Sunday, November 20, 2011

God isn't like me

Yesterday evening, during the time in evening prayer that begins our Sabbath day, my wife and I read aloud the appointed Psalm for the evening, and it contains the following words:  "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host."  (Ps 33:6)  

For years this verse has been a key to open my heart in worship toward God.  When I consider the impact of this statement, it causes me to see how great a Being the true God must be.  Consider that it was simply by his words alone that God made the universe (or perhaps the multiverse).  In this case, we are not pressing  an overly literalistic reading of the text; Genesis 1 corroborates this sense of "the word of LORD."  For in Genesis 1 we are told that God said a sentence (i.e. "Let there be light"), and, in the ultimate in Hebraic understatement, "it was so."  It was the decree of God, anthropomorphically described as his voice, that was his instrument of creation.  The analogy God is using here tells us that it was as easy for God to create the universe as it is for us to speak a single word.  Think about it:  how hard is it for a healthy, normally developed adult to speak a word?  We do it with barely a thought, don't we?  We do it without exerting any noticeable effort, do we not?  This is how it was for God to create the ever expanding vastness of space with everything the floats around it.  God made the wonders that Hubble sees (and more!) with as little exertion as a "hello."

Is it any wonder then, that we don't "get" Him?  Is it any wonder that, if our own nature is a mystery to us, that His Nature as Triune, doesn't make sense to us?  Should it surprise us that He can simultaneously hear all the prayers of all time?  Indeed, if He created like the Bible describes, should it surprise us if He does anything, such as speaking through frail, evil men or even raising the dead?

Two somewhat recent movies come to mind when I think about these things.  One is Bill Maher's Religulous.  In this film Maher mocks the idea that God could possibly hear all mumblings (prayers) of so many people.  Maher would be right if God were like us, but the vision of God given to us in the Scriptures shows us a God for whom such listening isn't ridiculous.  (Indeed, does a brilliant author have any trouble keeping track of what his characters have said and are saying, even though, in the world of the story they are speaking at the same time? How much more so the 'brilliant' God?)  

I think Maher would do well to consider something Dr. Manhattan says in Watchmen.  After being asked if he is God, Dr. Manhattan, the god-like super man of Alan Moore's nihilistic masterpiece, states that he doesn't think there is a God, but if God exists he is "nothing like me."  The latter part of this statement, found in a work of art that is no friend to the Christian worldview, is profoundly true.  God is not just some super man.  He is not, like the Graeco-Roman gods, some projection of human perfection into an ideal or infinite state.  He is qualitatively other.   He isn't like me or you, not in an ontological sense.  He may reveal Himself to us, as He speaks of his "voice" or "hand," but these descriptions do not contain Him.  His act of creating all things of nothing through a word is a wonder, but He Himself is a wonder beyond words.  

In light of all this, we may also marvel at what the Psalmist says elsewhere:  "When I look at your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps 8:3-4)  The greatest wonder is that God cares for us, that somehow, with an mind that is beyond our comprehension, He not only sustains the whole universe with every unpredictable atom, but he also is mindful of us.  So mindful that He, the ineffable God, became a man that He might bring mankind into the very mystery of God's own life.  (More on this during Christmas!)

Season after Pentecost 2011, Proper 28

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