Over the years I have lived with people who suffer from mental illness. One day I was sitting having coffee with a housemate and his friend. Both suffered from mental illness. As we sat there, they shared with each other recent incidents where they were sitting in a coffee shop and they knew that the people around them were reading their minds, knowing exactly what they were thinking. They both believed each other. I puzzled over how to help them know that people can’t read your mind.
It is tragic and somewhat absurd that while most people know you can’t read people’s minds, many of these same people think you can read God’s mind. In fact, it is often seen as a sign of wisdom to claim to be able to read God’s mind.
Think about this for a moment. I am writing this in a coffee shop. What am I thinking of now as I pause? If you knew that I was thinking of my now deceased friend Ruth Jo, seeing her in the bush by Round Lake – congratulations! You can read minds, or at least my mind. Now if you cannot read the mind of another human being, like yourself, and if people view the belief in real mind-reading as being a sign of mental illness, why do people think human beings, whether by drugs, rituals, meditation, philosophy, poetry, science, religion, their mind or their emotions can know the mind of God? To give but one of countless examples, a well-known liberal denomination refers to having a repository of symbols to know God. Really? I can use this symbol and that and know God? The claim to know God always involves at least some claim to know some of what God thinks. So your symbols allow you to do this? One’s you combine as you see fit? A far more common case today is those people who believe they know the future, and the "good" that the future must move to, and is in fact moving towards. This is always described in secular language, but is in fact a claim to know what only "God" could know and do, yet the person has somehow figured this out on their own or with others.
But you might say, isn’t this the Christian claim, that we know God? Yes and no. The Christian claim is radically different. We agree with sceptics, and reason itself, that we cannot know God by our efforts. We do not believe we have better poets, rituals, meditation, philosophers, mystics or scientists. We do not believe we have special people who have ascended to Heaven. We believe that God has revealed Himself. We believe that if you can only know what I am thinking by having me tell you, even more so, people can only know what God thinks if God tells us. We believe He stooped down to our level, came to us, to make Himself known. The crowning and defining act of His self-revelation is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son and our Saviour. He has also acted in history to speak definitively in the Bible, God’s word written. The same God who created all things is the same God who sustains all things and is the same God, who by His sovereign power and providence, acted to cause the words He wanted written to be written. He also has acted by the same providence to have His words recognized as His words, and to have His words written preserved. Jesus authenticates that God has spoken and that the Bible is God’s word written. By His death and resurrection He is vindicated and authenticated as the Saviour come from God, and His death and resurrection vindicates and authenticates His teaching. He has come down from Heaven. He has come among us. He has spoken to us in human words that we can hear and understand. He has acted that we might know Him, not out of pride and delusion, but through the humility of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, by the Bible alone.