Why we should embrace mystery

quantum_gearsWe evangelicals have not produced many mystics. The truth is, we don’t really like mystery; especially when it comes to our faith and God. Aren’t mystics those new-agers?

We prefer everything figured out. After all, we have the Bible. Sola Scriptura…all the answers we need are all right there…in print.

We believe in the holy trinity…God the Father, Son, and Holy Bible.

Why do we need mystery?

Okay, I’m being a bit facetious but, as much as we think we’re post-modern and all that, we’re still very much tethered to Enlightenment thinking. Our mindset is still a Newtonian closed universe, and like Descartes, we think its workings can be reduced down to that of a watch. We’ve inherited several generations of “seeing is believing,” confident that science and technology will eventually answer every question. Yes, Morbius, someday we’ll have all the knowledge of the Krell.

And who needs mystery when we have Google, right?

So it only makes sense that our pastor (or favorite teacher/leader/theologian) would also have it all figured out for us, because not knowing is unsettling. Uncertainty is the forbidden sin that must be vanquished or not mentioned.

I totally sympathize with this. I’ve always loved science and technology. I want everything figured out, too. The problem is, God’s creation is so much bigger than our ability to fully grasp, let alone…grasp God!

Watch this short clip for a short trip through His creation. Then we’ll talk some more on the other side…

Now, this clip is only showing us the part of creation we can see, not the ten or more dimensions we can’t see. These other dimensions are not just too small or too far away. They exist outside of time and space.

And yet, all of this is still inside of Christ!

16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  (Col.1:16-17 NASB *)

But not only is there nothing outside of Christ, Christ is inside of you! See what Paul said earlier:

26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col.1:26-27 NKJV *)

aha_momentThese are not theological arguments. They transcend all human logic and defy intellectual rationalization. We have no mental grid to even ask the questions for what we’ve been thrown into.

You can’t study yourself into this mystery; you can only embrace it. It cannot be contained in our heads; we can only understand it in His head (see 1 Cor.2:16). It only comes through revelation, not by education. And even then, it defies all explanation.

What is mystery? I agree with Richard Rohr when he says that mystery is not never knowing…it’s ever knowing! It’s having “the knowledge of Christ” (Eph.4:13); it’s going from glory to ever increasing glory. And this is the work of the Spirit in us as we participate in the divine nature (2 Pet.1:4):

18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.(2 Cor.3:18 NIV).

Here’s how living in mystery is contrasted from natural thinking. First, notice the contrast that Paul makes between what we have no way of knowing and what the Spirit reveals to us:

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Cor.2:9-10 NKJV *)

This is Paul’s point: human eyes and ears have not seen but we should see. And our “seeing” is from the Spirit in Christ.

Then, notice how Paul contrasts natural learning from Spirit learning:

13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  (1 Cor.2:13-14 NKJV *)

We can’t get this by going to school or learning the original languages. Yet, Paul is saying, over and over again, that we should know this mystery (see also Rom.11:25; 1 Cor.2:7; Eph.1:9; 3:5,9; Col.2:2).

Why should we embrace mystery?

Ocean_faucetBecause God has thrown us into the middle of His fathomless, endless ocean. We’re not meant to live on the shore; we’re called to be liberators into something more wonderful than we can ask or think. But we cannot liberate from what we ourselves are still bound to…not that we’re to be freed from this world, but freed from the “mind” of this world (more on that next week).

We should embrace mystery because to not do so means we’re forever limited by our own thoughts. Beloved, we’ve been given a life of knowing a love that’s beyond our knowing, that guards our hearts and minds by a peace that surpasses understanding (Eph.3:19; Phil.4:7). It doesn’t require a high I.Q., it requires childlike faith.

The more we understand this mystery, the more we see that putting all our confidence in knowing things through human understanding is misguided, and that walking in humility and awe-struck wonder is better than walking in ignorant arrogance.

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph.3:20-21 NKJV)

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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12 Responses to Why we should embrace mystery

  1. Oh, amen! Embrace the mystery. It’s not rocket science, there’s a slight possibility that we do not always know what we think we know. The universe is a big place, it should not surprise us that somethings are going to be beyond our understanding.

