Faith can be described as the ability to hold biblically opposing ideas in each hand and trust God that both are true. For instance, “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) and “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:13) How can God love the world and yet hate anyone in it?
Because of this definition of faith, I interpret the following verses as referring to the inability to deal with these seemingly contradictory teachings. They say . . .
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.’ (2 Timothy 4:3–4)
Sound teaching says those opposites are both true. God loves, but God also hates. The myths are picking up only one of them to the neglect of the others. That is, those with itching ears will select “God loves everyone and therefore will not condemn anyone” OR “God is angry at everyone and there is no hope (unless you join our group).”
Other seeming contradictions include: God saves only those He chooses AND only those who choose God are saved. God is sovereign AND sinners have a free will. God is one AND the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God.
In the beginning of faith, new Christians usually focus on one side or the other of these contradictions. When the opposite one is raised to their attention, questioning and conflict begin. For some, this is enough to put faith in a closet because they insist on using reason to figure it out. For others, it will mean years of arguing and putting down the group or denomination that focuses on the side that they do not agree with. This kind of thinking often causes church splits (although they can also be the result of less significant differences).
Fortner takes what appears to be the extreme Calvinist side. Those who put more emphasis on human choice are in another camp. Through the church age, Christians have wrestled with these ‘contradictions’ to our detriment. Far better to compare them to railroad tracks. Biblical opposites are like them in that they run together and merge in the distance. All those contradictions will merge when we reach glory. If we insist one is true and the other is not, we are apt to run off the rails.
False teaching goes beyond taking sides on those seeming contradictions in Scripture. It includes notions like:
· God does not exist.
· God does not know or care about me or what I do or do not do.
· Jesus is a myth, a representation of an ideal.
· Jesus did not really die or rise from the dead.
· Jesus is not who He claimed to be; he is only a man and a good teacher.
· The Holy Spirit is a force, not a person.
The list could go on, but for the most part, false teaching can be identified when those who promote insist that they are correct and everyone else is wrong. Only Jesus can make statements like this: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Jesus, as I read the whole Bible, questions come to mind. Promises are fulfilled but some are not yet fulfilled. You say one thing here and another there. But in getting to know You, I am convinced that Your thoughts are higher than mine, and that one day it will all make sense. I’m also convinced that You can be trusted — even with those ideas that do not seem to match up. The problem is not with You but with my inability to fully understand. Thank You for faith that can hold these opposites in tension without insisting only one of them can be true.