Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Stained-Glass God (as told by an orthodox rebel)

"Thy Maker is thy husband.... [He] has called you as a woman forsaken and brokenhearted, as a wife wooed in her youth but later abandoned.... Behold, I have created the smith who blows the coals in the fire and brings forth a weapon for his work; I have created the devastator to destroy. [Therefore,] no weapon formed against you shall prosper...." Is. 54:5-6, 16-17

Our God is a God of sovereign-love: all-powerful, righteous zeal and passion for His beloved. He is the husband that husbands ought to be, the substance to the many shadows of many men.

We do not understand this, and in our attempts to grapple with who God really is we often give in to our terrible simplifications. For some, God is nothing else but sovereignty, nothing but all-power. This is the error of hyper-Calvinists (and many legalistic sects). God is nothing to them but power: He saves because He is in charge, and He damns because He is in charge. If we don't like it, then tough. Who are you, oh man, to question this God? You are an irrelevant wisp on the wind, and to Him you mean less than nothing. In truth, it is a reverential position to take, but it is also a loveless, lifeless affair. God is the cosmic administrative taskmaster, and we are no more than the cogs and pawns of His perfect system. It is the way of Allah and not of Jehovah.

For others, however, God is nothing but love, nothing but all-passion and all-affection. This is the error of religious liberals and progressive-types. God is nothing to them but raw emotion, a omnipotent sentimentalism that cares little for truth or clarity. All that matters to Him are our feelings and that He meets them all and hurts none. Thus, all "hard" doctrines must be rubbed out completely or be so blurred in revision that it is the same thing as being rubbed out completely. All so we can be assured that "love wins," even against itself. In truth, it is a sympathetic position to take, yet it is an enterprise doomed to failure. God's love means absolutely nothing except what He has said about it, and too often we confuse and conflate the "love of God" with our own shallow sense of tolerance. It is a house of cards that will never survive the thousand natural shocks of life.

God is not "Power or Passion". He is not "Truth or Love," "Doctrine or Compassion," "Holiness or Authenticity," or any other of our false dichotomies. He is both/and and not either/or: both power and passion, truth and love, doctrine and compassion, holiness and authenticity, the "Maker" and the "husband". He is all good things, without division or confusion. It is we who divide and confuse, because we are confused and divided---in ourselves and with each other. This should be no surprise. We are our own worst enemy, our own great and constant failure, which is why it is so paramount we move past ourselves, past everybody else, past all agendas and plans and man-made movements and draw close to the God of sovereign-love, whose simplicity answers all our insanities, whose infinite diversity fractures our rigid systems into a glorious stained-glass window, and whose all-encompassing absolutism consumes our discrepancies like the sea swallows the rain.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

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