He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.Ecc 3:11
Will we ever, or have we ever figured out all of God’s plan and doings?
This verse tells us that we have not more ever will. Well, probably never is a bit strong. We will not from the beginning to the end. The author is talking about the temporal beginning and end, and since time is created, we might one day see the whole picture – when we change to live outside of time. Whether that will ever happen is a whole other discussion, as there seems to be time in heaven (there is a silence of half an hour) and we seem to live on this earth for eternity.
Thus, the answer to this verse cannot be found in its eternal application, as we just do not know. Much more, it is applicable for this time and season, from Adam to the return of Christ.
One thing that has to be dealt with is the past. Obviously, we have never attained full knowledge of God’s doing so far – or the verse would be falsified. from this I deduct that we do not understand and never had the full understanding of God’s word.
You might say that this is not necessarily true, as he might have just shown us enough to get by. This is true if “the Word of God” for you is the bible. But the word of God is so much more. It encompasses the uttering of the Spirit, and even more, it is a person – Jesus Christ.
You might also tell me that this is obvious. Jesus himself tells us that nobody knows when he will return – therefore we do not know all that God is doing.
But do you see that the verse is talking about all that God has done? Past tense?
Now, you might say that since God is outside of time, all has been done already, is done at this moment, and will be done in the future. Accepted.
Thus, maybe this article is a bit of a stretch, and maybe I am outside of the scope of what the author meant when he coined this verse. But when I meditated on it, these were my thoughts:
At no time we have full revelation of what Christianity is all about. Therefore it is paramount that we stay hungry, thirsty, and open for new things.
Let your cry come to me, and I will give you an answer, and let you see great things and secret things of which you had no knowledge.Jer 33:3
When the church started, they were not called Christians – that only started in Antioch. They called themselves “the way” – halakah. We often understand halavah as Jewish law. But it is far more than that. It is the interpretation of God’s word and will for the time we are in.
This is what Jesus did when he said: “You say …, but I tell you …”.
The new testament is the halakah of the old testament. Most people say that it is the definite one. Yet, if this were true, we would now know all that God did.
Let me ponder this a little. If the new testament were the last word, we would have a problem.
What about all the new revelation that was given to us since?
We look at the bible with the eyes of a contemporary – not of the writer, but as in today. We try not to and take into account historical facts, language, and much more. But we have been imprinted so deeply with a modern understanding of humanity, we do not even know how much. And it taints our view of what people would have understood at the time of Christ or the old testament.
Let me give you an example. The concept of the individual just did not exist prior to Wycliff, Huss, Luther, Erasmus, and Zwingli along with others. There was no understanding for personal development. Social status, profession, faith was given by birth.
We see that in literature – up to writers like Goethe, Schiller, Lessing that started to implement personal development even decades after the reformation in their writings in the period of “Sturm und Drang”.
(I am aware that this is all falling short of being scientifically valid, but true in principle.)
The reformation therefore introduced something truly new to Christianity that was not available before that. And so did the pentecostal movement and the time since. And in both cases it is far more than the theological concepts we have made them to be about.
The reformation is about much more than a personal relationship with Christ and a growing holy lifestyle. It is the emancipation of the individual. Christianity since then is about becoming the best me, the me God has planned me to be in the first place, instead of dying to self. (Hard to understand with today’s perspective, yet we still in church live the old way mostly.)
Verses like “He has to become greater while I become less” (Joh 3:30) take on a whole other meaning. First of all, it is about John the Baptist losing his importance and Jesus taking over – everything else has been interpreted into the verse anyway. But if that interpretation is valid, it is not about giving up myself to become a copy of Jesus, but to truly become the facet of Christ as a body God has planned me to be.
This individuality is necessary to grow into what the pentecostal movement has provided. Let’s unpack this for a moment.
Before the reformation, the worldview of the church had essentially been the same, even though very corrupted, as in the early church’s time. It was about belonging. As much as Paul fought it, it was about adhering to the rules and submitting to the authorities. This was the dominant worldview of the time both in Israel with the pharisees as well as in Rome.
Becoming a part of the church meant to blend with the company. The goal was to become more alike. Paul taught them otherwise, and for us this is very clear, but the people at that time just did not have the necessary vocabulary and worldview to grasp what he was saying.
The model was a we-model. It was about “us as a group”. And it was about “us versus them”.
A new model was needed and introduced in the reformation. The shocking thing for the church: it was a me-model. It was about personal development, the individual, strive and accomplishment.
But it was a necessary step towards the next we-model that was introduced in the pentecostal movement, latter rain, and the revivals since: the congregation of individuals. The we now constitutes around the abilities, callings, gifts, and personalities of the individuals.
There obviously are growing pains involved. To shatter the former we-model, the reformed person had to challenge the very essence of the model – it is about us versus them. Thus, he became part of the them.
To establish the new we-model, the pentecostal person had to question residues of the old we-model that were pertained during the me-model period, namely hierarchy. The me-model had kept hierarchy as the working structure, but had replaced godly order by success and wealth as the defining driver for hierarchical positioning. The new we-model took the revelation about the individuality of the person with all its strengths and weaknesses, but changed from hierarchical strive as motivation to the understanding of team, of cooperation, inclusion, tolerance, and complementation. It had to get rid of much of the forward moving power and innovational strength of the concept of personal achievement, though.
The next model will be a me-model again, and it has started to emerge – threatening the church again. It will be about the integration of the strengths of every pre-existing model, about a systemic worldview. It will allow for a problem like global warming, which is largely denied by the church, and a whole toolset of solutions to solve it from different worldviews. Prayer, technology, and changing habits will work together instead of ridiculing each other.
The church has largely stayed in the early we-model alive in Jesus’ time. It has integrated some of the more superfluous aspects of the following models, but not down to their core. Still, most people today, even the people in church, subconsciously look at the world with different eyes than the early church member, and thus the stretch and even the loss of the church in members and relevance.
The argument for staying in that level is the exact opposite of the concept portrayed by our verse: we know what is true.
Do we really?