How to Understand Bible Paradoxes and the Apparent Contradictions in the Bible
It is a great privilege for me to be here and to have an opportunity to speak to young men and women who represent the future of African Christianity.
Evangelical Christianity is growing rapidly in Africa, but it is in serious decline in Europe and now at last also in North America. So a group like this represents a future not simply of African Christianity, but also of world Christianity. You are extraordinarily important to what is most precious to all of us: the growth and the triumph of the kingdom of God.
The Drastic decline of Christianity in the West!
In 1900, 75% of all the Christians in the world were white and lived in Europe or North America. In the year 2000, 75% of the Christians in the World were not white and lived somewhere else than Europe and North America. That is a remarkable change! So the entire world is looking to Africa and Asia and South America for the future of the kingdom of God.
That makes a group like this of Christian students particularly important, for the church is always going to be like its leadership.
It is a fixed law in the kingdom of God that a relatively small number of men and women, shape the life and understanding of a great host of Christians. That has always been the case and it is still the case today.
What you make of your life and your calling will have a tremendous influence on what many others make of their life and their calling as Christians. There is always this downward flow from the leadership to the church as a whole and then flowing outward from every Christian life. And the "leadership" I am talking about here is not only restricted to the ministers and elders of the church (though the reference is supremely to them). In fact, men and women, whatever their callings may be; whose lives by reason of their giftedness or academic or intellectual accomplishment or the zeal with which they serve the Lord, inevitably shape the way in which many other Christians understand what it means to be a Christian and what it means to live the Christian life and how great a thing is the Christian faith.
So I want to speak to you this week about something that I thought might shape your own understanding, your own conviction as Christians for the rest of your life. Regardless of how inspiring this might be as a message, my goal is not just to share with you a message. Instead, my goal is to give you something of greater value that will prove very useful to you not just for a day or two days or a week but for the rest of your life as it has proved very useful to me throughout many years of my life now.
I found the truth I want to share with you one of the greatest discoveries of my life and it has profoundly changed the way in which I read and preach the Bible. I scarcely go a day without reckoning with it in one way or another. I think God gave me a great gift when He impressed this truth upon my mind, and I want to give you that same gift in the Lord's name.
This great truth that I want to share in a series of teachings this week, has to do with how you read the Bible and how you think about what you read in the Bible. It is a particular way of looking at the Bible, of reading the Bible and for those of you who will be preachers, it is a particular way of preaching the Bible.
I want to say as I begin that there is nothing original with me in this perspective. I will prove that to you in due course. If you haven't discovered it yet, you will soon find it out that the more you read, the more you study, that
A great many preachers, theologians, philosophers and Christians thinkers through the ages have found this to be true about the word of God and have made it be the launch pin of their understanding of the teaching of God's word. The more you read and study the word of God, the more you too will equally find this to be true just like these renown Christian men and women have found it to be true.
But I don't think that these renown Christian men and women have often done the best they can to emphasize this truth until it captures the imagination and becomes part of our understanding and our expectation when we come to the word of God and read and seek to learn its teaching.
The subject that I want to consider with you over this coming week is the Bible's universal or almost universal practice of presenting its teaching in terms of polarities. This subject of polarities in the Bible that we will be looking at in this study will clearly show us that in regard to any subject that the Bible raises, whether it is theological or ethical: the biblical truth therein is usually presented as if on a continuum or on a line. And the "opposite" poles at each end of that line or at each end of that continuum are what receive the Bible's emphasis.
In fact, what you never get in the Bible (and this is what causes us so much difficulty), is a synthesis, a resolution or a mixture of one emphasis with the other. You are left with the extremes. Your task, therefore, as a reader of the word of God and as a Christian is to fashion your understanding of things and to fashion your life in a way that respects both of those extremes at one and the same time and to hold to both. This, of course, is difficult to do because as we will see in our teaching this week, these opposing truths that we are supposed to hold together usually want to fly apart. Nevertheless, we are supposed to hold on to them and pull them together in order to keep both of them in our minds and in our hearts.
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