Monday, August 6, 2018

Limiting God

Throughout our history, men have been prone to one error or another regarding God, all of which keep us from forming a rich and deep theology. It began, of course, in the Garden, when Adam and Eve thought that perhaps God could not have meant exactly what He said and dared to eat the forbidden fruit and, well, we've had problems taking Him at His word ever since. 

Prior to the coming of science and the kind of academic inquiry that we are so used to in our own day, God was taken for granted. Human beings just naturally assumed - and believed - that God had everything to do with everything. This meant a couple of things. One is that human beings had very little or no responsibility for their own lives, since God was going to do whatever God was going to do anyway. A second, however, was that God was responsible for absolutely everything. 

But this, of course, raised questions. How could God do some of the things that were happening in the world? How could He ordain them to be this broken way? How could God decide to murder someone or rape someone or burn someone's house down? If God is responsible for everything, we cannot possibly develop a theology of His goodness because there is no pure goodness; it's always a mix of good and broken. So this kind of blind faith, this reckless attribution, keeps us from a solid theology of God. 

And then we moved into the age of scientific inquiry, where we became very sure that we could ask questions and investigate and come to a good conclusion about anything and everything. And if we couldn't, then whatever we were asking about must not be "real." So we started asking questions about God, digging into the past to uncover His presence and character and richness. And we found some very good evidences for God being who He says He is. 

But we also found that our scientific inquiry can only take us so far. There are some things about God we just can't cut open in a laboratory, some things we cannot possibly "study" in any academic sense of the word. So we were tempted to start to write these things off, and we did. And all of a sudden, we found ourselves with a God in whom there is no mystery - in whom there can be no mystery - and therefore, nothing supernatural. No sense of an "otherness" of God. Which keeps us, yet again, from developing a solid theology, for we cannot fathom and cannot accommodate anything about Him that is beyond our understanding or our knowing. 

Now, we have moved into a more relational existence in the postmodern world, where things are what they are based on their relation to other things and we seek to be in relationship with everyone and everything, so far as we can. And we've come to believe that perhaps God is here among us and perhaps He is a friend, someone we can know and trust and love and be with in a real and vital and powerful way.

But while God is a good friend today, He's not, like, a good friend. That is, we're pretty sure that He's the kind of friend that we've come to surround ourselves with on purpose - the kind of friend who pretty much agrees with everything we already believe, who doesn't dare speak anything even slightly controversial, who keeps it on the "down-low" and just sort of chills with us. You know, like a cool friend. And this, too, keeps us from developing a meaningful theology because God has no opinion about anything, no standards, no nothing. He's a "go with the flow" kind of God who doesn't ruffle any feathers and doesn't have an expectations and just likes, you know, being with us. 

It's a constant temptation, and it's one we've faced since almost the very beginning - this temptation to use what we know of the world to miss what we could possibly know about God because our knowledge is so limited, so finite. Because we let ourselves be boxed in by the vogue philosophies of the day. 

If we want to develop a rich, deep, life-giving theology of God, we have to break out of these molds and find a way to broaden our vision for Him, to expand our horizons, to open our hearts in new ways. Can we do it? We can. 

But it's not easy. 

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