Stiff-arming Walter Doogan

I have always been curious about the spiritual life and how it interacts and interferes with our natural lives. That’s why I’ve always hated it when I want to talk about something deep and interesting, like what it means to be united with the resurrected Christ, or the nature of the Trinity, or Biblical symbolism, and the Christian across from me says, “Some things we just won’t understand until we get to heaven.”

(dismal trombone slide)

Maybe they have a point. God claims that his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. In Romans, Paul says that God’s ways are unsearchable and inscrutable. In I Corinthians he says that, in a sense, God’s range of personality so transcends our range of personality, that even his foolishness (if that were possible) would be wiser than our highest wisdom.

Okay, if that’s true, why study these things at all? We’re going to get it wrong. It’s sort of like asking a dog to analyze his master’s poetry.

But the Bible encourages us to scrute the inscrutable.

In the Old Testament, God complains that no one was seeking after him, that his people were destroying themselves because of their ignorance. He had established patterns for parents to pass the Law on to their children. He had given them rich symbolic feasts and rituals to remind them of who he was, and who they were as a result. He planted his tabernacle in the very center of their tents, then established a system so they could approach him while also respecting his holiness and transcendence. He even gave them his name.

One would think that, despite their differences, God wanted his people not only to know about him, but to sincerely know him.

In time, however, the Jews stopped using his name. It was just too holy. They wouldn’t write it, or even speak it. We don’t even know if Yahweh is the right pronunciation for YHWH. Some would find this to be an honorable gesture, but I am of the opinion that if someone tells you to call them Walt, but you insist on Mr. Doogan, you are respectfully stiff-arming Walter Doogan.

I am reminded of the story of David moving the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem—certainly a noble, God-honoring task. However, God had specifically told Moses that his ark was to be carried by priests on poles. This had rich symbolic meaning, one that would point directly to the life and legacy of one of David’s future descendants, Jesus. But there was no way that David could have realized the spiritual significance of how a holy box was moved around.

So David put the ark on a cart, and God was so upset he killed a man for touching it. Then David was upset. That is, until he finally searched around in Scripture and found out what he had done wrong. Wisely, David confessed his ignorance and finished the job right.

I think, despite our modern advantages, we are just as biblically illiterate as David. Sure, we know a lot of the major themes, but we are fuzzy on the details. And, like David, we can get ourselves in trouble because of it. We might claim that God can “use” whatever we screw up, or that God loves us so much he will just forgive and forget whatever we do wrong, but I still believe that God has a vision for his Church and has expressed that vision in Scripture, and that he wants us to explore it and live it out.

That’s what this blog is about.

Do you agree with the premise? Or do you think it’s a little presumptuous to explore things that are clearly beyond our limited range? In all humility, I say, let’s stiff-arm our respectful stiff-arming, and reach together for God.

20 thoughts on “Stiff-arming Walter Doogan

  1. Comment 1: I think when all is said and done, you SHOULD write a book. Or several. Before you say, “I have” look at the big picture. You write a handful of fantasy stories filled with deep spiritual non-allegorical application, then write several books on the nature of God and our relationship with him…. maybe, a book or two on the battle plan of the enemy. I like the blog, though.

    Comment 2: If we (community) are to reach for God together, I’m going to have to admit from the beginning that you are much more intelligent than I. So, when I get in over my head, it is likely I will just leave a cheeky comment of the humorous, though sometimes irreverent kind, and leave it at that. That usually implies that what you have said may have gone over my head a bit.

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  2. I figure if God put it in the Bible, then it’s there to be understood at some level. A hard to understand verse to me is like a prod, making me ask God harder what it means. Not for the sake of knowledge in itself, but because there is some better way to know and understand HIM there. I want to understand ALL He has given to us about Himself. And so often one verse is like a treasure chest of deep meaning./ So worth the effort to understand.

    So, I guess all that is to say, “Amen.”

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  3. I agree with your premise John. Conversations about God, group/corporate study of God, worship of God, are not issues of having exhaustive knowledge and therefore unnecessary endeavors. Rather they are avenues ordained by God through which to intimately meet Him.

    If we say “Some things we just won’t understand until we get to heaven”, and mean “i don’t know and don’t care to find out” then we commit a grievous mistake.

    This is similar to the agnostic who says that we cant know if God exists and to have knowledge of his existence is impossible. However, one must have “some” knowledge of God in which to base the conclusion that one can not have any knowledge of God. It is a self refuting statement.

    Let us all stiff arm all of those who stiff arm the stiff armers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A very challenging first post especially for someone who say was raised with it but hasn’t read his Bible in a while( not naming names here or anything) I think I’m looking forward to the rest.


