One thing that has always bothered me is when people ask questions (in order to get answers to) what God has not revealed.
This is evil and always leads to heresy.
It’s like we forget that “the secret things belong to the Lord, but the revealed things belong to us.” (Deut 29:29) We can only understand what is revealed. For what is revealed, we are warned:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls (Jer 6:16).
The ancient paths are those that have already been trod–this admonishment is not about walking. It is about sticking to revelation and how it has always been interpreted.
So, those who devise their wicked syllogisms and in their prelest think they can ask questions no one can ask and get answers God has never revealed to His people, listen to the words of Jesus of Sirach:
Neither seek what is too difficult for you,
nor investigate what is beyond your power.
Reflect upon what you have been commanded,
for what is hidden is not your concern.
Do not meddle in matters that are beyond you,
for more than you can understand has been shown you. (Ecclesaisticus 3:21-23)
What is hidden is not our concern. We must only reflect on what God has given us. This will help us avoid every heresy such as rationalism, Papalism, forensic justification, Arianism, Nestorianism, and the like.
Ah, the heresy of “rationalism”. Perhaps a few decades of Christian service and humility should precede any blogging?
This may be *one* way heresy may arise, but it certainly does not account for all. Arianism doesn’t seem all that esoteric to me, for instance, and its proponents complained that the Orthodox were the innovators. And they weren’t entirely wrong, inasmuch as Trinitarian formulations required the use of extra-biblical language. Ariana boasted that they were more consistent with Moses — the ancient paths — than the Orthodox.
All this to say that concern for the ancient paths is no insurance against falling into heresy.
It requires a little bravery to tackle this question Craig, and respect to you for making a concentrated attempt. I also agree with ‘Christian Wanderer’ and especially about the novelty of extra-Hebraic Pauline language. This all begs questions like, ‘What might constitute legitimate and holistically spiritual progress in history? ‘What are we to do in our day that is different to previous generations, or are we simply populating heaven through conversion?’ Or more briefly, ‘What is God waiting for?’ Is there a simple measuring device in God’s heaven awaiting a certain weight of answer to the prayer ‘gather from east to west that a perfect offering may be made to the glory of Your Name?’ We just haven’t reached it yet.
It seems to me that the Creator God who is finally revealed as Jesus the Christ is more inventive, creative and liberating of spiritual freedom in Christ for us that we should settle for simply living lives that are numerous iterations (8 billion and counting…) of who and what has gone before. My conviction is that God is declaring ‘New Creation’ through God’s redeemed and inspired People- Christ’s Body on earth, that is- and so my answer to your excellent question is that safety in the ancient path, as affirmed by Barth, amongst others in other traditions, is to be found by walking with the One Who would have us accompany Him on the ancient path that is therefore a path that has not yet been travelled- into God’s future.
Many thanks for this post Craig!
Flannery O’Connor once wrote that evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.
There exists a temptation to lump the academic and the pedantic in writing about spiritual things. That, along with the favored pastime of the rugged individualism of exercising “my will be done”.
What a enormous blessing (and corrective) to remind myself (and be reminded by the Church and others) that hey, they are things hidden from us and that it is to us to experience, NOT explain (and give a thorough, conclusive, human rational for) all things.
Thank you for the kind words, Father.