Monday, June 15, 2009

Of Golden Calves

Sure, I know. You are right. Everything you think you know about God is exactly, precisely right. What you think you know = what you actually know, 100% of the time. In his 1952 book, Your God is Too Small, J.B. Phillips raised eyebrows as he confronted the tendency to attribute human-like limitations to our eternal, almighty God (for instance the arrogant notion that you have God all figured out, and you can anticipate his every move.)

Let me add my voice. Many Christians, even biblically literate and seminary trained, are prone to over-emphasizing certain attributes of God, to the diminution of others. The result is always a scaled-down, wee little god. One more to our liking. Maybe one that bears a passing resmblance

Calvinists tend to favor the facets of God that are disciplinarian, righteous, vengeful, selectively merciful, deterministic, and sometimes generous. Charismatics emphasize the intimate, fatherly, forgiving, merciful, friendly, joyful, and always generous. And shall we speak of conservatives and liberals?

Bottom line: Excluding or diminishing facets of our Father that are supernaturally revealed in Scripture is a flaw that cultivates error, lack of love, division and carnal living. The Lord our God is One. Let us pray to the One True God to open the eyes of our understanding so we may know Him better. In all his brilliance, glory and life-changing power.

NOTE: This article was written by Chris Bradford (Exec Pastor of Discipleship, Fellowship Bible Church, McKinney TX) and published on his modest-but-profound blog. It was stolen from his wee little blog, and had a stinging intro added, in an act of villainy not equalled since the burning of the fabled library of Alexandria. Comment on his blog page to voice your outrage!!!


Christi R said...

Ok, so I'm actually having trouble getting past the picture placed on this post... but maybe that's just me...

Moving on...

I would agree with the idea of the article that we all want to believe we "know" God, but don't you think that maybe it's just how we are all trying to relate to Him? We can't comprehend so we are just trying to bring it to some level that we can understand? Maybe I'm taking this post in a more simplistic sense than it was meant to be taken in and if that's the case then I apologize to both the author and everyone reading this. But I know there are many, many days when I do things and I think to myself "gee, I hope He got a chuckle out of that". I certainly don't mean to be disrespectful, but in my search to know God better I also want to believe he 'gets me'! I don't know how else to relate to God than to show who I am and hope he understands.

I know we can't just humanize God, but if we don't try to make him someone we can relate to how can we EVER even begin to comprehend him?

If I've missed the point of this post then anyone here should feel free to tell me!

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about the same thing as Christi. God is pleased by our humble, feeble attempts to come to him ("come like a little child", you know). But I also know the Chris and JB Philips were talking not about humility, but willfulness and arrogance. But I am really stumped about how to sort out one from the other in my own life.

Garry said...

Christi, I'm with you on the photo. Joe, I calling a foul on that one. Wow.
I also agree with Christi, I'm just glad that God knows me and calls me 'His child' even though I can sometimes lose sight of the fact that He is the One who spoke and things became.
It is not a 'diminishing' attempt it is more likely just trying to understand that which I can't.
15 yards on the photo, unsportsmanlike, gives me the shakes everytime

Anonymous said...

I'd wager the calves belong to Dennis Rodman

Craig said...

Hah! Anonymous, I was thinking either Tina Turner or Dennis Rodman. . .

It has been years - no, decades - since I read Your God Is Too Small. . .

Of course, by virtue of the Incarnation, God has 'existential knowledge' of what it's like to be us, and frail and limited, and all those things that He, in Himself, is not. And it's very good for us to know that He can 'sympathize with us in our weakness'.

But of course, that isn't ALL that He is, and it's when we try to 'simplify' Him for our own sakes, that we run into trouble. Jesus is our friend, absolutely. But He's also our Creator and Lawgiver, and He'll one day be our righteous Judge, and we dare not forget that.

He loves us, but He is also Holy, and as much as we can call God, 'Abba, Father', a certain awe is entirely appropriate when we make bold to enter His presence. Think for a minute or two about what it means that the Ruler of All - the Pantokrator, as the Orthodox like to call Him - knows and cares about ME.

Some Christians, in some times and places, like to emphasize God's immanence - His 'close-at-hand-ness' - and tend to forget His transcendence, and others, in different times and places, do the opposite. But we do well, if we only remember that, whatever we, in our finite humanity, think of God, the reality is infinitely more than that. Not merely, 'way more than we can imagine', but INFINITELY more. . .

Because, you know, if we could wrap our finite minds all the way around Him, He wouldn't really be God, would He?

scott said...

Did I just hear someone say that Jesus is our friend?

And I was going to ask if those were Joan/John's calves, but I thought that might be wholly inappropriate.

Redacticus said...

Yes, as a matter of fact, that WAS wholly inappropriate.

Christi R said...

Awww, come on, Redacticus, that was funny!!!

Garry said...

If it weren't for the high-heals...
Oh, well.
I am reminded of a recent Casting Crowns song titled, "Caught in the Middle." There is a line in a verse that goes something like:
"Some where between the God we want and the God who is."
That seems to sum up the issue here. Depending on who we need God to be, as Craig said, either Almighty or All Loving, we fashion the One we need at the time.
If we need Him to be Abba Father, the loving dad who forgives us for asking, He is. If we need Him to be God the Protector, He is. If we need Him to be ...., you get the picture. It doesn't affect God.
He is still the one who Created all things. He is the coming back, conquering King of Kings riding a thunderous white war horse that is going to put a stop to ALL of the foolishness (and take names). At the same time He is the gentle, attractive to children man that said, 'let them come to me.'
He is the One who, in the garden, prayed for me.
I suppose He is the God who is and the God I want at the same time. What I need Him to be, doesn't change Him at all.

Joe B said...

So what of teaching? It is not merely individuals who hammer the God who is into the Golden calf they want him to be, it is whole movements and sects.

There is a whole industry of proving and enforcing particular conceptions of God: Catholic, Cathars, Calvinists and Charismatics.

Does the harmless invividual matter of cuddling up to God become an insidious sectarian syncretism?

Aaron worked in the glow of the pillar of fire of God's visible presence, hammering out a golden calf of well-intetioned idolatry. What keeps us enlighteded modernites from doing the same?

Is it "no big deal?"

(You knew the legs had to have some significance, didn't you? ;-))

Scott said...

I think this even hearkens back to some of the early discussions on this blog, where a few were using the rallying cry of "I just want to follow Jesus," but some others were claiming that was a useless indicator, because they needed to know WHICH JESUS we were following.

"My God wouldn't do that."
"That's not how my God works."
"That's not the Jesus that I know."

Weird, isn't it, that we all seem to know a different Jesus?

It's a problem, and in some cases it is a big deal, but if there is going to be in-depth teaching, it may be unavoidable. If I teach a class on particle physics, it's probably not going to have much room for talk of English Literature. That doesn't mean English Lit isn't important, it just might not be my area of interest or expertise as a teacher.

Or maybe it means I need to get out and read more Chaucer.

Sadly, it is also true that many entire sects form because they want to more-strongly highlight one facet of God or "the church." That's why you had the Essenes and the Sadducees and the Zealots so many thousands of years ago, and yes, that's why we have different denominations and movements today.

And with that reasoning, it's easy to make an argument that "the unchurch" is not much different. :-)

Joe B said...

Okay, let me go WAY out on a limb here. Scott's point is well made and well taken.

Does the unChurch fall into the same category as just another sect who diminishes God by narrowing their scriptural emphasis?

This will be the subject of our upcoming article.. This will be your chance to mercilessly lambast the Gentle Monks of unChurch Abbey. Don't miss it!