Monday, March 17, 2014

The Real Difficulty With The Christian God

I've been ignoring this blog for a long time.  Still nervous about the subject matter.  It's too big for me.  HE's too big for me.  But I've started re-reading Knowing God, by J.I. Packer, and I've decided what he says at the beginning of Chapter 5 is worth posting.  His message is important because it speaks to the problem of God being too big for us.

If you haven't discovered Knowing God, I hope this excerpt lures you into reading the whole book.  It's a grand and thoughtful theological treatise written in words simple enough for a lay person to understand.  It's a fireside chat about God.

By the way, posts so far have talked in general terms about the Creator of the universe.  Just for the record, I need to say that my concept of God is very much the Christian one.  Not the christian one in a generic sense.  Much that calls itself Christian I do not agree with.  But I believe the true Creator of the universe has revealed himself supernaturally, through human instruments, in the book Christians call The Bible.  When I talk about God, this is the One I'm thinking of--the Christian God.  This is the God I have come to worship.

But there are difficulties in believing in this God, I admit.  Here's what Dr. Packer has to say about "the real difficulty" with the Christian God.

It is no wonder that thoughtful people find the gospel of Jesus Christ hard to believe, for the realities with which it deals pass man's understanding.  But it is sad that so many make faith harder than it need be, by finding difficulties in the wrong places.

Dr. Packer goes on to list some of the difficulties people have in believing the "outrageous" claims of the Bible.

Take the atonement, for instance.  . . .

Or take the resurrection, which seems to many a stumbling-block.  . . .

Or, again, take the virgin birth. . . ..  How, people ask, can one possibly believe in such a biological anomaly?

Or take the gospel miracles; . . .

With these and similar problems many minds on the fringes of faith are deeply perplexed today.

But Dr. Packer dismisses these problems.  They all have answers.  The answers are wrapped up in what he calls, "the real difficulty."

But in fact the real difficulty, because [it is] the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, does not lie here at all.  It lies, not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation.

The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man--that the second person of the Godhead became the 'second man' (I Corinthians 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human.

Here are two mysteries for the price of one--the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus.  It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie.

"The Word was made flesh" (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.

And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality.  The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.  

Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.

from Knowing God, by J.I. Packer, IV Press, 1973, page 45-46

The incarnation is the scandal of the ages.  It's either the biggest lie that's ever been told, or it's the most incredible Truth.  If it's the Truth, it's worth investigating.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Will the Real God Please Stand Up?

To be totally fair, we should go back to the beginning….before religion….before human beings started to formulate their ideas about who God is, to figure out who the "real" God might be.

If there is a God, he would be there, at the beginning, and before religion, because the first distinguishing fact about God we could come up with would have to be that he came first.

God is the First Cause, The Author, The a priori Reality. This characteristic is foundational. It's what, among all other possible God-characteristics, is the absolute necessary one. The real God is the Creator of all other.

In fact, this characteristic is at the core of all religions, at least the monotheistic ones.

Judaism worships a God who existed before the beginning, and created all else that exists besides Himself.

Christianity worships the Judaic God as well, embracing the same story of beginnings.

Islam's first declaration about Allah is that He is the Creator.

Even Hinduism, which diverges into polytheism in its various manifestations, yet believes in one supreme God, who is the Creator (And the Enjoyer! I like that) of the universe.

Many Indigenous religions can also be traced back to worship of The Great Spirit, the Creator of everything, at the beginning, before they evolved (devolved?) into polytheism, and began worshipping the creation as well as, or instead of, the Creator.

In the beginning God created. . . Thus begins the Judeo-Christian Holy Book. The real God existed before all else, outside of all else, and brought all else into being. We might say, therefore, that all religions have got it right, in terms of beginnings and pre-beginnings of the universe.

So here we start. Our beginning. From here on, we can explore more about the nature of God. But first, we might have to talk about why we would bother. Who cares?

Well, from a purely intellectual standpoint, it seems to me it would be hard to find a more intriguing subject of study than the Creator of everything. But beyond the intellectual level I find an even deeper and more relevant pull in myself toward God-thoughts.

After "What is it like?" all human intellectual pursuits usually gravitate to "What does it matter?" Or, more definitively, "Why does it matter to me?" Beyond intellectual curiosity, why should we pursue God-thoughts?

It's obvious that humans are more than intellectual beings. The gravitational pull toward questions that begin with "why" is a manifestation of a strong pull, in human beings, toward meaning and purpose.

So far, I expect you are with me. But here's something you might want to argue with:

I would like to suggest that the most significant defining characteristic of human beings—the one that drives us even more deeply than the hunger for meaning—is the longing for relationship.

What does this longing for relationship have to do with the nature of God?

Another good question. I want to ponder that one in the next blog post. Meanwhile, feel free to interact with these musings, please. Or challenge them. I'm brainstorming here, and very open to other thoughts.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Who is God, Anyway?

It's a fair question. Definitions are a good place to start in a discussion about anything. So who is this being we have thoughts about?

A generation ago we wouldn't have needed to start here. Everyone in the Western world knew who God was, even if they didn't know him personally.

And everyone in the Eastern world knew too.

And the Middle East.

But when they all came together, as they have over the last 50 years in North America, we discovered that everyone's view of God is slightly different. Or even more than slightly different.

So which one is the real God?

The current cop-out is to say they're all real. In our culture, everyone has a "right" to create their own god. "If he's real for you, he's real," we say to each other in our tolerant way.

And, "Don't you dare try to foist your idea of god onto me," we say when we're feeling intolerant.

"Real" then becomes something other than universal being or universal understanding. It becomes unreal, in the philosophical sense.

So the "real" truth is, if all gods are real, then none of them are, and we end up with no god at all. We end up being purposeless, hopeless, nihilistic; and discussions of who God is become impossible.

If there is no true God, there's no absolute truth. If there's no absolute truth, then reason and logic are nonsense. Words mean nothing beyond the emotional associations we've made with them during our lives.

If you don't believe me...if you believe there is no such thing as absolute truth, just try to tell me that. Say: "There is no such thing as absolute truth." Then I will have the opportunity to ask you if that statement is the absolute truth.

Can you answer me? Yes, or no. Hmm. Something to think about.

So for the sake of carrying this conversation on long enough to fill up a blog, let's assume there is a God. Only one God. Then let's try to figure out how to define "him." What constitutes a being we think of as being "God"? What doesn't? An interesting exercise, if nothing else.

Next blog post we'll ask, "Will the real God please stand up?"

Meanwhile, please feel very free to comment on this one if you like.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What This Blog is Really About

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Romans 11:33

I got the title of this blog wrong. It's not "some things about God." It's some things I think about God. There's a huge difference. Please keep that in mind.

This blog is nothing more than my theological musings. I'm shy about inflicting them upon you, but because the topic is so important, I figure it's good to muse.

I'm also very aware that God reads this blog, and that makes me tremble. God is the great paradox of all time. He is beyond knowing, yet He has made Himself knowable. He stoops down to speak to us of Himself, because He loves us.

So my prayer, as I muse, is that God will guide my thoughts. He has promised that those who look for Him will find Him, when they search with all their heart. I want to do that.

Please muse with me. Comment if you like. You don't have to agree. All sincere thoughts, spoken graciously, will be posted.

Let's creep into this holy place together.