    One thing I see in many Western Christians is a fear of the supernatural. That’s all charismatic stuff, new agey, dangerous, the occult, false prophets. Too much fear, not enough faith going on. Than we pray for healing, miracles, the presence of the Holy Spirit, without understanding we’ve slammed the door on anything mysterious. We believe in the literal word of God, just none of that talking donkey stuff or burning bushes. That would be weird.

    I think there’s an element of laziness to it, too. You can’t tell the spiritual bad from the spiritual good? Well,why not? Don’t you know you’ll judge the angels someday?

    • Mel Wild says:

      I would have to agree, IB. It’s either spiritual laziness or unwillingness to embrace something you can’t control. I think it ironic that the same folks who say they believe in the Bible don’t believe Jesus when He said believers will lay hands on the sick and they will recover, or that we will do what Jesus did and greater things (let alone judge angels!). Another bit of irony, that science has now advanced to the point of convergence with mystery, even giving some language for the supernatural (quantum physics, etc.), that those still locked in a 16th century theological paradigm don’t want to see. It’s fear-based and quite weird indeed! 🙂

  2. Jamie Carter says:

    It always helps me to remember that the Ancient Israelites and Early Christians were comfortable with God being mysterious. That’s part of what makes God who He is – that he isn’t as well understood as people are. It would have been enough for them to “believe and be saved”; they wouldn’t have cared to ponder how God in eternity past created people to be saved or condemned, how God created the angels, how creation was exactly six twenty-four hour days or how many nails it would have took to piece together the Ark just before the flood.
    For us, we like facts and figures and evidence and proof. It’s not in us to embrace mystery or be okay with God being so mysterious.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen, Jamie. Ironically, this is where trust in science has dumbed us down. We’ve forgotten how to embrace what we don’t fully understand.
      And why would we want to live in a world where there’s no wonder? Why do we lose this childlike fascination of being part of something forever bigger than ourselves? To me, that’s what makes our adventure in Christ so fulfilling!

      • Jamie Carter says:

        I don’t think we have to be anti-science to embrace God’s mystery. It doesn’t take long for a little kid to ask how things work or why things are the way they are – if it’s okay to be childlike and trust, then it has to be okay with both wanting to know science and accepting there are mysteries that lie beyond the purview of science – a greater science that we just can’t understand right now.
        One episode of Star Trek Voyager points to this with the captain asking DaVinci to imagine himself as a bird and listening to complicated mathematical formulas, no matter how much he wants to learn it, his brain would be too small and incorrectly built for the task. Likewise, as much as we think we know, when it comes to God, we’re like those little birds who can only understand a small part. There’s nothing wrong with understanding him to the degree that you’re capable, but you have to accept the mystery beyond that. The last thing Christianity needs to do is to plunge us into another dark age / anti-science age.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I totally agree, Jamie. I didn’t mean to sound anti-science. I’m not at all. As I said in my comments to IB, I actually believe that science and theology are converging (if we’re open to it). I probably should’ve worded it that our confidence shouldn’t be in our own thinking (human intellect). I believe some of the greatest scientific advancements will come by way of revelation, when we get out of our limited thinking and into His unlimited thinking.
          Thanks for the clarification. 🙂

  3. “Now, this clip is only showing us the part of creation we can see, not the ten or more dimensions we can’t see. These other dimensions are not just too small or too far away. They exist outside of time and space.”

    Creation is big…. and He’s bigger!!!! And yet, He’s inside of us.

    “That you would be filled with all the fullness of God.” Eph 3:19 O, my!!!!

  4. Interesting thoughts, as always, friend. I have always preferred verses that have been translated as “mystery” (because that’s what the Greek word sounds like) to be understood instead as “secret.” As in “To you has been given the mystery [secrets] of the kingdom of God . . .” Mark 4:11, and likewise throughout Ephesians. God in scripture has and is revealing secrets to His saints known beforehand only to Himself. And indeed they are mysterious and mind-blowing concepts about the Deity, nature and the cosmos. All of which confirms and reinforces your statement that “walking in humility and awe-struck wonder is better than walking in ignorant arrogance.”

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Michael. I like “secrets” too. And how do we get in on these secrets? Anyone who thirsts! Jesus always explained Himself to anyone who bothered to ask. 😊

  5. Stian Tjelle says:

    Wonderful article with deep wisdom which said amen in my hearth ^_^
    Thanks for these good articles!

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