The Uninteresting God

Why do so many of us want to sleep in on Sunday morning? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

N.T. Wright talked once about greeting undergrads at his college and how many of them would say they wouldn’t be seeing him much since they don’t believe in God. He’d ask which one they don’t believe in. They’d describe someone who lives in the sky and watches all that we do and sends good people to Heaven and bad people to Hell. Wright would tell them he doesn’t believe in that god either. He goes on to say he doesn’t think he’d bother getting out of bed to worship a god like that either.

Maybe those of us who sometimes drag ourselves out of bed think that we are in fact worshiping that god.

“But Nick! Doesn’t the Bible speak of our Father in Heaven and doesn’t it say that God is in Heaven and we are on Earth so let our words be few?”

“Yes. Yes it does.”

“Then that means God is in Heaven.”

This assumes that Heaven is some place in the sky and that when Jesus was doing the ascension, it was a kind of Star Trek idea where he was teleporting back to the home base or something of that sort. Do we really think Jesus could be flying through space like Superman and eventually reach a spot where there you will find where God lives? Once you reach that spot, just keep going down the street of gold until you reach the throne in the center and you’ll see God just sitting right there on the throne.

It sounds ludicrous, but it is what so many of us probably implicitly believe.

Then are the sayings about God being in Heaven nonsense? Not at all! They most certainly have meaning, but not the meaning of 21st century Americans.

Let us suppose as C.S. Lewis once said that instead of ascending, Jesus disappeared by burrowing underground. The disciples would have the picture of themselves being the authority in fact. Man has dominion over the Earth. God lives in the Earth. Man therefore has dominion over God. Jesus instead goes into the sky. Something you notice about the sky is that it’s transcendent. It’s limitless. No matter where you go, you see it, and you can never see the end of it. Today in the space age, we know even more that it’s greater than we’ve ever imagined.

That is the picture of God. God is limitless. God is transcendent. God overpowers us where ever we go. He cannot be localized to one place.

That does not mean that there are places where He does not make His presence more apparent. For the Jews, that would have been in the Temple. For the Christians, it is also in the Temple, but it is not the Temple of wood and stone, but rather the Temple of flesh and blood. First, it was the earthly body of Christ. Now, it is also the church body of Christ as we are God’s Temple and Christ is the cornerstone of that Temple.

What this means is we need to jettison from our minds the belief that God is just somewhere out there and He is living away at a distance and every now and then he’ll step in and do something great and then He’s back to doing whatever it is that He’s been doing, which usually consists of making sure people get good parking spaces who pray.

If God is not localized out there, then where is He? Where is He? Look around you. THAT IS WHERE HE IS! That’s right. God is omnipresent. Heaven and Earth cannot contain Him and in fact, every single ounce of space around you has within it the full presence of God. God is not an absentee landlord at all as in Deism. God is in fact always there and we are told that He not only created all things but He sustains all things.

This is one problem I can have traditionally with the Kalam argument that most people know about. It explains that God starts things off, but why think He is still there? Many people seem to think God’s only work with the material world is creation and once He creates, well the universe can get along just fine without Him.

This is absolute nonsense and don’t believe it for a second. This universe, you, and I, and everything else that is, even the angels themselves, depend on God’s sustaining of their existence for Him to be. He could be apart from everything else that exists. Everything else that exists could not be apart from Him.

A sign of our problem is that so often we can think of how God makes too many demands supposedly on our lives. Yes. God makes demands. Guess what. If you go to work, your boss makes demands of you. If you are a student, your teacher makes demands. If you are a child, your parents make demands. People who are in authority do have the power to set requirements for us. God is not obligated to give us anything. We are rightly obligated to give Him everything.

It’s like treating God as an affront to our own existence. We saw off the branch of the tree we are sitting on. We have to have Him for our existence. He could do away with all of us and exist just fine. Some who believe in a tithe could complain that God wants 10% of their money. In fact, God has all right to ask for 100% of your money and doesn’t. We can think it a burden to give God about three hours on a Sunday, which is three out of 168 hours in a week. Strange we don’t see our time wasted that much if we go see a three hour movie or play a video game for three hours or anything else that takes time like that.

Why has this happened? We have accepted a pop theology view of God as if He really was confined to one place and was at a distance and is not a constant reality here on Earth. We know the saying “Out of sight, Out of Mind.” God is indeed that for us. We can’t see His form to be sure, but we see things existing and say “I don’t see Him active around here.” Yes. Of course you don’t, and I suppose you think those trees in front of you can provide their own existence. I wonder where from.

If evangelicalism is going to have an effect in America, it will need to be rooted in a God that is really worthy of worship instead of the weak God too many of drag out of bed to go worship on Sunday. Yes, this could be a failure in our churches, but could that failure in the church be because we have a failed theology to start?

In Christ,
Nick Peters