Summary: The importance of the role of the Holy Spirit is extolled as a means of knowing the really real, as opposed to empirical science which because it limits perception to sight, sound, smell, taste and touch experience can never lead to convincing faith.
6-19-11 Trinity Sunday
Gen. 1:1-2:4a; II Co. 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
“The Epistemology of the Holy Spirit”
Today is “Trinity Sunday”. Even though the cycle of the church year is moving on, it is important that we not forget about the role of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is one of the three ways God has chosen to allow us to know and experience God. The Holy Spirit does, however, have a special function distinct from that of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit interacts with us, helps us to understand the words and actions of Christ, and convinces us of the truth of God.
This role of the Holy Spirit is, I believe, vital in dealing with every crisis of faith, and it is my hope that today’s message will help us all grow into a new understanding of this. In order to successfully carry out the Great Commission of our Lord, we must understand and be able to tell others how the Holy Spirit can and does confirm what is really real in a way that science simply cannot.
I’d like to start today by drawing your attention to the comments of A. W. Tozer which Ethel has printed on the back of today’s worship bulletin. Follow along with me, if you will, as I read aloud these comments:
A. W. Tozer writes: “To regain her lost power the Church must see heaven opened and have a transforming vision of God. But the God we must see is not the utilitarian God who is having such a run of popularity today, whose chief claim to man’s attention is His ability to bring them success in their various undertakings and who for that reason is being cajoled and flattered by everyone who wants a favor. The God we must learn to know is the Majesty in the heavens, God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the only wise God our Savior.”
I draw your attention especially to the words, “the God we must learn to know”. This statement suggests two questions. The first is, “Why must we learn to know God?” and the second is, “How do we learn to know God?”
I hope to explain why it is so very important that we answer these two questions, but first, in way of additional introduction,
I will quote from a popular Christian writer who is, perhaps, known to many of you, Max Lucado. Lucado writes: “The prevailing world-view denies the existence of absolute truth. So, when the Christian message, which is essentially historical… is proclaimed, modern listeners hear what they interpret as simply ‘one person’s preference—another free human being’s choice of lifestyle or belief….’ Our handy prepackaged God-talk won’t do. Before we tell them what the Bible says, we may have to tell them why they should believe the Bible…. And we need a Christian (explanation) that doesn’t just make the case for us; it must touch the chords within our unbelieving friends and neighbors and begin to alter their view of reality.”
What is that view of reality which, as Lucado suggests, dominates the way so many people think today? I think you know the answer to that question. Many today believe that truth is relative, religion is personal, that ultimately none of it really matters because nothing can be known for certain. Why is that? Why do so many people have that idea? Quite simply, it is because we live in a scientific world dominated by faith in what science can reveal. Because of the success of modern scientific inquiry, most people have come to believe that the only way we can know what is really true is through empirical methods, that is, by observation and measurement that involves use of the five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing).
Empirical observation does provide a vital tool helping us learn how and why things work the way they do, but there is a limitation to empiricism, and, there is a limitation to the scientific method. Science can neither prove nor disprove God. Consequently, many people opt to doubt the existence of God because God can neither be proven nor disproved empirically through use of the five senses and the scientific method.
The 5 senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) cannot perceive God, no matter how hard we try. We can see smaller and smaller things through the use of microscopes, and larger and larger things through the use of telescopes, but we cannot see God. This limitation of has given rise to relativism in faith and morals, and has lead to skepticism or even atheism in the minds of many people. While science can refine with ever greater precision the data collected through the five senses, there is no way of being certain of the meaning or nature of what is being perceived. “Beauty”, as they say, “is in the eye of the beholder.”