It is often the case that personal ignorance is mistaken for Biblical mystery. It must be immediately stated that just because you haven’t learned something yet does not mean that it remains a mystery, or veiled. The term “revelation” refers to the disclosure of something formerly secret, or obscure. Often, the objector will assert that there is no fundamental difference between subjects such as women in ministry, election, or millenialism – or that the answer to any (or all) of these is simply mysterious – but this simply isn’t true. The Bible speaks with clarity on all that it speaks. The Bible does speak on the proper conception of women and ministry – and it speaks with crystal clarity. Yes, some choose to ignore what Scripture teaches on the subject – but this is not the fault of Scripture – it is the fault of fallible men, who insist that their ignorance amounts to a lack of revealed doctrine. You will note, however, that those who argue for the egalitarian view do not consider it to be a “mystery” – it is those who profess that “we just can’t know”. This is an anti-intellectualistic conception of Scripture – and I would far prefer an honest opposition to a postmodern relativism. The Scripture speaks clearly on the unconditional election of God, and the compatibilistic will of man – and we are given more than enough in Scripture to have a coherent grasp of what we are to believe concerning this subject. Again, because some choose to ignore Scripture’s witness on the subject does not mean that we are to be left in doubt. The answer “we can’t know” falls under the same stricture as any claim to necessary agnosticism – discussed in many places on this site. Further, there are many who assert that we just “can’t know” what view of eschatology is correct, either. This flies in the face of what we profess about Scripture.
Now, I must note that such ideas are most definitely not Reformed ideas. They cannot be. We cannot speak of the perspicacity of Scripture, of Sola Scriptura, and adhere to such a shallow view of revelation. On the contrary, we must adhere to tota Scriptura. Tota Scriptura speaks to all that it is necessary for us us to know – and all of the subjects above are ones which Scripture addresses. Now, am I cognizant that even on this site, there are people who disagree with me on how to view eschatology? Of course. However, I’d also claim to know, in more than a little detail, where exactly we differ (because I have frequent interaction with my brethren) – and it’s not something I’d separate over – or that they would. Obviously, I think they’re wrong where they differ – and I can argue the position I hold, amillenialism – but I don’t think either side intends to throw up their hands and say “we just can’t know!” If we discuss the issue at all, that means, ipso facto, that it isn’t considered mystery. The Reformed conception of “mystery” is far different from that found elsewhere. A mystery, in Reformed theology, is that which is not revealed. If it is not revealed, it is something of which we do not speak, or speculate on, because we don’t have revelation concerning it. Ignorance, on something the Bible speaks to, is most expressly not mystery.
The Scripture speaks plainly on mystery vs. revelation. Deu. 29:29 tells us “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” God knows all mysteries – and knows all things revealed. Yet, Scripture also speaks of revealed knowledge as something we are expected to have. In fact, the “word of knowledge according to the Spirit” is listed as a spiritual gift in 1 Cor. 12 – the ability to explain that which has been revealed. In Col. 3:10 we are told that the new self “is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” – we see that true knowledge is part and parcel of sanctification, and uses Scriptural teaching as the means for sanctification. This is why there is a significant difference in expectation for a “baby Christian” and a “mature Christian” – and per 1 Cor. 12, we see that there is a significant difference in expectation for one who is a teacher! A teacher must be able to explain the things revealed in order that the flock might understand. In Titus 1:1, we see “the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness” – we know that there is a false truth – one not according to godliness. In 2 Peter 1:3, we are “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Again, we have the modifier “true” attached to “knowledge”. Why is this? Obviously, because part of the teacher’s job is to “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’”. (1 Tim 6:20) There is a true knowledge, and a knowledge only so-called. There is mystery, and there is revelation. We know what has been revealed, if we obey Sola Scriptura – and we are to possess true knowledge – not false knowledge. We are to guard that which is true, and to oppose that which is false. It is ignorance which blurs the boundary between mystery and revelation. The further you progress in your sanctification, the more that you will understand of what which is revealed, and the clearer the line between mystery and revelation will become. It is the ignorant who insist on the line being blurred – and it is the job of the teacher to bring out from the Scripture where that boundary lies, in clarity and precision.
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