Friday, October 26, 2018

A Theology of God

Someone once asked me, as I prepared to embark on a new phase of ministry, what is my theology of God? I looked at him across the small table around which we were seated, and I said, "I don't really have one." 

He cocked his head to the side and stared back at me. 

It's not the answer he expected; it's not the answer anyone expects. Ask a Christian what he or she believes about God, and you expect to hear something rather specific. Something, maybe, that sounds like the Apostle's Creed or some other belief statement of an organized institution of religion (a church). 

"I believe that God is gracious and all-powerful, all-knowing and merciful. I believe that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the burden for our sins, and that He dwells with us even today in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe that He came and is coming back and that He will judge the world in His righteousness and every knee will bow, every tongue confess, or burn in Hell forever." 

Or something like that. And if the question were asked by a non-believer, well, the Christian is under even more pressure to give an answer that illuminates the character and heart of God. We should speak there of His compassion and unfailing love, His protection and discipline, His presence and His grace. Should we not? 

And so, when I looked back at this man - a minister himself - and said that I do not really have a theology of God, he was rightfully taken aback. How could I not?

The answer remains as true today as it was then, and for the very same reason. I have found, as I have journeyed down this Christian path for nearly twenty years, that as soon as I think I have a theology of God, He does something wildly outside of it, wildly beyond it, that is still completely consistent with who He is but that my meager theology could never have accommodated, were it not for the one thing that I truly, wholeheartedly, and forever believe about God:

He is eternally greater than my theology could ever hold. 

That doesn't mean that I can't, or don't, know anything at all about Him. That's not true at all. As with any truly loving relationship, I continue to learn little things every day, things that are real and true and vital to the relationship that we have with one another. But I also expect and embrace the fact that I will continue to learn little things every day until my days meet with His in eternity, and even then, I may continue to learn little things. 

See, as in any relationship, there are things that just don't come up until, well, until they do. You couldn't know whether your husband or wife likes seafood until and unless you contemplate going for lobster together. Then, you'll have an opportunity to know. But not until then. It's not like you will ever be folding laundry together and randomly stumble upon this piece of information, and yet, you should also not make the mistake of assuming that whatever you learn while folding the laundry is everything you will ever need to know about one another. 

God and I only have what we have together. We only know what has come up in the context of our ongoing relationship so far. But there is so much we still have to do, so many places we still have to go, so many opportunities we just haven't had yet. Some we may never have. And I can tell you all the things I've learned about Him so far, but the truth is that it's nowhere near the entirety of who He is or what I will ever know about Him, which still won't be everything. But I'm still learning, nonetheless.

So the one truth that I hold as central to whatever theology of God that I have is that my theology of God is ever-changing, ever-developing, ever-growing as the mystery of God becomes the presence of Him while we journey together, living and loving. 

It's not a cop-out, and it's not an empty answer. It's an answer of expectation. I know that whatever I know today will be expanded and magnified and intensified by tomorrow. I have a little sign on my  door, just a few feet from where I now type. It says, in hand-calligraphed letters, "Of course." And this is my theology of God. 

For whenever I think that I know who He is, He reveals something more of Himself to me, and this is all I can say. Of course. Of course He is this, too. Of course He is. And my theology grows again, another little piece added in, another little thing to know. 

And I DO know a lot of little things about Him. 

And a few more every day. 

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