Is our presentation of God really honoring Him as He is, or lowering Him down to our level? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Recently in interacting with a non-Christian who doesn’t think there is a god out there, I got told that one problem he had with the claims of God is that there is no interaction taking place. That was part of something much larger, but the word interaction is one that I noticed immediately. As regular readers of my blog know, I have before spoken on my problems with the description of Christianity as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Now of course, I do not dispute that God is a person and the same for the rest of the Trinity, but I do dispute that the presentation we give today to an unbelieving world is what the Bible has in mind at all and if we give a false view and promise things that God never promised, then we do a dishonor to God.
Now of course, God can lower Himself as it were. This happened in the Incarnation when the second person of the Trinity took on a human nature. Yet even in that, we have in John that Jesus says it is better that He goes away or else the Holy Spirit will not come. This should strike us immediately. While there was a time we had Jesus walking on Earth as deity incarnate, He said it was better to have the Holy Spirit come. Is it the Holy Spirit who is to dwell us and to bring us to God and work on our sanctification if we are obedient to the process. Yet despite all this, could we be lowering God in another way?
You see, unbelievers are surely right when they do not see God interacting with people on that personal level. Of course, I think He can. I think God does do miracles today. I think He can speak to believers today. The difference is that I think these are the exceptions and not the rule. Too many people think that God speaking to them is a common occurrence. Interestingly, they don’t consider all the ramifications of God speaking to them, such as that if they get anything wrong that they claim would come from God, they should automatically be seen as false prophets, which in the OT would lead to stoning.
A lot of Christians will also say Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship. The language is foreign to the NT and for all intents and purposes, Christianity is a religion. We believe in a deity. We have rules of practice. We have a holy book. While religion can be a difficult term to define, I see no reason to not include Christianity in the circle. Someone could say “Well we don’t include religions like Islam or Judaism because they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” If that is your case, then all you have done is just simply beg the question.
The great danger is that when we do make claims about God as if He is someone who is expected to interact with us every day, we do not view Him as a king then but more as a friend. Of course, the King can be a friend, but He is still the King and we dare not remove Him from that position in our viewpoint. Our king does not owe us anything. We owe Him everything. This is how this ties in with the silence of God. Too often we go through these situations and can be angry with God when He seems silent because surely He owes us a response. I have found consistently after going through that no, it was good for God to not speak the way I wanted Him to. In fact, if He did, I think a number of things would happen. They would more likely for me and they could for you.
The first is that I would grow dependent on the experiences. Once that happens, you keep needing another fix over and over. You need something more and more. Now in some relationships, this is good and normal. A husband and wife do not just have sex on their honeymoon and say “Well now that we have that done, let’s get on with our marriage.” No. This becomes a unifying activity in the marriage that magically bonds the husband and wife. I really do hesitate to use the word magic there, but I say it because the more I think about this union, the more I see a mystery and beauty to it that it practically does seem like magic. This is a need especially for the men in the relationship who need to be united to their wives.
But what would happen if the man was more interested in the sex than in His wife? Ah. Now we have a problem. It is not so much that his wife is the means to knowing sex as sex is the means to knowing his wife. If he relies on the experience minus truly knowing her, then he has a problem. The man should be seeking to grow in the knowledge of his wife regularly. When I was engaged to my wife, I was studying philosophy at the time and when we were out with her parents at a lunch, I said I planned to get two Ph.D.’s. My father-in-law thought that was rather ambitious so I told him what they were. I wanted to get one in philosophy and I wanted to get one in Allie. I am to seek to be a student of knowing my wife more and more every day and learning how she works.
So it is with God that too often we come to God wanting the experience, but very rarely do we really build up in our knowledge of God. Knowledge isn’t everything, but it sure is something. Most of us know a good deal about the person already that we come to on our wedding night. If we do not, such as in a system of an arranged marriage, we make it a point that we are to know that person more and more and the best way of knowing is one that will not depend on the exceptions. It is easy to know God and to trust in Him when all is well in your life. Can you walk with Him when it is difficult and He seems distant? If you can learn to do this, you can walk with Him anywhere, and I am quite sure that those being persecuted for Christ all over the world with their lives on the line are not sitting back demanding an experience.
Another great danger that would come is pride. I am sure if God really started speaking to me, I could well develop pride. After all, what a special person I must be if God is the one who is speaking to me. Could it be that many times, God doesn’t do this because He doesn’t want to feed our egos? We should all take this into consideration because the moment you say you do not have an ego, you could have well displayed one.
So how do we know God? Well there a few ways. The first is through creation. However, most of us will not know enough philosophy and/or science to do this well and even if we do, we will come with many errors. Without the aid of any revelation, Aristotle came the closest and who among us will say we have an intellect to compare to Aristotle. (I understand Carrier has said that. Fortunately, many of us are not that egotistical.) We can read great minds like Aquinas, but we must remember that this knowledge of God while good, is not the main way we know God. I am also including moral philosophy in this as I think the study of morality tells us about God.
The next way we understand God is by the Bible. The Bible reveals who God is and what He is like and how He has brought about His plan throughout history. I do not think we should speak of the Bible as a love letter from God, but we should see it as a message of love from Him. The message is not written to us but for us. That is a distinction we must make. We too often think that everything in the Bible should be personalized. Not at all! We must see what it meant to the ancient audience first and then we are to go and apply it to our own lives. Too many passages have been ripped from their context in an attempt to personalize the Bible.
Finally, we know God through Jesus and to my fellow apologists, I cannot stress this enough. It is tempting to look at the Summa Theologica or a work like that as your baseline for who God is, but the best way is to know God through Jesus. Jesus reveals the Father to us like no one else and we know what He did through the Bible, but the Bible is in this case the means to knowing the even greater means of Jesus. When we look at Jesus, we are to see God in Him and how He interacts is how God would in the same way. Of course, Jesus did this on a human level, but this is a promise of what is coming in the future when God rules on Earth as He does in Heaven. This is still future for us.
Let us not come with this idea that God is supposed to be the way we want Him to be. Let us see Him as He is. When we present the idea of a personal relationship and God speaking to us as a commonplace regular event then we are saying God is doing something normally that He never promised to be normally. God is under no obligation to speak to us and He has not given any indication in Scripture that the kind of activity many believers present is to be seen as commonplace. While we often think God is silent, it could be that it is just who are listening for the wrong message instead of hearing what has already been said.