Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Life in the grey areas: who is God anyway?

Andy over at Life in the Grey Areas has a post onwho is God anyway?

There are a couple of quicktime clips on his post. So go check them out. The clips are of a guy named Ricky Gervais. Who is an atheist. The clips from his live show ‘Animals’. It's a brilliant and humorous way of illustrating just how we can never fathom God.

God is God and we are not. No matter how much we learn and study and experience there is always more to learn. We don't arrive at a place of absolute knowledge of all the nuances of who God is and his ways. We are always learning. That's one of the ways in which we are to remain child-like. Eager, hunger to know, to explore, to ask questions.

Andy writes:
How many Christians do you know who talk about God in absolute terms, like they have a complete understanding of who he is? I know a few. But here’s the thing, the very nature of a creator-created relationship is that the created can never know as much as the creator, because the creator knew how to bring the created into being. As far as I can tell, it stands to reason that we can never understand him. We think up new inventions, create new designs and think we are clever, and we are, but we are drawing on the inspiration of what we find around us. Can we create something out of nothing? No, it is not in our capabilities. But it is in God’s. Let me allow Ricky Gervais to illustrate that point…

We have absolutely no idea who God is. We can understand, to some degree, who Jesus is because he walked this earth, but we can never understand who God is because he created this earth. If we could understand him, there would be no room for wonder, no room for awe, no room for the overwhelming sense of surrender as we experience his tangible presence.

‘God’ is some mystical term that has little relevance to many people, yet as Christians we insist on talking about God as if he is easily defined. ‘Trust in God’, ‘Believe in God or perish’, ‘God will judge your sin’, ‘God loves you’. OK, but who is God? Unless we can accompany all our assertions with a revelation of who God is, giving the people with whom we communicate a framework from which to hang our statements, we will never be seen as making anything close to sense.

But God has given us a way to have glimpses of who he is through Jesus. We have been given real insight into Jesus - who he was, what he did, why he did it, and how. So why is it that so many of us feel more comfortable talking about God, who we can never hope to understand, than we do talking about Jesus, whose very life has been handed to us to absorb?

I think it is because of the very fact that we can begin to understand Jesus, the fact that we can get up close and personal with him, that so many of us find it so awkward to talk about Jesus, and easy to talk about God.

And so we hide behind a mysterious term, ‘God’, that we try to wrap up in complex terminology or, worse, trite statements, in the mistaken belief that we know who he is. There is one thing we can know about God - he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, experience tells us this, and that is all we need to know. In that knowledge we can find the security to explore the pathways as we pursue Jesus; to venture deep into Life in the grey areas.


Scott said...

Excuse me Andy...

"We have absolutely no idea who God is"? If that's the case then what do we believe in?

I'm not saying I've got it all figured out, but I'm thankful I believe in a God that promises me knowledge of him when I search for it. (proverbs 2:4-5)

nuff said...

pastor mike said...

Scott is right.
Andy I think over states his case.

Kevin Flatt said...

I've been hearing this idea that Andy is overstating a lot lately (e.g. Rob Bell teaches the same thing in Velvet Elvis). I think we are seeing the influence of postmodernist philosophy here. Postmodernism, as taught by the major postmodernist philosophers, creates doubt about our ability to truly know anything, and doubt about our ability to describe or communicate about the real world. Human language can't capture objective truths.

Obviously Andy doesn't go that far, but it's no coincidence that this scepticism about being able to know things about God is usually found among postmodernism-friendly authors.

There is a half-truth here: it is quite true that we cannot know or understand everything about God; that is impossible. It is also true that everyone has times of doubt or uncertainty. But we can absolutely trust and believe SOME things about God because he has revealed himself to us. For example: God exists; He is good; He made the universe; He exists as a Trinity, three persons in one God; He gave His Son to die for our sins, and so on and so on (notice that these are all propositions).

What would Andy say to someone who thinks God combines good and evil in his nature, for example?

This radical uncertainty is ultimately incompatible with the faith. In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell uses it to argue that we should regard the Virgin Birth as an optional doctrine, which is bad enough. But taken to its logical conclusion it makes every doctrine optional.