Thank God You Don't Know God
John ShoreBesides here on Crosswalk, John blogs on JohnShore.com.
- 2011 Apr 22
We all hate doubt and uncertainty in our lives. What we want in our lives is security. We need to know things are all right, not hope or wonder if they are.
And the more important something is to us, the more surety we desire about that thing.
And what do most of us count as among those things about which we definitely desire the maximum amount of certainty?
But of course: Ourselves!
In order to feel as secure as possible about ourselves, we all need to have every last bit of mental and emotional certainty that we can possibly muster about these three things:
1. The Big Picture. God; no God; which God, etc. Everybody needs (and in one way or another everyone invariably establishes for themselves) the Big Context.
2. Our relationships with others. Who likes us? Who loves us? Why? Why not?
3. The afterlife. What’s going to happen to us after we die, for God’s sake?
Those are life’s Big Three constant concerns.
And what those three concerns boil down to are these: What was going on before I got here (the God question); what is happening while I’m here (the people question); and what will happen to me after I’m outta here?
The past; the present; the future. That pretty much wraps up everything anyone really cares about at all.
And what supplies complete answers to all three of those critical, lifelong concerns?
Religion! A person who believes in the core tenets of a religion automatically has comprehensive answers to virtually all three of the biggest areas of concern in their own or anyone else’s life.
And that, right there, is why ninety-five percent of people cleave to one religion or another. (The very definite belief system of atheism is also predicated upon pure faith—but we’ll let that go.) Religion comforts people, in every big and important way that we all need comforting.
We Christians say that we’re saved. And that’s exactly what we mean, too: that we’ve been saved from fear; that Jesus was God who came to earth for the singular purpose of making sure that we really understand that we don’t have to live with fear and doubt about who God is, how we’re supposed to live, and what will happen to us after we die.
And what a beautiful, beautiful thing that is.
Except here’s where things begin to go a little askew. Because, saved or not, what happens is that we take our persistent, instinctive drive to be absolutely, one hundred percent certain about everything, and then superimpose it over whatever it is we believe about God.
We must be certain about God, after all. If we’re not, then our whole precious matrix of certainties begins to fall unravel.
Taken altogether, what this means is that we don’t really want a God who is mysterious. Because there’s no way we’re going to be comfortable being wholly dependent upon something the very nature of which is profoundly mysterious. That’s just not going to work for us. It never has. It never will. It can’t. A God who can’t be readily grasped is a God who leaves on the table too much that’s too important to us.
And so time and time again we naturally find ourselves telling ourselves that we don’t just think we know who God is, but that we know who God is.
And that’s actually quite fine, and even true: as a Christian, I believe that I do know who God is. But I think it’s terribly important that at least every once in a while we Christians also remember to stop and at least acknowledge that for us God has always been, and will always be, a mystery. We mustn’t be afraid to be more cognizant of the fact that we don’t know everything about God; that we can’t know everything about God; that we shouldn’t know everything about God; that we can no sooner hold God in our minds than we can flap our arms and fly.
And it’s not like it’s hard for us to be reminded of how completely unfathomable is God and our relationship to him:
We are rightfully proud to be God’s representative on earth. Yet we know pride to be one the devil’s strongest tools against us.
We must be strong, forthright leaders. Yet we must be humble, broken followers.
We don’t want our religion reduced to rules—we want relationship, not religion! Yet we must systematize our faith so that we can effectively practice it, study it, and teach it the world.
Nature is the ultimate expression of God’s glorious handiwork. Yet the earth is God’s gift to mankind to use in whatever way we thinks best.
We should delight in our sexual relationship with our spouse. Yet sex is Satan’s weapon of choice against us.
We must evangelize to others. Yet people are saved by God’s grace, and God’s grace alone.
God has a plan and a purpose for our life. Yet God is self-sufficient; nothing can be added or taken from him.
Heaven is ours. Yet we still await God’s judgment of us.
Jesus was fully human. Yet he was absolutely sinless.
God is one. Yet God is three.
Mysteries all, right?
And those are just the ones we know about.
It’s not that we’re helpless to understand or intuit the greater truths behind these sorts of dichotomies. It’s just that the very nature of our faith demands that we also periodically remember to admit to ourselves that, no matter how inspired or full of God’s grace we might at times feel, at best it’s like trying to understand the sun by looking at a shadow.
And thank God for that! Who wants a God they can comprehend? How weak would that be?
I think we should consider modifying our worship services. I think that one Sunday a month, everyone in every church in the world—including (if not especially) the pastors—should file into the sanctuary, come into the pews, take a seat, and, for the duration of the time the service usually lasts, remain perfectly quiet.