Knowing and Loving God: Part 2a

by Jonathan Hamilton

Click here for an explanation of this series

Tuesday, June 17

This day began with a discussion on some practical ways that a worship service might be impacted by what we have been learning in class. Please keep in mind it is impossible to reproduce the spirit in the classroom as these things were being taught. Some of them garnered a bit of a chuckle as we talked about “junk” elements of a service. This was not intended as a report card to grade a church and then use critically. The purpose of the class was to teach genuine worship, and in attempting to make some practical application, Dr. Bauder put forth many of his own thoughts.

  • The whole point of preaching is to ask for change. It is never just to communicate information.
  • Suggestion: Perhaps insert a moment of silence right after announcements, followed by a choral introit (def. 2) or call to worship.
  • Suggested service elements:
  1. Introit
  2. Call to Worship
  3. Hymns
  4. Scripture
  5. Pastoral Prayer (given on behalf of the congregation, saying all the things that they ought to be saying….powerful instruction tool)
  6. Giving
  7. Preaching
  8. Invitation (not necessarily an altar call, but all preaching includes an invitation….see first bullet point from today)
  • “Junk” elements (with a wry grin)
  1. Visitor packet handout time
  2. Announcements
  3. “Howdy” time

At this point, a lady in the class asked Dr. Bauder what his advice was on family worship (family devotions). His (boiled down) response:

  • This does not have to be a hard-scheduled thirty-minute time every day. You living your life spiritually in front of your family will teach and impact them more. This is not at all to discourage family worship, but if for some reason you cannot do it, you still have major opportunities to bring your family along.

Next, we began a discussion of these questions: “Can God be known? If so, how?”

  • There are two impulses in Christian response to this question:

1. Rationalism – we want to know, to analyze (disassemble), to find out Who and What God is

Cataphatic approach – (I failed to record Dr. Bauder’s definition, but I believe this approach relates to bringing God down to what can be known by observation)

Problems: 1. God is transcendent (very different from anything)   2. God is free (He is not a mechanism. He is a Person Who is sovereign)

2. Mysticism – Begins with a recognition of God’s transcendence and our limitations in speaking of Him

Apophatic approach – Instead of cognitive knowledge of God you seek experiential knowledge of God

Problems: 1. If it’s impossible to put meaningful things about God into language, what happens to the Bible?   2. Ultimately, this approach contradicts itself. If it’s not possible to make any assertion about God, then it’s not possible to make that assertion itself.

Christianity tends to waver between these extremes. So then what is the alternative?

  • BIBLICISM (This term is oft-maligned. It can be used positively, as it will be here. It can also be used as a pejorative dismissal towards those perceived to play the “Well, I’m a BIBLICIST!” card in any and all situations in which someone disagrees with their position)

Definition: We are committed to the text of Scripture as authoritative, meaning:

  1. Verbal, plenary inspiration (see page 30 of this doc for a definition)
  2. Inerrancy (Scripture never affirms any error of fact)
  3. Sufficiency
  4. Perspicuity (written to be understood) – side note: the Holy Spirit’s function is not to help you interpret Scripture (an unbeliever can do that), but to apply it to your life
  5. Propositional Revelation (what God says about Himself is true) – to make claims about God is not to limit Him (“put God in a box”) because He is free to reveal Himself to us in this way (sounds “cataphatic”); the purpose is to lead us into communion with Him, He wants us to meet Him (sounds apophatic); but this real communion with God is established by, and mediated by the text of Scripture (Biblicist)

So we’ve answered the question “Can God be known?” Yes He can! And it happens through His Word. So then:

How does He make Himself present in Scripture? Magically?

  • You’ve got to remember what Scripture is. It is not a theology textbook or a systematic theology. It functions as a narrative. The Bible is a meta-narrative (overarching storyline), in a sense, a single long story that our narrative is located within. It is the one “myth,” or meta-narrative, that actually explains correctly the way things are. It is both historical and true. (to clarify, the word “myth” makes us think of something untrue, but that is not originally how the word was used, and is certainly not the case here)
  • Within this story, the primary actor and mover is God Himself. He is disclosing Himself not only through what He says, but by what He does. Also, His Spirit communicates with our spirit (impressions shaped by the primary driver, His Word).

NEXT: Knowing and Loving God: Part 2b