In the Philippines it is culturally considered embarrassing to be asked a question and to not know the answer. So, if I am out driving and I ask a bystander for directions, I may get directions even if the person has no clue what the correct way is. Therefore, one must always beware of heeding advice and acting on it without getting a second or third opinion. Filipinos do not like to say “I don’t know.”
Ironically, this same desire not to appear uninformed also often afflicts the church. Consequently, Christians will weigh in with answers (educated or not) on vexing questions so as to appear that they are mature or knowledgeable. Some probably even think they do know the answer. But unlike in the Philippines where not saying “I don’t know,” is culturally understood and therefore not much of a problem, in the church when people weigh in with authority on what they do not really know, it can be very dangerous.
For example let’s suppose I go to a pastor and I say, “Pastor, I am concerned about what will happen to me when I die. Will I go to heaven?” The pastor replies, “Well Dan, have you prayed and confessed your sins and asked Jesus to be your Savior?” I nod my head yes. He then says, “Well then, you don’t have to worry, you will go to heaven.” Folks this is potentially a terrible answer.
2 Timothy 2:19—Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and Everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness.
First, as Paul taught Timothy, God is the One who knows who are His (saved). We dare not make claims that are not ours to make. Second, the pastor made an assumption that because I prayed a “verbal formula” I am therefore saved. This is dangerous on two accounts. As Paul notes in the verse above, all who profess the Lord’s name are required to flee from sin. If I am living in sin, I have not met God’s requirement therefore, why would I be saved? “This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands” (1 John 2:3). If I am not keeping God’s commands I don’t have the truth in me (vs. 4). If I love the world or the things that belong to the world, I don’t have love for the Father in me (2:15). The absence of truth and God’s presence is a clear indicator I am not saved. Furthermore, if I do not love others I don’t know God (1 John 4:8). “The one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him” (4:16).
Rather than pronounce me saved, the pastor should have asked me more questions to find out my circumstances, convictions, and behavior. Finally, the honest admission is to say God is the one who determines if I am saved and Scripture provides clear instruction as noted earlier to help me evaluate my condition. By making a pronouncement without really knowing, the pastor in this case could send me away thinking I am “good to go,” when in fact, I may not be walking with God at all and not be part of His “fold.” This is not only presumptuous on the part of a leader, but he will also stand accountable to God for his actions.
There is an important doctrine that is oft not taught in theology. It is the doctrine of “I don’t know.” Scripture often uses the word mystery to describe things the prophets did not understand about God and His ways. There are issues that only God understands and can answer. Here are just four examples:
1. Is a blind man’s condition related to his sins? (John 9:2,3,34)
2. Jesus’ sinless birth through Mary
3. Can a person lose his or her salvation?
4. If God is holy, how could He allow one of His angels to act as a deceiving spirit? (1 Kings 22:22)
Rather than appear that we have solutions for every problem we would be far more helpful to admit that we don’t know and will not know until we are united with God in heaven. This doctrine calls for humility. It encourages a person to rely on the Holy Spirit instead of human reasoning. Finally and most importantly—it is truthful.
©2013 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)