Tensions and Theology

It is natural to strive for resolution; to leave no question unanswered, to connect all the dots, to make sense of it all. Somewhere deep within me is an urge to put everything in nice neat little boxes and have everything make perfect sense.

This drive is helpful sometimes. It has motivated me to deepen my understanding of how the body works and integrate diverse concepts into my teaching. And it certainly makes completing my studies easier.

However, this desire to resolve all questions, when applied to theology, has mostly led me astray.

Throughout my spiritual journey, I have found my closely held beliefs challenged by what I perceive in Scripture. Often, these challenges arise when a friend, teacher, or author presents some idea that clashes with my understanding of a topic. My tendency is to respond to this confrontation by pushing back. I resent being told I am wrong and resist any change in my position. Often, the next several years involve me slowly coming around to the realization that I was wrong and the reformation of my belief system as Scripture whittles away at my mind.

Most of the time, this journey consists of living in theological tension between two seemingly opposed propositions.

Take, for instance, the debate about salvation and free will. My high school understanding of free will led me to staunchly oppose the idea of total depravity or God’s effectual call. I believed that I chose—entirely out of my own volition—to place my faith in Christ. Later encounters with Scripture showed me the errors in that belief while affirming the core concept of free will. The tension between these two beliefs is challenging. After studying Romans 9, I came to realize that the resolution of this tension was not a solution, but a humble acceptance of the tension. I am not God; I cannot know or make sense of it all. It is an honor for a man to search out truth and wisdom, but at the end of the day, if I can’t make sense of what I see in Scripture, it’s okay. My duty is simply to strive for faithfulness to what I see.

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