October 22, 2014

An Ordinary God

Moses on Mt. Sinai, Gerome

Moses on Mt. Sinai, Gerome

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?’
‘Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?’
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

- Romans 11:33:36, NRSV

* * *

In an opinion piece at RNS, Mitchell Stevens argues that, while society is not becoming less religious, the “god” people worship has generally become diminished. God is a mere shadow of his former self.

God is not, to borrow Friedrich Nietzsche’s image from 1882, dead. And neither is religion approaching extinction, despite what its staunchest opponents may have wished. The number of people in the world who have rejected religion has been rising rapidly; nonetheless, as of 2012 only 13 percent of the world’s population would describe themselves as convinced atheists, according to a global survey by WIN-Gallup International. Here in the United States, only 5 percent would accept that designation.

However, religion has been growing much less important. God once was seen as commanding the entire universe and supervising all of its inhabitants — inflicting tragedies, bestowing triumphs, enforcing morality. But now, outside of some lingering loud pockets of orthodoxy, we have witnessed the arrival of a less mighty, increasingly inconsequential version of God.

Stevens supports his case by making the following observations:

  • Religions explain much less than they used to.
  • God is being given less credit for the outcomes of our personal experiences.
  • The worship of this God is also less demanding, and religions tend to impose fewer restrictions on adherents. People are also less likely to go along with the standards religions might promote.
  • Most today hold their religious beliefs more lightly than their ancestors.

The commenter quotes the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who predicted that religion would not be “o’erthrown” but simply become “unregarded.” Then he concludes:

Religion’s supporters can take comfort in the fact that, so far, most minds still find room for some sort of God. But as religion recedes and we contend less and less with the strictures of ancient holy texts, it is an increasingly distant, indistinct, uninvolved, ordinary God.

* * *

Mitchell Stevens is describing life in a secularized age, with little room for transcendence, mystery, awe, and humility. In our world, humans can recreate any sort of miracle or spectacle by means of CGI on a 3-D Imax movie screen, and so it has become hard to be “wowed” by almost anything. The most distant stars in the universe and the smallest particles of matter seem accessible to humans, and the fact that I can view them all and hear them explained in my living room or on the device in the palm of my hand threatens to diminish the wonder of life itself.

As I sit here tonight with my laptop, I have easy and quick access to a quantity of information my ancestors could never have imagined even existed. They gazed into the night sky and felt miniscule. They could explain so little, compared to what we know today. Sure, we still face intractable challenges like cancer, poverty, and warfare, but the very fact that we see them as “challenges” rather than as “powers and principalities” holding dread sway over us signals that we live in a different age.

Is it possible for us to imagine anything we cannot ultimately master, given enough time and resources?

Is it still possible for us to imagine a God who is beyond our knowledge and control?

Where is this leading? Religion may have a future, but what of God?

Comments

  1. Great piece and great questions that you ended with, Mike.

    That is exactly why it is so important for the preacher not to get weak-kneed and give the sinner what they want to hear…but give them what they need to hear. And that being that death will have it’s way with us, and that we will need new life at some point . And in Christ we will get it. Indeed we are already living in it.

  2. “Is it possible for us to imagine anything we cannot ultimately master, given enough time and resources?”

    That’s just the thing, though. The myth of limitless growth, fueled by the illusion that there is infinite time, and there are limitless resources, for our use. But as some of the growing planetary crises we are now facing show, it’s not so. It seems as if we’re coming up against hard edges that resist us with titanic forces, and complexities, that boggle our thinking. Add to that the geometrically escalating factor of unintended consequences, and it’s precisely the things that we do not imagine that resist our mastery. There is a good amount of hubris in our perception of ourselves as having come into mastery. We are far more like an adolescent who has just learned to drive, and is heady with the excitement that it involves, but really is master of nothing, not the automobile, not herself, and is in fact not even a good driver. A world come of age? Certainly. But not a world come into maturity.

