Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:13-17, English Standard Version).
We cannot predict the future. We cannot know what will happen a year from now. We cannot even say with certainty what will happen tomorrow. While our knowledge, methods, and existence see quite solid to us, we kid ourselves. God’s existence and nature remain unshakeable. Despite all illusions to the contrary, we are much more like ghosts than rocks and our understanding much more like a bad fairy tale than an accurate description of reality.
The limitations to our understanding are such that no one can understand the world in which we live in all its complexity. Even scientists can’t say exactly what gravity is, what light is if it’s not a wave or a particle, or what’s true if evolutionary theory isn’t.
The limitations to our understanding are such that no one can understand human society in all its complexity. Different individuals, groups, and governments make diverse and conflicting attempts to control what they regard as evil (whatever that is). These attempts, however, are based unavoidably on limited and inaccurate knowledge. So they always result in unintended and destructive consequences; the bigger the attempt, the worse and more irreversible the consequences.
The limitations to our understanding are such that no one can understand one’s own mind let alone that of others. Biased, unverifiable, and contradictory theories of human psychology abound with no agreement possible. We delight in correcting the defects we perceive in others but do not see and cannot overcome our own.
The false Olympian gods happily tempt us to exaggerate our understanding of the world, society, and self so that we will make self-destructive attempts to make them conform to our always limited and flawed expectations.
Happily, Jesus Christ is the truth who frees us from all this foolishness. By the power of his Holy Spirit, he enables us to acknowledge the real and severe limitations to our understanding. We can admit we don’t know things. We can admit that even our best understanding of the politics, economics, society—let alone God—is necessarily simplistic. This is not an excuse for ignorance. But it is an affirmation of humility in even the best of circumstances.
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