Last week we shared Glen’s post about which God we worship – is it really the OmniBeing, or is He significantly different to that? On Saturday at Delighted By God, Mike Reeves offered us the God of Arius and the God of Athanasius as our two options (you won’t want to miss that talk, coming to the site soon). Arius defined God without the Son, Athanasius didn’t make that mistake. I’d like to bang this “which God?” drum again. It is so vital!
I was reading a review of a book that had surveyed a sample of people who believe in God and had come up with four “gods” as representative of their various conceptions of the divine – the authoritative God (judging and engaged closely), the benevolent God (engaged but nonjudgmental), the critical God (judgmental but disengaged), and the distant God (neither engaged nor judgmental).
I don’t see our God in the list.
But is that because the survey is of the general public with their pantheon of confused and self-defined beliefs? Not quite. The study pointed to a conservative evangelical church where the pastor was surprised to discover that his congregants were happy to describe God as a “cosmic force” while at the same time disagreeing sharply about whether God has a gender.
I remember a few years ago making a passing reference to Richard Bauckham’s book, God Crucified, in a church. The book highlights the very high Christology of the earliest believers, and that against the notion that the deity of Christ was a much later “evolution” in mythology. Anyway, I was taken to task after the meeting by a very conservative evangelical brother who opposed the title of the book because God didn’t die on the cross, the Son of God did. When pushed, he denied the deity of Christ.
Which brings us back to Mike’s point on Saturday – the danger of defining God without the Son. I wonder how many in our churches feel they are affirming the truth of the Bible, but are as wobbly as a child’s party pudding when it comes to who God really is?
When Jesus was asked to show the disciples the Father, he replied, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Do we really grasp the significance of that?
How often do we find ourselves trying to tick the boxes for Jesus on a supposedly agreed list of divine attributes (and trying to hide from the unhelpful statements Jesus made about his relationship to the Father). Aren’t we trying to make the gospels sing to the tune of philosophical theism? After all, we know what God is like, now why can’t Jesus just tick the boxes more overtly?
Jesus didn’t just hum a tune with a hint of divinity when he spoke of his relationship with the Father – he practically performed an opera about it! But maybe we are too deaf to hear what is so clearly there because we have been trained by the operatic faculty of MTV?
Let’s stop looking at Jesus and trying to squeeze him into our sophisticated understanding of God. Let’s gaze at the Son and know God as He chose to reveal Himself to us! If you have seen me . . .