    Add to this that for many untold hundreds of millions, the technological advances that some of us take for granted are almost a mockery of their desperate condition, providing no sense of hope for a better tomorrow, and often anonymously shaping their lives in dehumanizing ways, and the picture does not appear so rosy. Our mastery is an illusion, and an illusion that “benefits” some far more than others.

    And where is God in all this? The world has always been interpreted in narratives other than the one involving the God of Israel and Jesus Christ. Those other narratives have never seen the God and Father of Jesus Christ; the invisibility of Jesus Christ to other narratives continues in our contemporary situation, and will continue until the Parousia, and the Eschaton. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. We walk by faith, and not by sight.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      “…and will continue until the Parousia, and the Eschaton.” Yes, and forgive my bible thumping, for I take great hope in this assurance: Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. As to when, who knows? Presumably sometime between now and when our sun becomes a red giant.

  3. Indeed, our world ( with satan’s encouragement ) has painted the creator with a small “g.” Mitchell Stevens has it right I think.

  4. Maybe the concept of “God” has outlived its usefulness. Certainly the trade-offs are off-putting.

  5. “Is it possible for us to imagine anything we cannot ultimately master, given enough time and resources?” Death. And then all our mastery means nothing and we’re in the position of Job, bowing before God’s incomprehensible power.

  6. Robert F has the same intuition I do; the race has entered its adolescence. Apart from separating individual biounits for eternal blessedness in “heaven”, which I think is really just a minute part of His work, God evidently has a work He is accomplishing, through Christ and his Church, in all of us. The relationships between parents and children undergoes so me modifications in adolescence.

    I have to learn not to care how irreligious the wider culture gets. My responsibilities remain the same; to love them, pray for them, encourage what goodness I can, and to leave adolescence as quickly and painlessly as possible myself.

    And Seneca is right as well. The malice of the demons cannot be overstated. If formerly they masqueraded as powerful, benevolent, albeit capricious deities, interposing themselves between God and man, they now denude the heavens and the Earth, so that even Peter Brown says that in modern, Enlightenment Christianity you will encounter about as much heaven as any flier of the friendly skies. “You’re on your own,” they whisper, which is delightful news to any teenager until things start to go wrong.

    I think man, or men and women, will develop a new appreciation for God when he begins to take seriously the need to control themselves.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      +1

      > I think man, or men and women, will develop a new appreciation for God when he begins
      > to take seriously the need to control themselves.

      The consequences of reckless youth may tarry, but they will always come. But a youth spent in the careful cultivation of arrogance and rationalization may produce an adult incapable of accepted those consequences for what they are.

      I know that, personally, I have learned a great deal [including humility] from the repercussions of my own youthful follies [which were not of the `exciting` kind, but follies none the less].

    • “I think man, or men and women, will develop a new appreciation for God when he begins to take seriously the need to control themselves.”

      Excellent observation. Sort of like the story of the tower of Babel…

      “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.'” (Genesis 11.5-7)

  7. So, did Jesus come to establish a religion or a Kingdom? Your illustration is quite telling. Moses and the Law loom large, but a legalistic approach to bettering the lives of humans seems to have been a long, long experiment that ran its course.

    By the First Century, current thinking seemed to be that one could be a follower of Jesus (and by extension, Jehovah) without conforming to the Law of Moses if one followed the teachings of the rabbi himself. This incensed the religious elite who killed not only the rabbi, but his followers. And it was one such Enforcer of Religious Law who was so stunningly converted on his way to imprison Damascene followers that he became an enemy of the Lawyers and Religious Elite himself. His writing seemed to emphasize a non-religious approach to religion that abandoned many of the forms while holding on to the substance.

    Maybe we are on the cusp of an age where people are truly seeking to enter a Kingdom, not a religion. They want to be citizens of the Unexplored Country rather than adherents to a dogma.

    Maybe.

    • Rick, what kind of God will they worship and follow?

