My Theory Is...
Friday of Advent 3
16 December 2016
In 1848 Karl Marx published his Communist Manifesto, in which he neatly described the coming utopia that inexorably approached the world through the emergence of a classless society. The Manifesto was a consistent theory that had a beautiful symmetry to it. Heaven on earth was on its way. As a way of looking at the real world, however, it was a complete and bloody disaster. When committed Communist believers (talk about fundamentalists!) put Marx's theory into practice they slaughtered 100 million human beings to get humans fitted into the straightjacket of this perfect theory. There was nothing wrong with the theory apart from the fact that it did not comport with reality.
 
What was Communism trying to describe and influence? Merely economic relations and the human relations that grow from them. Remember how successful the macro-economic "Five-Year Plans" were for the Soviet government? Humans were trying to understand and influence a very small part of human life based on a perfect theory. The failure of world Communism is a testament to the inability of the human mind to account for the simplest human relations based on an overarching theory. Humans and their economic relations are beyond the ultimate interpretation of a single overarching theory worked out in the British Library by one man. Subsequent history put the lie to the communist dream and judged it an abysmal and bloody failure of interpretation.
 
How much less could we humans ever hope to organize the divine self-revelation into a single, neat, symmetrical theory about the divine nature of the holy Trinity! How much deeper is this knowledge than mere economic theory. Yet, many theologians and critics of the Bible are willing to set their hand to correcting the Bible's revelation of God based on their own neat and well thought out theories about divinity. What pride in the power of the human mind to grasp not only all of reality, but also the whole of the divine essence, this exhibits. Here there is no submission to God, but rather an exaltation of human thinking, a glorification of the mind. This exaltation is a dressing up the crow in the feathers of the peacock. How shocking that humans believe themselves capable of sounding the divine nature when they are incapable of understanding and regulating even the simplest human relation in economic life. Perhaps we should pay less attention to our own theories and more attention to the real world activity of God revealing Himself to us: "The Word became flesh."

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"We must not repose so blind a confidence in human intellect as to imagine that we have complete knowledge of the objects of our thought, or that the ultimate problem is solved as soon as we have formed a symmetrical and consistent theory. Finite minds cannot conceive the Infinite; a being dependent for its existence upon another cannot attain to perfect knowledge either of its Creator or of itself, for its consciousness of self is colored by its circumstances, and bounds are set which its perception cannot pass. Its activity is not self-caused, but due to the Creator, and a being dependent on a Creator has perfect possession of none of its faculties, since its origin lies outside itself.
 
"Hence by an inexorable law it is folly for that being to say that it has perfect knowledge of any matter. Its powers have limits that it cannot modify, and only while it is under the delusion that its petty bounds are coterminous with infinity can it make the empty boast of possessing wisdom. For of wisdom it is incapable, its knowledge being limited to the range of its perception, and sharing the impotence of its dependent existence. And therefore this masquerade of a finite nature boasting that it possesses the wisdom which springs only from infinite knowledge earns the scorn and ridicule of the Apostle, who calls its wisdom folly. Paul says, 'For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men' (1Co 1:17-25). Thus all unbelief is foolishness, for it takes such wisdom as its own finite perception can attain, and, measuring infinity by that petty scale, concludes that what it cannot understand must be impossible. Unbelief is the result of incapacity engaged in argument. Men are sure that an event never happened, because they have made up their minds that it could not happen." 

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 3.24
1 Corinthians
1:17-25

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.   For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.   For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?   For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, give me humility of mind, that that mind which was Yours might be in me. Amen.
 
For all those who are discouraged in their faith, that they might be confident in God's Word even in their darkest moments
 
For humility of mind among those who serve the Word of God, that God would reveal Himself to them
 
For Maryann Rae, who is suffering back problems, that she would be granted relief
Art: VASARI, Giorgio Annunciation (1564-67)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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