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.