      And I get the distinction between “citizens of the Unexplored Country rather than adherents to a dogma,” but is it actually possible to be “dogma-less”? Also, what kind of community can be formed around a bunch of individual explorers? — because it seems Jesus was intent on creating a community.

      These are not rhetorical questions. I don’t have the answers, but I’d love to hear your take on them.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Rick, what kind of God will they worship and follow?

        For my generation, it was the God they see in the mirror.

        And I get the distinction between “citizens of the Unexplored Country rather than adherents to a dogma,” but is it actually possible to be “dogma-less”? Also, what kind of community can be formed around a bunch of individual explorers?

        American Fundagelicalism, with its atomistic individuals with their Personal LOORD and Savior and nobody else. With a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation — no other biounits needed or wanted. Kind of like a D&D player-character party of asocial “Murder Hobos” thrown together for a dungeon raid.

        • Each one a paladin, armored like an M1 tank and bristling sharp metal. Crusading for the light and in no need of anything so retrograde as a priest to heal their wounds.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > is it actually possible to be “dogma-less”?

        Emphatically, no.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > So, did Jesus come to establish a religion or a Kingdom?

      Both. I know anti-religion is popular. But I don’t see this. Not seeing Jesus Christ as a *R*eligious figure is non-sensical.

      I just do not real what Jesus said, or what Paul said, as anti-Religious. It just isn’t.

      They were anti-status-seeking. They were anti [what we would now call] Identity Polotics – see I sacrifice at the Synagogue at all the high-feasts – therefore I am a Good Jew. Opposing that is not Anti-Religious.

      A Religionless Christianity is simply the end of Christianity.

      • Not to be overly picky Adam, but sacrifice didn’t take place at a synagogue, it took place at The Temple…

    • Randy Thompson says:

      Dogma, if you will, is the road map by which we find the Kingdom and recognize that it is the Kingdom.

      Dogma is a good thing; just don’t over-do it.

  8. Maybe we had to lose God to find him again. I see so many young people looking for God, looking for things I was taught and put aside as useless. God will show himself again, despite our indifference.

  9. Is this a bad thing? Is John Piper’s god (lower case intentional) stronger, which he credits for every tragedy as an act of judgment?

    I don’t believe post-modernism has simply introduced more secularization; even more, it has resulted in strange and frightening forms of superstition. Nothing has diminished the sovereignty and majesty of God as much as making Him the champion of political campaigns and cultural wars. Perhaps this began with the cold war, when God was used as a deterrent and propaganda against godless communism. The second reduction of God was at the hands of evangelicals who reduced God to a bell hop catering to our every need and whim. Since all we need are biblical “principles” to get what we need in life, evangelicals have made God dispensable.

    • God has always been used by those who would warp his true love. It is nothing new. You seem to fixate on the Cold War, but all of us from that generation have a very deep passion about the subject. I’m afraid we have reached the post, post modernism of life. Nothing means everything. How do we stop this?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > I’m afraid we have reached the post, post modernism of life. Nothing means everything.
        > How do we stop this?

        By changing society, by making the individual less isolated [an isolation magnified, not reduced, by technology].

        Both despair and paranoia, as well as incivility, prosper in the lonely soul. The solution is old-school. An answer is the rebirth of community and a return to civic engagement. Engagement has ***plummeted*** almost across the board from bowling and baseball leagues to the PTA to church.

        Loving my neighbor is good for both him an me. And that requires meeting him. And there is more meaning when I can see possibilities. And the possibilities are enormously increased when I act in community; rather than living a life of solitary distraction. Possibilities give birth to vision, and vision informs a sense of meaning and purpose. A tiny life of entertainment will never have a place for awe.

      • I meant no fixation on the Cold War; however, I believe strongly the cultural war has its roots in that period. The melding of religion with politics and nationalism objectifies God and elevates and elevating nationalism/patriotism to our true object of worship. There is no awe and wonder in a god who has become a tool.

        • There may be no awe and wonder in an objectified god; however, there is fear and dread – not of that god but of those who claim to control it.

