I had lunch yesterday with someone who had all the answers.
I asked him the question someone had asked me recently, about the tension between science—which claims the earth is billions of years old—and the Bible—which suggests it is much, much younger than that.
“Well, there are two kinds of revelation, right?” he asked. “General revelation and special revelation. General revelation is how God reveals himself through nature and special revelation is how he reveals himself through scripture.”
I nodded. I still remembered this lecture from my days in seminary.
“In both cases it is God who is revealing himself,” he said, “and so if there is an apparent contradiction, it is a result of our misunderstanding, since God cannot contradict himself.”
And then he took a sip of iced tea.
“So,” I said, “if the scientists tell me a fossil is billions of years old and the Bible tells me probably not then either the scientists have misunderstood how old the fossil is or I have misunderstood what the Bible says, right?”
“So any apparent contradiction is a result of human error?”
Well, that made sense. It made sense to me especially since I know how capable of error I am. If I were a scientist I would almost certainly misread the data, estimating the age of that jar of pickles in the back of the fridge at something between 10,000 and 100,000 years old. And I don’t claim 100% accuracy when interpreting the Bible, either.
But that’s why I keep reading it.
I came away from lunch yesterday thinking that while, on one hand, it must be nice to have all the answers, on the other hand it’s nice to have all the questions, because the questions are what keep me digging around in Scripture, and having fascinating conversations over coffee, and saying “Wow!” when I look up at the night sky.
When I see this quality in other people I sometimes describe it as “intellectual curiosity,” which doesn’t mean that everyone who asks questions is an intellectual, but that they have curious minds; they want to know why things are the way they are and how they got to be that way. They might spend a week digging for artifacts in Ethiopia one summer and visit the Houston space center the next. They tend to read a lot of books, and seek out new experiences, and ask a lot of questions. Once they find an answer, of course, they come to the end of that particular quest, and if they should ever find all the answers then the journey of intellectual discovery would be over.
And how disappointing that would be.
It’s my questions that keep sending me to the pages of Scripture, digging down into the deep places, finding things I never dreamed of, and the good news is that I never come to the end of that particular journey. God keeps speaking in new ways through those ancient words. Sometimes I will drag something into the pulpit I haven’t even identified yet, but I’m so excited about the discovery I can’t wait. I will ask my congregation, “Have you ever seen anything like this? Does anyone know what this is?”
I’m sure it’s not supposed to be like that. I’m sure I’m supposed to have all the answers instead of all the questions. But I like the questions.
They keep me looking, and finding…
And saying “Wow!”