Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I tend to be a reactionary person. If everyone is absolutely in love with something, my natural tendency is to avoid it and/or put it down. For example, when Lord of the Rings was massively popular, I did not even bother seeing any of them until just before Return of the King came out in theaters. Here at school, everyone is in love with C.S. Lewis, and so my natural response is to argue with them as to why C.S. Lewis is not really all that great, and to point out all the things he gets wrong, and its only when I sit down to read Screwtape Letters again that I realize, well, I may not agree with every word this man says, but he does have a lot of amazing things to say.

That being said, one of the biggest areas where this tendency shows itself is when talking about the nature of God. I have friends here who tend to emphasize the love of God to the exclusion of his holiness or justice or wrath, and so my tendency is to downplay the love of God and show them why his holiness or his justice or his wrath is much more important. Or I have friends who tend to emphasize man's free will, especially regarding salvation, and so my tendency is to go overboard defending God's sovereignty to the exclusion of free will.

But one thing I've been learning since I've been at school is that Christianity is all about tensions. It's all about paradox. As humans we want to go all the way to either extreme, but staying the middle course is one of the hardest things for us to do. So the temptation is to say "It's all about God's love" or "It's all about God's holiness," but it takes serious effort and discernment to say "It's all about both God's love and his holiness." You can't downplay one to emphasize the other, because they are both equally true. 1 John 4:8 says "God is love," but Revelation 4:8 calls God "holy, holy, holy" with the triple repetition that is the Hebrew equivilent of our superlative. Both are absolutely true about God, and elevating one over the other, or trying to pick one as God's defining characteristic, is defeating the purpose.

Maybe the two are reconciled in the actual nature of what love is. Love is sacrificially giving of yourself for others ("Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" John 15:13), and God's holiness is his set-apartness from his creation, his purity. Love is essential to God's being, because the three members of the Trinity love each other and give themselves for each other, and this love overflows to loving mankind. And yet God loves mankind because he loves his holiness, and loves his glory, and glorifies himself through acheiving our redemption, so even his love for mankind is an act of love for himself.

But the thing is, I often try to explain or define my uncertainties about God away. Thinking about the previous paragraph may be helpful, but the moment I think I've solved the paradox, that's the moment I completely miss the point. Christianity is all about paradoxes, and its all about mystery. Delve far enough into any doctrine of the Christian faith and you reach a point where you say "Well, I'm stuck. God is so much bigger than me." If you're not comfortable with saying that, I think you've missed who God really is, and you've missed the wonder of the gospel.

Don't try and explain things away. Learn to live with, even embrace paradox. God reveals himself to us in amazing ways when we are no longer convinced that we can learn everything about him, but surrender ourselves to his infinitude.


BB said...

Great thoughts. You reminded me of this verse from Proverbs:

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.
Proverbs 25:2

And I almost laughed when you were talking about paradoxes and then said... that the Christian life is ALL (emphasis mine) about paradox. But let's agree with Augustine that both Faith and reason are absolutely necessary for every aspect of our lives, especially when it comes to our thoughts about God. I'm currently reading The Knowledge of the Holy by Tozer and it has "opened my eyes" to all that we will NEVER know about God. His greatness, his omnipresence, his self-sufficiency and independence, etc.

DanC said...

man, Sam... that sounds like something my sister would have said. you've got a head on your shoulders. I love listening to gifted people think.

dan c

tangentry said...

My disagreeing-with-Sam reflex wants to kick in right now... drat... it's broken. I promise I'll get it fixed in no more than a month though.

Good post. :)

tbranchaw said...

I agree with Dan, God did give you a good head (and beautiful eyes by the way). He also gave us "2 ears and 1 mouth"(have I been saying that since you could talk?) and it sounds like life is teaching you that just by...going by. That reflex is common to all, some just use it more vocally than others. Sounds like you are growing in understanding, which is all I ever ask for. love you, mom

Sarah S. said...

So, I forgot to read this post until now. But I am glad I remembered!

Re: the post

I feel like saying "I TOLD you so."

But I won't because of The Plan. :)

So all I will say is that it makes me happy to see how God is working in your life, and it makes me happy that maybe some of our conversations helped with that. Even if I *am* the friend that emphasizes God's love to the exclusion of his holiness. :)

btw, Matt has fudge on his desk. If he and his prospie didn't eat it all, that is. ;)

Pevensie15 said...

Great post.