“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:”
Faith does not hear or grasp everything at once. There is a time and place for understanding. There are many Christian doctrines, for example, that speak to various aspects of creation, sin, grace, the meaning of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and so forth. But when is the right time to confront them? When may they speak meaningfully to us?
Helmut Thielecke, the late pastor and theologian who lived through the traumatic years of Hitler’s Germany, pointed out that struggling with these doctrines is fruitful only when these questions arise in the midst of our experience of either the absence or the presence of God. Pastor Thielecke observed that when Martin Luther wrote his introduction to the Letter to the Romans, he pointed out something very insightful regarding the architecture of the book. The first eight chapters deal with the great doctrine of God’s grace. Only then, in chapters 9-11, does Paul move on to his discussion of the doctrine of predestination. The order is significant.
The doctrine of predestination – not determination – is appropriately confronted only after we have been brought to the heart of God by His grace. Just as when out of suffering and injustice we ask, ‘Why has this happened to me?, The question of grace then becomes not an academic one but a question that arises out of our experience of grace. For since grace comes upon us, we have no recognizable key by which we may control this grace; free will, moral striving, pure doctrine and so forth. When the awareness of being saved by grace alone comes upon me, only then may I ask the critical question, Why has this grace come to me? Only then is it possible for me to see not only the God who rejects but the God who selects.
The great doctrines, the great questions of the faith were not hatched in a theological hothouse, removed from the questions of life, the questions good and evil. They each have their time and place for the individual Christian and for the Church. They represent the struggle of God’s people to come to terms – literally – with the reality of the God who is utterly hidden from us, and yet chooses to reveal Himself, by His grace, in Jesus Christ our Lord.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”