For the week of October 16, 2010 / 16 Heshvan 5771
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 12:1-17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27 - 41:16
The Key to a Biblical Worldview
And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Bereshit / Genesis 15:6; ESV)
Last week (http://torahbytes.org/71-02.htm) I explained how the way we look at life greatly affects us. Even those of us who claim to derive our worldview from an objective source, such as the Bible, often unconsciously filter our beliefs through alternate lenses. Being unaware of these lenses almost guarantees that we will have a skewed, incorrect understanding of life.
Some say that because we can only see life through our perceptions, then we can never hope to see the world or God as they really are. Anyone with an ounce of humility must admit that however accurately anyone understands anything, our human limitations prevent us from ever truly grasping the entirety of life or even the entirety of one aspect of life.
There is a famous story called the "Blind Men and an Elephant" (http://wordinfo.info//Blind-Men-and-Elephant-crop.html) in which a group of blind men, who upon feeling various parts of an elephant, come to very different conclusions as to its nature. They base their inaccurate conclusions on the individual body parts each one is feeling. The story illustrates the foolishness of making inaccurate generalizations based on our very limited experiences. The divergent ways people look at the world are nothing more than feeble human attempts to understand life. We should therefore stop quibbling over our differences.
There are appealing aspects to this story and the challenge to accept the limitations of human perceptions is well taken. But there are significant weaknesses in the story that expose its unbiblical worldview. First, in the story each person only feels one part of the elephant. It wouldn't have taken much to realize that there was more to the elephant than one of its parts. It is very likely that some people upon hearing the different views of others, instead of arguing, would pause before jumping to conclusions. Yes, there are people around who are like the blind men in the story, but the underlying assumption that everyone is like this and that we should therefore give up all hope of adequately knowing the true nature of the elephant - or life - or God, is unbiblical.
What is biblical is what we see illustrated in a different story - a true story - the story of Abraham. Through Abraham we see that God is knowable. He is knowable, not because people like Abraham somehow correctly figure him out, but because God makes himself known. Equally important is how God can be known. Unlike the way many strive after the divine through intellectual prowess, moral striving, ascetic disciplines, or ritualistic observances, God is known by faith.
Biblical faith is not an unreasonable wishful hope for some undefined goodness or reality, but rather a trusting response to the God who makes himself known. This is what marks Abraham as a model of true biblical faith: whenever God confronted his preconceived notions - his worldview - Abraham trusted God, thus adopting God's worldview.
To know God by faith means that the way we see the world, life, and God will be continually challenged. That doesn't mean that God is unknowable, but it does accept the reality of our limited perceptions. There are ways that we can be like the blind men in the story of the elephant. However, our conclusion should not be that God cannot be known, but rather knowing him can only occur as we place our trust in him.
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