Revelation Transforms Information
prepare to have your mind blown
Did you know that scientists and historians can map and quantify global human knowledge? It's true. They've worked out that if we took all of human history up to year one AD as one knowledge unit, then knowledge didn't first double until around the 1500's. The next doubling of knowledge took around 250 years and occurred around 1750. By the early 1900's knowledge had doubled yet again, then again by 1945. Now, knowledge is believed to be doubling every 12 months and according to it's current progression theorists believe that in the near future human knowledge could double twice a day.
Soon enough the earth will be growing in knowledge at the same rate every 12 hours as all of human history took in it's first 4000 odd years. Mind blowing? Almost literally.
Yet, we can look at the social and political landscape that has taken hold of our present and see a huge disparity between the growth of knowledge and the application of that knowledge in the ways of love, acceptance, forgiveness and care. In fact, that very knowledge seems to lead to fear rather than freedom and even feed religious agendas that seek to separate rather than unify us under the One who created us. Something's missing.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
This incredible statement came amidst a conversation between Jesus and a non-jewish woman. It rose from a statement that same woman had made about the right way to worship and the details of religious correctness. Jesus' response to her claim over worship rights was revolutionary. Not only because it hinted at a total re-structure of religious worship from human built temple to humans themselves as God's temple, but because he suggested that spirit and truth belong together in a beautiful and interdependent symbiosis.
That relationship is one based on revelation.
When we divorce knowledge from it's source - the Spirit of life - it like everything else begins to die. It's colours fade and its light begins to dim. It's not that knowledge itself is all of a sudden wrong or incorrect, it's simply that it no longer carries the transformative power God intended it too. It's like a flower that once cut from the stem fades in beauty and eventually dies. Without bring planted in the vine of Truth himself, knowledge fades to a dimness of it's original intent. Knowledge feeds the mind but it cannot orient the heart toward it's heavenly Father or provide us with the deeper soul surgery we truly need. This is because all knowledge was created by God, for God, and was intended to be known and discovered through the paradigm of intimacy.
This is the same reason we don't all publicize our deepest struggles and experiences on Facebook (at least not all of us anyway). Because those special and vulnerable things about us are to be shared in the context of another who loves us and who is committed to something greater than just personality discovery. We ourselves understand that that kind of knowledge about ourselves can only be truly understood in the safe context of a loving relationship with another. It would be superfluous to give it to another without that kind of connection.
Maybe this is what the Spirit meant when he spoke in Proverbs "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out" (25:2). God protects intimacy by not divorcing true knowledge from his presence. Like Jesus call for all who have ears to hear and eyes to see to hear him, God protects revelation by nestling it into the well of relationship. We must seek him to find it.
Knowledge is magnificent and I regularly dive into the study of cosmos, philosophy, theology and quantum mechanics because I'm fascinated by it all. But all that knowledge can't transform me without it's being found in the context of my worship and of the Spirit of life within me. Revelation takes something that we can know in a shallow sphere and makes it liveable. That's exactly why Jesus said those who have been forgiven much, love much (Lk 7:47) because they'd had more than the communication of fact about the nature and love of God, they'd experienced it's tangible reality through relationship with him. Fast forward a few years to the Upper Room during the festival of Pentecost and here we have the Spirit of truth communicating that same relational beauty to every soul who would seek to grasp it.
I realise that it's a big claim to say that knowledge without the Holy Spirit is void of true life but I believe it sings in harmony with the poem of Colossians when it says "all things were made through him and for him and in him all things have their being". Be it theology or science, knowledge without Spirit cannot transform the human condition.
History also peeks at the power of revelation when we see how it transformed our understanding of salvation 500 years ago as Martin Luther, through his own process with the Spirit, became alive to a truth counter to the religious culture of his day. His soul was reconciled to God and the scriptures illuminated to him through divine revelation after nights of wrestling with God in his sleeping quarters. The early church was built on revelation between Peter's acceptance of gentiles to the church, Paul's conversion and later personal tutorials with Jesus himself, right through to the apostles words "it seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit" as they made decisions about early christian ritual.
The need for revelation to breath life into knowledge is probably never more urgent as the constant scenes of Jesus being totally misunderstood by the teachers of his day. These very people had in essence spent their entire lives studying him, yet when in relational close quarters with him could not grasp his reality at all. For those who did, his Person was so offensive to their religious notions that their response was to murder him in cold blood under false testimony.
"What is truth?" - pontius Pilate (John 18:38)
Later in the gospel story we discover a gentile ruler coming to blows with the same critical reality as he stood before Jesus. Pilate was still seeking truth as a what but he was standing in the presence of the who of truth. Pilate missed what was happening to him because he was looking for knowledge alone to quantify God and existence. But here was Jesus as truth before him inviting him to something far more beautiful.
Without the Spirit, we will always dwell in the 'what' of truth and in essence will remain in the fading version of knowledge rather than the life. Revelation is the spiritual answer to information overload. It requires us to continue in the source of the knowledge we seek relationally and to take that very knowledge to him as children gleaning wisdom from their Father.
The beauty of revelation is that it demands intimacy with God who deeply longs to interpret and incarnate knowledge in his children through closeness where we are free from insecurity and fear.
We can trust the Spirit as the revelator who is acts within, breathing colour, life, love and wisdom into the information we learn from the world around us. This relational (or revelational) approach to understanding the cosmos folds prayer and contemplation into the process of discovery and thought. It acknowledges that for whatever we can discern through our rationality it can be truly manifested in our person through the inner work of God himself within us.
If we'll allow him, he can and will help us be worshippers in spirit and in truth.