I’ve been working on the left side of my brain lately. I’m teaching myself college Algebra to build new neuron paths and make myself more neurologically rounded. (yeah, that sounds nerdy…) It’s forcing me to be more detail oriented and it’s driving me a little crazy, but it’s fun when I get it.
I use the same parts of my brain when I’m studying theology as I do when I’m studying math. It’s details and terminology and it’s all based on a strong foundation that keeps building and building. The similarities between math and theology are interesting to me.
It’s 2 am and my brain is still buzzing from three days of studying, so I’m writing. If I were to start talking about systems of algebraic equations and posted a set to have you solve, you’d only be able to solve them if you knew the basics. Once you know the basics, you can run everything through the system with ease. However, if you don’t know the basics, then it’s all foreign language. Nothing makes sense.
Theology is like that. Sometimes I jump right into the middle of a concept and it makes no sense to some people because they don’t have the basics down.
The key to understanding Algebra is to know the order of operations. The further you get into it, the more there is to discover, but it never deviates from the system. There is only one answer and if you mess something up along the way, you’re off track for the rest of it.
It’s the same with theology. Words can trip you up and not understanding the order of operations can trip you up. The key to understanding the scriptures is to know the order of operations.
Last week I spent over three hours on an equation. I got all of the steps right and 99% of my answers were correct, but I continually came up with the wrong answer and it was making me crazy. After a late night phone call to a friend, I realized that I wasn’t dividing fractions right. I could get these complex systems, remember every single detail in the proper order, but I forgot something I should have learned in 6th grade. As educated as I was, not knowing a tiny basic detail made every perfectly executed step after it completely wrong.
That fact is a direct parallel to the spiritual mirror:
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3 MSG
You can get everything right. Follow the system, pay attention to every detail, and you can still come up with the wrong answer. Understanding the scriptures has everything to do with your faith in redemption. It’s a faith in God’s sovereign grace.
The problems that usually arise for people are the details. If you know too much about a person’s sin, it will be harder for you to believe in grace without hesitation or stipulation. It’s harder for you to forgive. Everything you do after that will be wrong.
You can fight your anger and your pride, but you do it with your own will. When you really forgive, you’ll still be haunted by your anger and pride, but your faith in the power of the grace of Jesus will empower you. All of your internal fighting will be laced with grace. The only way to be able to really forgive is through your faith in the sovereignty of God and His love.
You can get all of the steps right, but if you do not love, then you do not have not understood the most basic concept and everythig else is a mess of noise.
The practical application calls you to consider a situation where you are either focused on the circumstances or your focused on a God who promises that nothing happens outside His will. If it’s happening, He’s in on it and He has a plan for it. You not going to get anything unless you can get the basics of who you’re dealing with and how He affects everything.