Friday, January 11, 2013

The Eucatastrophic God (as explained by an orthodox rebel)

"The wilderness and the solitary places shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing...." Is. 35:1-2

Our God is a loving God. He is love (I John 4:8), a fighting love; not shallow and inconsequential toleration, but a love that kills and is killed for the Beloved. A love that cannot be boxed in or limited, because it is the love of God, and God will not be boxed in or limited except by Himself in covenant (Heb. 6:13-14) and Incarnation (Phil. 2:5-8), in short, in love. It is the paradoxes of God's love that make Him frustrating to a pure rationalist. God is rational, in that all that He does is consistent with Himself; but He is also more than merely rational, and often His consistencies are hidden from our eyes. They are too big for us to see.

This is not simply a matter of accepting God's "bigness," but rather realizing (wondrously, gladly) that He is a "big" person, and as a person He is not reducible to some analytical system of propositions. Of course, such systems are useful as tools, especially certain systems of philosophy or theology. Nevertheless, we must remember (as often as we forget) that our faith, hope, and love is neither in nor directed towards systems that make sense. Rather, they are in and directed towards a Person who loves and thus is full of surprises, for love is full of surprises. To desire and demand (as we often do) an answer for everything, an answer that is neat and tidy and merely rational, is to love some system more than a person, to worship philosophy and theology rather than God.

Many of the hardest "problems" leveled against the Christian Faith could be handle much more magnificently if we would just remember this one fundamental Christian assertion: God is great (i.e., is bigger and thus more inscrutable and unfathomable than we can imagine), God is good (i.e., He loves, and thus is a person who loves, and thus is full of unguessable surprises of goodness and love). Just look at the mind-boggling character and quality of His grace (viz., in redemption). It is logical, in that it flows logically from who God is; and yet logic could never have discovered it on its own, for it is a product of divine revelation rather than logical deduction. It is a surprise that makes sense; glorious, wonderful sense.

Look at Isaiah. In chapter 34, God left utterly desolate the city that injured His beloved. Now, in chapter 35, a new chord is struck: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them." The "them" in this verse (KJV) is referring back to the animals and wild beasts that have taken up residence in the desolate city and thus confirming its desolation (Is. 34:11-15). Why be glad at such a sad picture? Because it signaled the beginning of glory, the "glory" and "excellency" of the Lord (Is. 35:2b), full of happy turns and sudden surprises: the desert will blossom into a garden (vs. 1-2), weak hands and knees will be strengthened (vs. 3-4), and the blind will see and deaf hear and lame walk and dumb speak (vs. 5-6) as the wilderness and parched, thirsty grounds become filled with water and grass lands (vs. 6-7). At every point, God is turning the world upside-down, turning the vain, prideful beauties of the world into ash and the poor, desolate places of the world into things of beauty and paths of holiness (vs. 8-9).

This is an absolute turn around. This is redemption. This is resurrection. This is the awesome and inscrutable activity of a God who loves and thus is full of surprises, and there is no greater surprises than this: God has chosen the foolish things to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the mighty. He has chosen base and despised things and things that are not to bring to naught things that are, for the foolishness of God is wiser than man, and the weakness of God is stronger than man, so that all flesh may glory in nothing but Him (I Cor. 1:25-29), the Great-Good God whose unpredictable grace cuts deeper than we know and does exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ever imagine. That is who we worship: not principles, not propositions, not deductions, but the personal-infinite God of love whose grace is greater than all our systems as well as our sin.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

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