I recently had an experience—a negative spiritual experience if you will—that shook me to the very foundations of my yet-naive faith. I've been regularly attending a weekly Bible study group since I moved to Rankin Inlet, and I considered it a sign-from-heaven of sorts that I would meet people who have similar perspective and desire for sanity in our lives. That is, until someone in the group chose to speak about the doctrine of eternal damnation.
His session went relatively well. I mean, as believers in the Gospel of Christ, I do not think any one of us in the group would deny the discourse of our Lord on the serious realities of evil and hell, and the Lord's admonishments against the subtle wiles of fleshly passions and selfish regard: "your sins are forgiven...go and sin no more".
It was the week after that, when someone chose to speak about the doctrine of eternal salvation, that things took a turn to something akin to seeing Yoda's dark side. That the proponent of eternal damnation would emphasize particular words in his selected passages with much gusto (let's say) and that at no point does the Holy Scriptures say that should one ever go back to "boozing, whoring and back-biting!" kind of floored me. I was stunned. And I don't think I was the only one.
Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3: 1-3a:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.
I'm still in that state of spiritual infancy (am practically a zygote, as it turns out). I must admit that I'm not even averse to the notion that I'm a fool when it comes to the Bible and prone to sin without much effort. But I strive for growth and awareness.
This is why I would not be surprised if someone could tell me and convince me that I am wrong to think that theology is evil (and even satanic). I seem to recall a passage in the bible that basically says that to think we can measure the width, breadth and height of G*d is a grave sin indeed (hubris). But I haven't been able to locate exactly where that is.
AW Tozer, in his sermon titled, Facing the Infinite G*d, writes:
God dwells in a mode of being totally beyond us and wholly above us and infinately removed from us yet when we think about God we are trying to think about someone unlike anything we know. God says, Who am I like? or to whom will you compare me? The answer being, nobody; nobody's like God, nothing's like God. God is like Himself.
You see, friends, theology is what we can learn about God but knowing God is quite something else altogether. Now, anything that I'll say this morning, any intelligent sinner can understand and then go to hell. But eternal life is knowing God and not knowing about God. The difference between a theologian and a saint is that the saint knows God and the theologian knows about God. (http://www.neve-family.com/books/tozer/FacingTheInfiniteGod.html)
and he continues:
But if you're studying doctrine, you can teach doctrine, and study doctrine and not be a Christian. And I have no doubt that many Bible teachers aren't truly Christians; they only know about God, they are specialists in the Book of Romains [sic] and Ephesians and Hebrews but they don't know the God of Romains nor Ephesians nor Hebrews. And you can go to Bible conferences and you can hear theology--or doctrine as we like to call it--you can hear doctrine, and you can understand the doctrine, and yet not know God at all.
"This is eternal life that they might know (God) Thee", and "know" there means experience. There is a difference between knowing and experiencing. I know about Eisenhower but I have never experienced Eisenhower. I have never see him, I have never shaken hands with him. I have never heard his voice, except over the radio; I have never experienced Eisenhower, and yet I know about Eisenhower. Anything that I can or shall say about God this morning any sinner can get it, if he's intelligent, and yet go to hell in the end. So don't get puffed up if you happen to feel, well, you understand about God's infinitude. That doesn't mean anything to you, unless you have been born of the Spirit and washed in the blood, because over here in the book of First Corinthians we read this: "It is written, Eye hath not seen, nor eye heard, neither has it enter into the heart of man the thing which God hath prepared for him that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit, for the spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so, the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God."
My recent experience of Yoda's dark side frightened me. My view of these experts in G*d's Word has changed. Has my faith in the Gospel of Christ changed? I don't think so. If anything, it seems to have been renewed and that I have grown from the experience: though the Way, the Truth and the Life is constant and eternal, we (human beings) are all fallible, even fragile. We have our off days and we have our good days.
I have compassion for all of the guys in the Bible study group. But the leadership in these types of fellowships must always consider the possibility of an off day lest the souls in their charge lose faith.