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Thursday, November 18, 2004 

God, Among Other Humans

Did you hear the latest one about God, Mohammed, Karl Rove, George Bush, Mel Gibson, and Michael Moore? Yeah, it's a doozy! Only one problem, though -- it's not a joke. It seems that the rag-tag group mentioned above along with our Creator and the founder of Islam are all competing for a coveted prize this year -- Time Magazine's Man (oops, I mean Person) of the Year.

Now it may come as no surprise to conservative Christians and Muslim fundamentalists that God and Mohammed are in competition, but it seems doubtful that even the most moderate of these two groups would appreciate them being compared to any of the guys mentioned above. Now, I know that Time magazine always throws around some crazy ideas about who to name as Person of the Year. In 1966 they suggested possibly "The 25 and Under Generation," in 1988 it was the "Endangered Earth," and in 2003, "The American Soldier." But this might be going a bit overboard.

One thing this certainly makes a person consider is, "What do people really think when they imagine God?" I think the first thing that we can say is that there is no consensus as to who He is. In former times God-talk was not so eclectic. It seemed to center on a Being, the Creator of the universe, who was all-powerful, all-knowing, and very much seperate from us. In 1917 Rudolf Otto authored his most famous work Das Heilige or The Idea of the Holy. He reported researched many different ancient and modern civilizations to discover how they viewed whatever it was they considered holy, whether it be a god, a place, or a force. What he found was that almost universally all people view "the holy" with ambivalence. He observed that although there is great attraction to "the holy" that feeling is always met with an overwhelming sense of fear. This seems to be the case when we think about how we are to experience God. It doesn't take much systematized delving into the Bible to see that many of the Patriarchs and Prophets viewed God in this same way. Note Isaiah's account of his meeting with God in 6:1-8:
In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood
above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory." And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. "Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven. "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
If you really think about it for a moment and imagine the scene from a third person point of view, you might think, "This guy is scared for his life. Why isn't he gettin' the heck outta' Dodge instead of waiting around and volunteering his services!" And we could rightly observe that it is because in the exchange between God and Isaiah we see not only a frightful scene, but a gracious one as well. Isaiah simultaneously cowers and emboldenly speaks. What a strange combination. But this is the reaction that God desires.

But what seems more commonplace in our postmodern society, evidenced in this strange idea to make God "Person of the Year" is that we have lost all fear of God. We do not think anything irreverent anymore. It's no longer profane to assign God a place alongside any ole' sinner competing for something that is designed to mark acheivement among humans.

Although we have become used to this type of theological confusion, I think this illustrates powerfully how far our society has retreated from its roots, how far away from the ideas of the founding fathers of this nation we have drifted. It is a sad society which looses its "Idea of the Holy." Maybe that is why we have thrown morality out the door in this country and declared ourselves "God" alongside Shirley McClain.

The only answer for this craziness is for the Holy Spirit to reveal to people their sin and their inadequecy, causing them to realize that their only hope is in something more powerful than themselves and then for them to hear the Gospel and repent. Otherwise, we are destined as a society to become more irreverrent.

May You See God Work in Your Corner of the World,

*as an aside I would like to thank my lovely fiance for keeping me up to date on the news while I slave away sending out resumes and getting our wedding invitations ready to send out. I love you, Brandi! Only 51 more days!

About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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