          I wish I had time to elaborate. Essentially, God does not lose meaning, rather the symbols of the church pertaining to God lose their original meaning or are high-jacked or sabotaged for other causes or purposes.

          • ox,

            I think you have outlined well a couple of the high points in recent memory, that find their roots in and are expressions of the Enlightenment notion that reality is split in two, the material/physical and the non-material/spiritual. (This is not necessarily found only there, but very strongly there, and that is our intellectual/philosophical inheritance – the water in which we swim.) God – if we believe in God – is exiled to the upper storey and only makes an appearance to “miraculously intervene” in our world. What is necessary is awareness of the real immanence of the transcendent God in a reality that is really One. This does not mean one has to fall into piperism, or culture wars. And it’s the only way that the symbols of the Church have meaning at all, and can be rescued from what other causes or purposes want to use them for.

            Dana

  10. I think technology amplifies whats in us, if anything i feel less optimistic about the human race. From extremely nasty exchanges on blogs or other social media to the normal occurrence of people going on a rampage the widespread dissemination of information and communication highlights our fallen nature. It is not like the star trek myth where technology brings about universal prosperity and people just become good and peace rules the universe. God have mercy on us, i miss the days when we were simpler and wiser.

  11. “The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.” – Paul Tillich.

  12. “The most distant stars in the universe and the smallest particles of matter seem accessible to humans, and the fact that I can view them all and hear them explained in my living room or on the device in the palm of my hand threatens to diminish the wonder of life itself.”

    Hmm, I think I understand what you are saying here, but my intuition tends to be the opposite. Knowledge of these things at the tips of our fingers doesn’t have to diminish their wonder. As a scientist, my sense of wonder is enhanced with the increase of this knowledge. I don’t mean to diminish your point, but I thought I’d push back just a bit at this statement.

    That being said, I think you are right to be concerned about the diminished nature of God in our culture. But, as other commentators have already said, our job as the church hasn’t changed. We are to continue to be the salt of the earth and usher in his Kingdom. I also think that Robert F. has the right of it. Humanity has come into its adolescence, and it’s a brave new wild world out there. But, the clouds are already darkening on the horizon, and we have a long maturation process ahead of us, which I suspect will squash many of the heady “tower of Babel” idealizations that we as a culture have today. By the grace of God and the growth of his Kingdom, we’ll get through it one way or the other. We have that promise to rest on.

    • Dan, I too think it may be possible to develop an even deeper sense of wonder as we continue to learn about our universe. But I also think traditional religion is slow and even averse to doing this.

      The battles over the Bible and our understanding of creation provide telling illustrations of this. I happen to think it would be good for the church to begin thinking of creation more in terms of the book of Job than using its outdated, immature interpretations of Genesis. There is no mistaking the transcendence and uncontrollable nature of Job’s God. But we hesitate to go there because it upsets all our structures and wrests any sense of control from our hands.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Dan, I too think it may be possible to develop an even deeper sense of wonder as we continue to learn about our universe. But I also think traditional religion is slow and even averse to doing this.

        In other words, there’s a lot of lag time. Christians have a rep of being notoriously Late Adopters.

        Thing is, a 6018-year-old, ending any minute now, Earth-and-Some-Lights-In-the-Sky Punyverse is a lot cozier than the Cosmos we know of today. There’s probably a “return to the womb” factor involved.

        One LJ blogger I’m in contact with, Jordan179, postulates that the sky/other worlds/big universe still has the baggage of being “Heaven”, a Supernatural Spirit World (whereas Earth is the province of mortal men), and we’re subconsciously invokling “Man Was Not Meant To Know.”

        A real kicker because the Doctrine of the Incarnation makes Christianity very well-equipped to handle Deep Space and Deep Time — no matter how Deep the Space and Time, no matter how big the God, God remains on a one-to-one human scale through Christ.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > There’s probably a “return to the womb” factor involved.

          For someone who dismisses much as “psychobable”… it is odd for you to use this explanation.

