somehow forgotten his promise to us.
     This dichotomy has been expressing itself since the beginning of mankind.  When the serpent was tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden, he asked her if God really said that she should not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Eve knew that God had said not to eat from the tree, but she believed he had said not to eat from it or even touch it.  (Genesis 3:2-3)  Notice how subtly different this is from God's command in Genesis 2:16-17 which only mentions not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  We don't know exactly what took place there in the garden, but I suspect that the serpent probably then made his way up onto the tree to convince Eve that she could touch it.  In my opinion, it was once she touched it that Eve noticed that it was both beautiful and good for food.  If Eve had forced herself to believe exactly what God had said, she may have been less likely to fall into sin.  Her extra stipulations on God's commands were easy for Satan to disprove, and once her beliefs were disproven, it was a small step to get her to doubt what she knew.
     This diversion between belief and knowledge has expressed itself in my life in numerous ways.  Since my youth, I have known that God will work all things together for my good since I am called to his purpose.  If I had believed what I knew, the natural result would have been peace.  I would not have worried about finding God's will; I would have trusted Him to show his will to me.  If I believe that God is going to work all things to good, it puts the burden on Him.  If I believe that all things that happen are going to be good then I am disappointed when this is not true.  Misplaced belief leads me to try and do everything perfectly to keep from messing up God's plan.  If you ask me, I have always known that nothing I can do will mess up God's plan.  Knowing did not effect my actions and therefore was not the same as my belief.  James 1:8 says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.  The difference in belief and knowledge caused me to be very unstable.  The results have included depression, anxiety and tension.
     It is amazing what a relief it is to truly realize that even when I do something that does not follow the ideal direction God has for my life, he still uses it to create ideal results.  Simon Peter was another person who learned what a relief it is to make belief coincide with knowledge.  When asked who he said that Jesus was, he boldly answered, "You are the Messiah.”  (Matthew 16:16)  But even after this bold proclamation of his Knowledge, Peter still didn't have the belief that would keep him from denying Christ during His trial.  Jesus' restoration of Peter in John 21 allowed Peter to believe that Jesus truly is God.  After this, we see Peter's life changed as he bravely preaches to crowds and courts alike.
     If I claimed that I have my life in order and that my beliefs are totally in synch with my knowledge, I would clearly not be telling the truth.  I still have many problems, and must still deal with the effects of depression that have built up throughout my life.  I can say that I have decided that being double minded is not for me.  I am allowing God the right to rectify my knowledge and my beliefs.  I still yank that right away from Him, but am learning to trust in Him.
     Think about joining me on the journey.  Each individual journey is different, but if we journey together, those of us in hard times can be supported by those who currently have more strength or less struggles.  The journey won't be easy, but I know that the rewards are great.  Together, we can learn to believe that as well.

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