Deep & Wide

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God is not flat and thin. This is true and it has big implications. I’m not sure where this thought came to me from, my guess is probably originating from Walter Brueggemann through someone else. Brueggemann has described God as wild, dangerous, unfettered and free. Some people may have issues with a couple of those words, especially the word “dangerous”. Regardless, the truth is you cannot tame God. CS Lewis wrote this into his classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the story Mr. Beaver ends a description of Aslan with “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”  You cannot completely formulize God. You cannot box him in. He cannot be made into a step program. God is deep and wide. Our faith includes mystery and things we cannot explain. As created beings, our job is not to try to shrink God and package him. To seek to rationally explain everything about God is to try to make him flat and thin. Our job is to seek him and discover him continually. We do know God from what he has revealed of himself to us. Creation, conscience, the Word made flesh, scripture. There are many, many things that can be explained about God. Many things that are logical. The Holy Spirit guides us and reveals truth and the mysteries of God.  1 Corinthians 2:12-13 says,We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” But a good apologist will tell you that there are things about God and his ways that must be answered with “I don’t know.” There are things about God we believe but will not be able to wrap our minds around.  This first struck me as a child. I asked my mom about God being eternal. It bothered me. That he always was, always will be. She tried to explain it to me, she could define it, but she really couldn’t satisfy me about it. She could not explain the “how” part.  I didn’t get it then and I still can’t get my mind around it now. I believe it, just cannot entirely understand it. A pastor I respect named Brian Zahnd has said we will confess more than we can explain. Very true. I read a blog recently by Glenn Packiam (a pastor I follow on twitter) that said not all sermons given by a preacher should be or can be applicable. As a pastor, I understand that this is also true. God is deep and wide and not paper thin.

I can explain the love of God. But it goes well beyond my explanation. I believe in the virgin birth and God made flesh, but that’s really, really deep. The trinity cannot be put perfectly into an example as even the best explanation of it is lacking. This list could go on and on and on.

We live in a society where knowledge trumps faith. Knowledge that can be rationally explained. But knowing God does not mean we can explain everything we know/confess/believe/stand firm in. This is what faith is partly about. Faith includes believing in what I have discovered by revelation even if I cannot rationally explain it. Maybe the best way to put it is the “things I am discovering.”

One danger of packaging God and trying to make everything about him logically explainable is we have turned the tables on what worship is all about. We’ve made it a consumer issue. We’ve lost the awe and wonder of God who is much bigger than us. It has become “what can I get out of this.” As Eugene Peterson writes in The Pastor: a Memoir, “Instead of calling people to worship God, pastors all over the country were inviting people to ‘have a worship experience’. Worship was evaluated on the ‘consumer satisfaction scale’ of one to ten.” Experiencing God and seeking an experience with him is not inherently wrong, but how we approach it can make it that way. We cannot force it or rate it, as if to tame God. We experience him in the course of a life of seeking him. That happens on his terms.  We are not seeking experience to simply have an experience. RC Sproul writes in The Holiness of God, “Christianity is not about involvement with religious experience as a tangent. It involves a meeting with a holy God, who forms the center, or core, of human existence.”  Peterson also touches on another issue of how we treat our relationship with God. In Memoir he also writes, “We cannot make an object of God: God is not a thing to be named. We cannot turn God into an idea: God is not a concept to be discussed. We cannot use God for making or doing: God is not a power to be harnessed.” We make God flat and manageable when we try to do any of those things to him.

So I will seek to know God. Dive into His depths. Experience Him more. Worship beyond my understanding. Hold to the confession of my faith. Hold to what I can explain. I will do this on his terms. I will also hold to what I cannot explain. In this I let him be God and understand my place as a created being.  And from this my curiosity and imagination are captured by him. My curiosity and imagination will never be captured by what is easily explained. We know a lot about God. There is a lot more to know and experience. Even if we cannot explain what we discover.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; The intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21) 

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