          I propose a more charitable, and IMNSHO more accurate, explanation – a failure of eduction. Without reasonable math skills – or at least exposure to Math [not Arithmetic, I mean Math] – much of the Big Universe simply cannot be seen as anything other than nonsense, babble, and eye-roll worthy crazy talk. It `clearly is not true`.

          Roll that simple actual *inability* to believe Big Universe with the very natural and common human trait of taking on tribal identity ["My People do not believe that nonsense"]. … and here you are.

          No doubt there are some Punyverse true believers. But talk to not many punyversers and I think you’ll discover that it is mostly about the accepted `common sense` among their tribe.

          Downside – at that point you realize that debate is pointless.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > The battles over the Bible and our understanding of creation provide telling illustrations of this

        This raises the question of who we are talking about. Are we talking about Christians/Evangelicals/Post-Evangelicals, or are we talking about `everyone`, `everyone in the West`, or the general America over-culture? The article is a bit vague on who the who is.

        But if we step outside of the orbit and near-orbits of Evangelicalism… are there “battles over the Bible and our understanding of creation”?

        From outside that orbit I just don’t see the fight. Next to nobody cares, nobody is paying attention. I know that from within that orbit this is very hard to believe. But for most everyone I know those battles would only seem anachronistic, if they took the time to notice someone was still fighting them. Fortunately, and there is a blessing buried in this, they don’t take the time to notice. While the antics and `debates` of Evangelical turn my stomach – it is only because I can still see them warring on the distant plain – for just about everyone else they are nothing but an occasional odd flash on the horizon [or an odd-ball talking head that gets a slot on CNN in order to add some spice]

        Even in the local RCC I am confident an argument over the Genesis creation account would not raise much interest outside of a small enclave of fundies [and you can always find fundies in any group of significant size, regardless of its stripe].

        I am both more pessimistic and more optimistic at the same time. :)

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “The most distant stars in the universe and the smallest particles of matter seem accessible to humans, …”

      I suppose that someone feels this accessibility. I do not. This knowledge is gob-smacking. The distances are completely unintelligible. Maybe when I was younger part of me felt this accessibility, and suspension of disbelief for things like science-fiction was easier.

      Now I understand. Those stars and their worlds are utterly inaccessible to us. We can never reach them, never touch them, never smell their air. All we can do is observe from afar and puzzle over all that we cannot see.

      This does not feel like “accessible” to me. The universe is a towering monstrosity of ominous cold.

      I suppose if you do not look at our limits and resource constraints and the gob-smack math involved in achieving that kind of “accessibility”… It is 2014 and it still takes me essentially an entire day of misery to visit a friend on the opposite coast. A little bad weather makes the other side of my state inaccessible from my city.

      We’ve achieve a lot of things, but only in a certain few areas. It looks like amazing progress only from a certain angle.

    • Dan, you took the words right out of my mouth. As I was scrolling down, reading each post, forming in my mind my thoughts . . . then I came to your words that wrote them for me.

      I could get my head around the OT god that I was taught in Sunday School He was a lot like me. Now that I know the universe much better, both subatomic and on a cosmic scale, I can’t begin to get my head around Him. So my awe comes from quantum mechanics and dark matter and taking 13 billion years traveling at the speed of light to cross the visible part. My awe doesn’t come a type of mysticism of wishful thinking or from a god, who’s main occupation is to fix all my trivial gripes.

  13. Christiane says:

    not sure HOW this fits in, but here goes

    I was thinking yesterday about Red Letter Christianity and its critics. And some critics are claiming that the voices of others in the Bible are of equal authority, and Our Lord is just one among many.

    So I get this insight: an image of Balaam’s donkey talking to his master

    Which made me laugh and disconcerted me at the same time.

    absurd? or maybe not . . . God has a sense of humor

    I’m still a red-letter Catholic who sees Our Lord as speaking and acting in the very Person of God in sacred Scripture, and my love for little donkeys is undeniable . . . but I sometimes wonder just where my sudden insights come from. :)

  14. Perhaps Stevens isn’t describing our age but rather us. I’ve begun working with homeless and with the majority (perhaps the vast majority) I find a reverence of God I wish I fully shared. Perhaps our success has doomed us (like the rich young ruler) while the Majority World still retain their mysterious, omnipotent God.

