For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9
So are God’s ways really higher than ours? Well, of course! So why the provocative title? Through the years of reasoning over theology with other Christians, I’ve found that the above verse too often becomes a kind of god-of-the-gaps explanation for difficult or controversial theological points of view. This is especially true when it comes to the topic of predestination.
When God’s Way is Higher
God’s way and thoughts are always higher than ours, but how do we apply this to reading and understanding scripture? In the particular Isaiah passage above, the context is God’s abounding mercy and forgiveness. In a similar discord in Romans 11:33, the context is again mercy, alluding to God’s infinite wisdom, knowledge, and judgment in how he mapped out a plan of mercy to both the Gentiles (non-Jews) and Israel (Jews).
There are myriads of other examples we could come up where it makes good sense to invoke that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. The Trinity quickly comes to mind as something that our finite human minds cannot fully grasp. Or who can truly grasp the concept of eternity?
The problem with Isaiah 55:8-9 is that many Christians are too quick to invoke it when confronted with difficult or challenging doctrines that just may have a solid explanation. I was in a Bible study where a Christian asked the leader to explain the difference between getting saved in the Old Testament and New Testament. After a fairly long discussion back and forth of opposing viewpoints of those in the Bible study, one Christian finally lamented that we really don’t know for certain and simply offered that “God’s ways are higher than our ways”. Yet I do think there is a reasonable and sound position on the difference between the two covenants and their role in salvation (future blog post! :-)).
But far and away where you hear Isaiah 55:8-9 used the most as a god-of-the-gaps rescue device is when the hot topic of predestination comes up, and especially individual predestination. I believe that because there are strong emotions and a long history of counter viewpoints on this topic, many a Christian just assumes there isn’t a truly winning side, that somehow both are right or there is a melding of the two. It therefore becomes a concept that can’t be grasped by our finite minds and here we go, “God’s ways are higher than our ways”. The problem is that often the doctrines where this god-of-the-gaps cliche is used are mutually exclusive viewpoints; that is, they are distinctly different and polar opposite positions where only one position can be correct. This happens to be the case with individual predestination. My next blog will be on this very topic. As a teaser, just consider that in every instance where predestination is mentioned in the Bible, the context is plural (corporate), not singular (individual).
A Place to Reason Together
My hope with this blog is is that the thoughts I share on various theological doctrines will offer an opportunity for those who disagree to “reason together” (Isaiah 1:18) and for “iron to sharpen iron” (Proverbs 27:17).
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. – Proverbs 25:2