“Our more or less persistent efforts not to know God”

I promise that my blog is not going to become the Phil Cary Appreciation Society, but let me indulge you once more with something from his Brazos commentary on Jonah. Regarding the first words of the book, “And the word of the LORD came to Jonah,” he writes:

As usual, Scripture has little interest in the experience by which the word speaks to us. But insofar as it is experienced at all, it is experienced as an external word, as something that comes to Jonah, quite other than the thoughts of his own heart and in fact quite unwelcome. There is no quest for God here, no attempt to demonstrate how knowledge of God is possible, and certainly no desire to experience God’s presence in our lives. The story proceeds as if the word of the LORD is unquestionably the most real thing in the world and that the rest of the universe can only catch up with its reality…

The problem of the book is not how we are to know God but how God is to deal with us and our more or less persistent efforts not to know him. Only a fool is capable of not knowing God—of hearing the word of the LORD and not believing it—and the LORD must deal with such fools somehow. From this book we learn how graciously the LORD deals with fools such as us.”[1]

Friends, the man knows how to write!

1. Phillip Cary, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Jonah (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008), 29.

4 thoughts on ““Our more or less persistent efforts not to know God””

  1. I have a caveat about this. For some reason the saints of scripture generally seemed to be clear that they were hearing from God. Basically I don’t think this is always true of us, and not necessarily because we don’t want to hear. In my case as a bipolar, I can recount any number of times that I thought God was telling me to do something, which almost invariably he was not. But I don’t think the problem is limited to people with “mental disorders.” I hear a lot of people saying, “God told me,” and when they say what was “told,” I have to shake my head. We are told by John to “test the spirits, whether they be from God,” and Solomon says, “In the multitude of counsellors, there is safety.” I don’t like the admonition of “instant obedience.” Of course we are to be obedient, but in the first instance we need to be sure it is God we are being obedient to. I don’t really think God is upset if we are “cautious” in attributing anything we are told or feel to be from God to check things out before we “jump off the cliff.”

    Needless to say, we still may not be obedient–we are not always so as to what we DO know is from God–the Bible. But I think the caveat is still important as well.

    1. I imagine that the author of the commentary would say, “Yes, but it is still generally true that we humans resist hearing God’s word.” I’m sure he would agree that it’s difficult at times to hear God’s word, and it’s easy to get it wrong, but there are still so many more examples of failing to obey it when it is clear to us.

      Jonah, he would say, isn’t concerned with the hard cases, but with the easy ones.

  2. I’ve come back to this several times and am very struck by the truth of the statement that man does put in persistent effort not to know God. The whole question of why some seek God and others don’t, even among self-identified believers, is puzzling!

    Thanks for your good work!

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