I found it interesting to read the summary of Wright’s schema. It reminds me of how little we really know about God and His ways. Have you ever noticed that news broadcasters are constantly talking about the latest update/breaking news in science, technology, medicine, etc? It’s almost as though we think we know about 95% of a subject and if we can just get the latest update, we’ll be completely knowledgeable about that subject. What if instead, we actually know about 5% and each new update is just one more piece of a massive pie that we can’t even begin to wrap our minds around?
We know that “now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” We can’t fully know God while here on earth, we just get the tiny piece that He’s revealed to us. As we read the OT & NT, we see two seemingly inconsistent views of God. On the one hand, there’s God in the OT using the Israelites to pour out His judgement (of course there’s so much more to the OT as seen in Wright’s schema but this part if often focused on). On the other hand, is God in the NT telling us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and pray for those who persecute us (it’s only fair to note here that Jesus also talks a lot about the judgement and wrath to come).
It reminds me of an illustration I heard once: there was a pastor who received a call, “Mary, from your church, has been in an accident. She’s fine but she’s being taken to Hospital A. Can you come and be with the family?” As the pastor is getting himself ready to go he receives another call, “Mary, from your church, has been in an accident. She’s been killed and her body is being taken to Hospital B. Can you come and be with the family?” How can this be? These stories just don’t add up. One of these callers must have gotten it wrong but which one was it? Neither actually. Mary was in an accident. She was fine and was on the way to Hospital A to be checked out. However, on the way, the ambulence was involved in a crash, Mary was killed and her body was now being transported to Hospital B. In both cases, the caller reported events as they knew them, from their context and with their limited information.
Now, all illustrations break down at some point so bear with me. Couldn’t this be similar to God? We see His actions and words in the OT, we hear Jesus’ words in the NT – perhaps there’s another piece to the story that we just don’t know yet. This also applies to the Calvinist/Arminianist debates. Very godly, wise people fall on both sides of the issue. Isn’t it quite possible we’ll all get to heaven and God will reveal the full picture to us that makes both sides true in a way we could never have imagined here because “we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror”?
Does this mean we shouldn’t ask the hard questions of ourselves and each other? Of course not. Perhaps it is part of what caused the theologian James Luther Adams to say that “an unexamined faith is not worth having” because it will not stand up to fire of testing and persecution. And it will ultimately “prove unreliable and dangerous, either shielding us from what we need to confront or arming us with false confidence in our own righteousness.” Faith, at its core, is not simply about what we believe in. It’s about what we are committed to which plays out in our actions and our loyalties.