My friend Candy brought me an audio version of Ravi Zacharias’ new book Why Suffering? Ravi and co-author Vince Vitale go through some of the classic discussions and questions about why a God Who is supposed to be good would let us suffer if He loves us.
Ravi is his usual brilliant self in analyzing the issues. But it is co-author Vince who handed me a name and a useful concept for dealing with the problem. About two-thirds of the way through the book, he discusses his beautiful wife. Vince says he could describe her at length. But no matter how detailed and accurate his description, there are still things you would only know about her appearance after you had a chance to see her with y0ur 0wn eyes.
I instantly recognized the categorical difference he was describing.
I had just finished helping my sister-in-law get her new book formatted for publication. We knew what she had written. We could tell, from the computer file, exactly what would appear on each page. But she wisely wanted one test copy printed and placed in her hands before placing an order with the publisher. The copy in her hands would show her things she could not know otherwise.
I have also presented the idea in terms of a friend who tries to set you up with a blind date. They may describe how wonderful and perfect the other person is all day long but you won’t know until you go on the date.
Vince gave the name for this kind of knowledge: non-propositional. It is what we learn and know apart from descriptive data points. This knowledge is real and useful. It just has to be received somewhere other than a classroom lecture.
A friend recently wrote me, “Unlike you, I haven’t had a stroke. Also unlike you, I’ve had breast cancer.” Then they went on to say, “Your daily journey appears to me, an outsider to your actual experience, to be another example of delayed gratification. You keep doing all the things everyone who knows anything is telling you to do, in the hopes that some day you’ll be able to get it all right again. I believe in that for you, as I believe in it for myself. Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do….”
I think it is a necessity to recognize that sometimes this kind of knowledge is where God’s answers for our questions lay. Some times (most of the time?) we can only ponder what the Almighty can do because we haven’t seen it yet. That doesn’t mean we won’t see it eventually.