Knowledge of the Holy: part 1

“The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us….A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them.  It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate” (vii, viii).

What do you think about God?  Who is He?  What does He look like?  What is His character?  When we are faced with such direct questions, it is fairly easy to say, “I don’t know.”  And yet, if we reflect on it, we would all have some answer to these questions.  It is upon those answers, unconscious though they may be, that we rest our theology.  It is upon those answers that we base our trust.  Yet it is those answers that we must throw out the window if we are to come to know, even limitedly, the holiness of God.  To be “holy” is to be set apart.  In social science parlance, it is to be “other”–that is, unlike me.  But how do we conceive of something that is so completely other?  I am made in God’s image, but I am not the stuff of God.

It seems like Tozer is offering us a paradox: come know the unknowable.  In fact, though, it is not Tozer that offers us this contradiction, it is God Himself.  Tozer notes that “[l]ow views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them” (3).  You cannot begin to fathom the Cross and Resurrection if you do not understand the heights from which we have fallen.  That blood was required to make us clean should be enough to stop us in our tracks and begin to worship the triune God.  But this wasn’t just blood, this was the blood of God’s own Son.  The chasm that opened between humanity and God in the Garden, was so huge that the sacrifice of God alone could close it.  How could we not worship Him?  Why do we so often worship something less?  Tozer again: “A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well.  It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse” (2).  Again I ask you: what do you think about God?

Wrong thinking about God is not to be taken lightly.  Indeed, Tozer defines idolatry as “the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him” (3).  That is a scary thought, indeed.  How often do I want to shake my fist at God and accuse Him of acting against His goodness?  Or bargain with Him to get my way?  How often do I approach the Holy Creator God as though He were a benevolent, if somewhat eccentric, great uncle? Instead, shouldn’t I respond as Isaiah: Woe is me!  Wretched and unclean, I have come before the Holy God! (Is. 6:5)  Everything I am and everything I will become hinges on a right understanding of God.  Until I realize the fullness of my creatureliness in the face of my Creator, I will continue to live as though our relationship is a partnership of likes, if not equals.  I will continue to strive as though I could bring about my own grace or create my own worth.  I will continue to be the clay instructing the Potter.  It really is that ridiculous.

What we think about God is vital to our Christian life.  In the next twenty-two chapters, we will unpack the attributes of God, and attempt to view God for who He reveals Himself to be, as best as our finite human minds can fathom the Infinite and Holy.  I encourage you to keep a journal in which you can wrestle with these notions.  But most importantly, I encourage you to be praying to the Holy Spirt for illumination.  The story doesn’t always make sense to us, but it is His story and when we know the Author it’s much more fun, if not less terrifying, to read–or in this case, to live.

Enjoy the journey!

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