Romans 3:5 (NASB95)
5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)
Romans 6:19 (NASB95)
19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
I have struggled all of my life with a disease. This disease is not physical; it is mental. I struggle with being a know-it-all. By God’s grace, He has taught me how to place these desires under His control, but I still have flare-ups at times. I have been thinking more about this the past few years because I am afraid that I might have passed this disease onto another: my son. He finds himself struggling with these same tendencies. He sees it and has begun to recognize how ugly this pattern is, so it has become an ongoing conversation between him and me. It especially comes up when he knows something that his sister does not. When he was in Jr. High, he had a natural talent for math, where my daughter was struggling. That tone would come out in his voice that says, “How could you possibly not know that! That is so easy.” (Oh, how I hate to hear that tone in my own voice.) Yet, what he didn’t realize is how little he knows about math compared to the knowledge of almost any high school or college student, let alone someone with a PhD in it.
Being a know-it-all comes out in different ways in all of our lives. We, as a people, like to think that human potential is unlimited and that our only limitation is the undiscovered. This is simply not true. Humans are fundamentally and inescapably limited. Our ability to understand and control our world is very limited. This is why we need someone or something outside of ourselves to reveal the truth of our world, our existence, and our purpose. The sum total of all the knowledge that we have gained is a drop in the ocean of what might be known, and we can’t even swim. This is what is at the heart of the friction between the sciences (physics, biology, anthropology, psychology, history, etc.) and the truths of scripture. Many scientists cannot understand a worldview which requires trusting a source of information outside what is observable and interpretable by man because that would require recognizing our great lack. On the other hand, many believers cannot understand why anyone would want to be limited by the human ability to observe and interpret data when the infinite God has revealed all that we need.
Scripture repeatedly affirms the undeniable fact that humans on their own (a.k.a. the flesh) are weak, fallible, and incompetent. No matter how much we study and learn and observe, we will never become competent. In fact, God is constantly “dumbing-down” scripture so that we can get spiritual concepts that are way beyond us. Yet, what I have found in my own heart and seen revealed though others who study scripture is the desire to comment on, argue about, and “die on hills” regarding topics that have not been clearly revealed in scripture. Christian academic circles thrive on such things. I actually think it is an ingenious strategy of our enemy to draw our attention to speculation about unrevealed matters to keep us from spending time on the unfathomable depths of what has already been revealed through scripture.
What know-it-all Nate needs is humility in light of his limited nature. I am confident that know-it-all Clark will learn (and has already begun to learn) such humility by God’s grace. What know-it-all, independent, self-sufficient humanity needs is a touch of humility in the light our limited nature and God’s infinite nature. We need a sense of how truly elementary our thinking is and can ever be, so that we can begin to trust in the one of whom it was said, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways” (Romans 11:33).
May we choose to view ourselves accurately as weak, small-minded, limited creations that are in desperate need of the truths God reveals far more than the “truths” we discover.