Does God work with our limited knowledge?
Or does He wait till we have our theological ducks in the correct row?
Sometimes I wonder if the church at large is missing something. There are pockets of churches that do not see revival, or perhaps a better term—reviving—of the life of the church. There are numerous assemblies of believers that do not experience waves of Holy Spirit movement. Is that because they don’t believe something? Or tare they believing something that is not biblically sound?
I don’t have an answer for that. I’m sure it is much more complicated than that. Especially when you start to consider the vast array of beliefs that are within Christianity.
Now, I am not Catholic. I was born into a Pentecostal believing family, and trained and educated under the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Though I now worship in a non-denominational congregation, I still hold to many of my Pentecostal beliefs.One belief that is confirmed by the Catholic church, is the belief that we can, and should, pray to the saints, and through the saints. I, however, disagree with this belief. I am not up on the current beliefs of all Catholics. This may not hold true of everyone that is a part of the Roman Catholic faith. If my assumption is incorrect, please tweet or email me. I’d love to know more. But what I do know is this—there was a time where it was widely held that a good Catholic could and should pray to the saints. And that the saints would answer. Such was the belief of Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc is quite the historical figure when you stop to think about it. I was reading and enjoying Eric Metaxas’ book, 7 Women And The Secret Of Their Greatness, when he shared her remarkable story. In this biographical account, he tells of how Joan was a young devout Catholic girl when she started to hear ‘voices”. These ‘voices’, Joan claimed, belonged to the archangel Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret.
For someone with little for-knowledge about Joan of Arc, I was intrigued about her story. Especially when Metaxas’ quoted her, saying,
“Joan then prophesied to them that four events would take place. She said, “Orleans I shall relieve. The Dauphin I shall crown in Rheims. Paris will come back to its true king. The Duke of Orleans, captive in the Tower of London, will return home.”
These prophesies were not something that Joan cooked up on the spot. These were divinely inspired words spoken to a country that was broken and hopeless. What is astounding is that they all came true. Everything that Joan said, as directed by God, spoken to her by these ‘voices’ came true. The city of Orleans was relieved from British occupation. The Dauphin, the crowned prince Charles VII, was properly made King of France. Paris was returned to French rule. The Duke of Orleans made it back to his home. All of these things are historical facts—proven, recorded, undeniable facts. It happened. Whether you read a biography like Metaxas’ 7 Women or you watch one of the countless movies made about Joan of Arc, the fact is that what God told her, through these ‘voices’, came true.
That is startling when you think about it. The account of Joan of Arc is a historical proof, of sorts, that God speaks to His people. God is moving in our world. “God intended for [Joan] to rescue Orleans.” And it was so. That means, the ‘voices’, the saints speaking to her, were also true.
For a Protestant, someone that is outside of the Catholic tradition, this is hard to know what to do with. Either, I have been wrong all my life and the saints in glory do speak to those on earth. Or, Joan was wrong and it wasn’t the saints that spoke to her at all. But who am I to argue with history? How do you argue against the facts, the proof that she did indeed hear these ‘voices’ and when she acted out in faith, the ‘voices’ were proven right?
But how can I ignore my personal experience? I have prayed for most of my life. I have never prayed to Saint Peter, or any other Disciple. I haven’t asked Mother Mary for anything, or Saint Catherine or Margaret. I have been taught that I have no need for another intermediary. I am a royal priest now, as all Christians are (1 Peter 2.9). I can come boldly into the throne room of God and make my requests known. (Hebrews 4.16) No one else has to do it for me.
This takes me back to my opening question:
Does God work with our limited knowledge? Or does He wait till we have our theological ducks in the correct row?
Has God been speaking to me even though my theology may be totally lacking the presence of holy saints that have gone on before me? Would He still speak to me, move in my life, change me and refine by His Holy Spirit, even if I had missing theology?
Did God move through Joan of Arc despite her theology? Though she was used mightily by God, she was at the mercy of her education, the theology of the day. She believed what she was taught. Did God pick her and use her, despite the wrong things she was taught and believed wholeheartedly? Did God work through poor teachings, even those that some Christians reject outright today?
I am not trying to pick a fight or cause a religious war between Catholics and Protestants, between their theology and ours. What I am attempting to ask, what I am poking at, is this: How gracious is God?
We talk about God and His graciousness all the time in the church, Catholic and Protestant. But sometimes I think that we miss out how often God’s grace works despite us, our efforts and beliefs.
I offer this one example from Scripture, though there are more to be found there.
God called Abraham to leave his family, his country, everything that he had ever known to go to a mysterious land, a land that God did not disclose. Abraham did not always obey God, or act in a way that was consistent with the character of God. He lied and shared half truths numerous times. He went to war and slaughtered hundreds. He disobeyed God on numerous accounts, perhaps the greatest being in regards to Abraham’s son. Abraham did not believe that God would give him the son that God had promised. Abraham was an old man, and his wife well advanced in age as well. They were beyond child bearing years. So Abraham’s wife gave her servant to Abraham as a surrogate wife/baby maker to make God’s promise come true; the promise that Abraham would indeed have children. Even though Abraham did have a child with the servant, God said He would give Abraham a child through his wife, not a surrogate.
Despite Abraham’s doubt, despite his lack of proper triune theology, despite a Christocentric thinking and application of the Bible, despite a million things that modern christians deem necessary for real faith and for God to do any work in a believer, God worked. Despite so many things, God worked anyways. God intended that Abraham would have a son, through his wife, and no other woman. And it happened.
I think God does work with our limited knowledge, even if our theology is not perfect. I believe that God is infinitely gracious, and works in us, through us, and with us regardless of what we believe.
But I turn the question to you.
Do you think that God works with our limited knowledge? Or does He wait till we have our theological ducks in a row?
Or if you are Catholic and can give me some insight about your belief in the saints, please share.