Monday, November 24, 2008

Removing the Shroud of Mystery

(This is Part Two of looking at how "Of Wolves and Men" by Barry Holstun Lopez shares similarities with the Christian faith)

Today I'll look at how mystery played a big part in promoting false stereotypes and blocking the truth about the wolf. While Lopez acknowledges that there is always more to learn about the wolf, and some questions may not be able to be answered, the oppressive shroud of mystery had to go in order for people to properly see, and save, the wolf.

Lopez writes, "It is one of the oddities of our age that much of what Eskimos know about wolves--and speak about clearly in English, in twentieth-century terms--wildlife biologists are still intent on discovering."

Isn't that the same approach many take to Jesus Christ? We know all about Jesus from the Bible and the historical evidence that supports it. Yet seminaries, pastors, authors, churches and individuals are still intent on ignoring, re-inventing, or creating mystery around what has been clearly spoken in English, in twentieth century translations of the Bible!

Lopez tells the experience of wildlife biologist Robert Stephenson, who, in 1970, traveled the tundra and mountain country of the Nunamiut Eskimos. Lopez writes, "It dawned on him that the wolves he was watching were not like the wolves described in the literature he had read. And the Nunamiut were telling him things about wolves that no one, no biologist at least, had ever written about--not because they were odd or singular or mysterious things, but because they were things biologists were not interested in. Or never saw."

It was only when I began reading the Bible, and found a Bible-believing and teaching church, that I learned that everything I had previously heard and knew about faith was nothing like what I was now hearing. No pastor, leader, or Sunday school teacher--and nothing I had ever previously read--had ever told me these things.

Unless we're reading the Bible under the Counsel of the Holy Spirit, we won't even begin to know who Jesus, or faith in Him, is. We can read all kinds of things in literature about Christianity; one-sided history books, and books that are nothing more than pop-psychology faith. We can read gazillions of watered-down takes on what it means to be a Christian and sentimental "such and such" for the soul books, all geared to making the publisher a lot of money. These books will say a lot that is odd, singular and mysterious. But they will ignore anything the author isn't interested in, or can't see. Thus, only a partial, or completely misdirected, picture of faith in Jesus Christ is given.

The fact that the Bible is still the number one selling book in the U.S. is heartening; I just wonder how many people are making it their foundation for understanding Jesus Christ and the Christian walk. And how many people are testing all the other books they read about the Christian faith, and all the other teachings about the Christian faith, against what the Bible says about faith?

Wolves have a uniqueness all their own, and Lopez will be the first to say that the animal should never be seen as an object to be quantified--limited and capable of being fully understood. That would be arrogance. But he also warns that it should never be seen in the more humble attitude of being unfathomable. "The view from both places," he says, "gives you an animal neither can see."

Arrogance in faith leads to legalisms and obsessing over things like pew arrangement and whether or not people are raising their hands in worship. It stands in the way of unity in essentials and becomes spiritual pride. Yet a mentality that lacks confidence in the Truth of our Triune God and His Word leads to a false humility which, out of a fear of hurting anybody's feelings or stepping on anybody's toes, simply surrenders to mystery; to saying "we can’t really know." When the truth is, we can know.

In the case of the wolf, knowing has made all the difference. It will make all the difference in our, and others faith, as well.

" people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:6

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