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A Holy Headache
August 11, 2011
Yesterday evening I went to the mid-week Bible study at Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Chattanooga. Pastor Wayne Layton has been leading a series examining the church’s statement of faith and last night he came to what Christians know as the hypostatic union.
Hypostatic union is bit of an intimidating term that describes the union of Jesus’ two natures. Jesus has a human nature and a divine nature and these two natures are united in the one person of Jesus Christ. Christ is not two persons—one human and one divine—rather, he is one person with two distinct natures. These natures do not mix or intermingle. Each is completely distinct.
This intimidating term describes a glorious and eternal reality. We can ponder and treasure this reality for all of our lives and never get to the end of it. It occurred to me last night that when it comes to pondering such tough and glorious doctrines, there are at least two ways we can err—two ways in which pride can rear its ugly head.
Pride would tell us that it is not important to ponder a doctrine like this one. We know that we cannot fully fathom it, so why bother? How could this doctrine of the hypostatic union ever make me a more faithful Christian? And so it is easy to back away, to allow the unfathomable nature of the doctrine to drive me away. But pride might also compel me to be overly dogmatic about this doctrine, to go beyond what God has revealed and to declare that I now understand this doctrine all the way to its finest points. I think both extremes are manifestations of pride.
Between those twin extremes of pride and pride is a whole spectrum of humility where we pursue truth—we pursue God who is the source of all truth—desiring to know who he is but also remembering who we are, knowing our own limitations, our own inability to get to the bottom of it all. Though we cannot ever fully solve this doctrine, we are not in the midst of a hopeless pursuit. Though we know that we can never get to the end of it, what we can be sure of is that if we study God, if we study those doctrines that are too deep and too profound to fully grasp, we will eventually be moved to wonder and worship. Through our knowledge—though it will only ever be partial knowledge—we will be moved to worship.
The takeaway for me was to refuse to run away from intimidating doctrines. Instead I need to engage them and pursue them. I think there are times when we all do well to ponder what is too deep for us to fully grasp, to stretch our hearts and minds and maybe to deal with the occasional holy headache from coming up against the edge of what we can understand, the dividing line between what God has revealed and what is simply too wonderful for us. The end of our study, the reward for our study, will not be a complete grasp of this doctrine or any other, but a greater understanding of the God who is worthy of worship. And I know that he is always worth the pursuit.