  5. Wow John I’m not sure I have the words to respond back. But, I agree we do, I do need to explore and reach higher for an explanation.
    I had a dear friend that I’ve known for over 30 years pass away from cancer at only 49 yrs of age. She suffered through abusive relationships and addictions and then about 15 years ago she found her true path to God and being his servant. She did mission work through Franklin Graham Ministries and found her way both stateside and in Africa.
    Through her, she touched the lives of many and provided a path to God for many.
    Susanne fought the disease with every fiber of her physical and spiritual body. And she never swayed in her love for Christ. I can honestly say that she found her place in heaven now and is still helping and touching peoples lives. Through her death I realize that I need to do better.
    This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

    2 Corinthians 5:17

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  6. Awesome post John. I’m glad you’re doing this. I hope I can remember to chime in here often because it seems really needed.

    My personal faith journey seems to move from less to more complicated. I understand that this is probably the opposite of what happens with most other things in life and especially in Christianity. I find that some of the questions I have now are much more deeply rooted, but seem very, very scary. Even looking at David’s life closely, the tabernacle he made was kind of against the law. God gave such specific directions to Moses on how to build what, where to put it, how to enter it, etc. And yet, it seems God liked what David built because in Amos 9:11 he mentions raising it up again in the last days. I bring this up because it seems a crux to me. How much of our walk with God and our relationship with Jesus is coming from our will? When we do what we feel to be the will of God and it doesn’t seem to work out (see numerous psalms where David laments being abandoned and destitute, or the same story in question: a man dying right in the middle of what was supposed to be a good, godly thing)?

    It’s funny because one thing that seems common among Christians is that we can accept and aid with the questions and insecurities of another. And yet, the deeply rooted, often painful, fears and insecurities we have about faith seem hard to voice and truly process. Personally, if a man was stricken dead while I was moving the ark, I would probably go back and repent and offer up some hyper old-testament sacrifice as an apology. I guess now, in Christ and part of the new Covenant, what am I to do when I feel astray whether in thought, action or theology? It’s not always clear, is it?

    All that to say, I believe becoming cynical and calloused is not an option for a Christian. It doesn’t lead to anything and is often damaging to others around us. Skepticism should be frowned on, though it can lead to good things if indeed we are only skeptic until we reach truth. Above all, I believe we are to hope and suffer through those times, such as the one I now feel I’m in. I don’t think God likes or plans on us suffering through deep questions, but I couldn’t face a single day if I doubted that he is with me either way. I continue to hope because I know who I serve and he always comes through, even if you end up tending sheep in the desert for 40 years.


    • Yes! These are important questions and observations, and I agree that they should not be approached with skepticism, but hope and anticipation, believing that Jesus did not orphan his church, but gave them the Spirit for guidance. That’s a profound thought, and one that we will explore.

      I wish I was still out there so we could talk this stuff through at length. I have always appreciated your honest mind and sensitive spirit.

      You should register to get emails of these posts. I like it when you show up!


  7. I wholeheartedly agree. Not wanting to live a “luke-warm” Christian life, knowing and living God’s Word is not so much a choice but a directive essential for life. Not just life – but LIFE everlasting that begins with knowing God! Please keep on thinking, writing, and sharing!!


  8. I totally agree with you John!
    Luke uses the words “one accord” 17 times in the Book of Acts where he is explaining the history and purpose of the Church.
    As the Body of Christ we need to be interacting with each other on so many levels.
    God told Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Jesus repeats this commandment in Matthew 6:37 saying, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He says this is the first and great commandment and gives a second commandment in verse 39, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
    This is where we start. Love the LORD with all we have.
    At age 62 and having grown up with the American Dream, which I now see as a big lie right out of pit of hell, I finally see what a distraction from REAL satisfaction having all that wealth and material possessions has been.
    Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Israel had rejected God but through Christ He has made Himself available to us.
    I am so thankful that we live in a land where we still can openly share our faith and carry our Bibles out in public, and blog across the country about our Lord and Savior!
    I truly believe the day is coming when we will not be able to do this anymore so lets use our privileges while we still can and “encourage one another to LOVE and good deeds” or as you put it, “reach together for God.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Several (of my) thoughts. 1) We’ve got to be careful and not study God as if he’s a lab rat, which at times is what these conversations lead to. I think it’s important to balance it, as you were saying, with the truth that try as we might, we’ll never truly understand. They great part, the part that I think you’re on to, is that if we search innocently, and ask persistently (like the widow wouldn’t leave the judge alone) God will often surprise us with understanding others would have never gained by simple “study.” It’s like a spiritual treasure hunt, and we never know what we’re going to get. 2) I’ll go ahead and quote C.S. Lewis here. He once wrote (in a grief observed) something along these lines: Most question we ask are nonsense questions, such as, What color is the number four? Such a question doesn’t actually have an answer in these here three dimensions we walk. So perhaps some of the things we ask are non-sense questions?

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