To begin my devotional time each morning leading up to Christmas, I’ve been reading the brief, daily entries in John Piper’s Advent devotional Good News of Great Joy (free to download). This morning’s reading centered on the supernatural star that guided the wise men to Bethlehem and the manger.
Like Piper, I have heard possible explanations of how such a star could have appeared and why this phenomenon is explainable.
The caution that Pastor John gives is something I needed to hear 10 years ago when I was getting sidetracked with non-central pursuits in theology and biblical studies:
“I want to exhort you not to become preoccupied with developing theories that are only tentative in the end and have very little spiritual significance…People who are exercised and preoccupied with such things as how the star worked and how the Red Sea split and how the manna fell and how Jonah survived the fish and how the moon turns to blood are generally people who have what I call a mentality for the marginal.”
Full disclosure here: I was THAT guy in seminary and for some time thereafter.
The subsequent truth Piper pens was true for me: “You do not see in them a deep cherishing of the great central things of the gospel–the holiness of God, the ugliness of sin, the helplessness of man, the death of Christ, justification by faith alone, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the glory of Christ’s return and the final judgment. They always seem to be taking you down a sidetrack with a new article or book.There is little centered rejoicing.”
For all the pontificating, in other words, there is very little praising. For all of the ‘scholarly’ reasoning, there is very little rejoicing. They / I / we slowly and subtly begin majoring on the marginal and marginalizing the majors.
If the objects and subjects of our study and thinking do not influence the way we live, chances are they are marginal–tentative in the end, with very little spiritual significance.
Cherish deeply the central things of the gospel this Christmas.
Christ be with you.