  15. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 NASB)
    Paul puts being “invisible” as one of God’s greatest attributes. I don’t yet have that same appreciation: I like that God is extraordinary in His timelessness and immortality, but I also wish he was more physically visible in an “ordinary god” way. I guess that’s why it’s so tempting to make idols of the things we can see.

  16. Marcus Johnson says:

    First, this idea that, somehow, God has become less irrelevant over time is ridonkulously inane (I was going to go with just “inane,” but that wouldn’t be quite enough). This idea of “diminishing” influence presumes that there was some “golden era” of religion, when everyone went to church and claimed to believe in God and blah blah blah more crap, then somehow we went downhill from there. It also presumes that God’s relevance in creation or humanity is dependent on the dominance of religious institutions over their respective culture or society. Rather, the church seemed to thrive most when it is a smaller, grass-roots, underprivileged movement than when it has hegemonic influence.

    So we are discovering that there isn’t a Bible verse that can address every question. So the answer to every event, good or bad, isn’t, “God did it.” There will always be some aspect of the human experience that cannot be answered through empirical scientific observation. Those aspects will never go away, and God will always be there to fill that void. The only question is whether individual religious institutions will understand that and redefine their role and approach to life’s questions before they become irrelevant.

    That being stated, while God has not become less relevant, our understanding of His relevance can become dated if we don’t re-examine it from time to time. I think it behooves us to come back to this question of, “What is God’s place in society today,” especially when historical paradigm shifts arise. The Jews did it after the Babylonian diaspora. America did it after 9/11.

    So, I would answer Mike’s last question by saying, “God will always have a future, but what of religion?” That’s a question we have to determine for ourselves over time.

    • David Cornwell says:

      “What is God’s place in society today,” especially when historical paradigm shifts arise. The Jews did it after the Babylonian diaspora. America did it after 9/11.”

      Walter Brueggemann in his new book “Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks” discusses this exact question. I have not read the book as yet, but in a video interview he sets out a prophetic calling for the present age. It can be found on YouTube or the Englewood Review of Books.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      +1.

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      I think the very fact that we can phrase the question in terms of “what is God’s place in society today” proves the article’s point. Shouldn’t the question be, “what is our place in God’s society?”

  17. On the subject of thinking of creation in terms of the book of Job- please all consider Dr. Terence Fretheim’s “Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters Theological Explorations for the Catholic Church”. I gave it away to Dr. Roger Olson, but I will have to buy it again. I say God may wrest control from our hands, but there are some surprising things about an open future perspective( and I use that terminology with some theological insight). Yes Fretheim is an open theist, and I don’t want to start that can of worms without saying that I think we should all be open enough on the subject to be at least somewhat knowledgeable. May I say, that perspective presents God as Unbounded Love( and isn’t that a direct opposite of some kind of bounded or diminished or less). For the same thing on this same topic, type Unbounded Love on Google and see another open theist, Clark Pinnock. That is a good reading also.

  18. unfortunately, a huge focus has been placed on Republicanism as mandatory for ‘religious’ true-believers in the conservative Bible belt

    the publicity has done its work and the public has ‘had it’, I’m afraid

    the mixture of politics and ‘religion’ has tainted both rather badly, and from what I can see, the pattern is not going to get any better in 2016 . . .

    QUESTION: did all of this start during the advent of the mixture of Calvinism with vulture capitalism long ago?
    or did it start about thirty or so years ago with people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell?

    will this ‘partnership’ of politics and ‘religion’ ever run its course ?

    • Calvinism is not the issue here.

      The late Falwell’s “Moral Majority” had more to do with it than anyone/anything else and Robertson’s “700 Club” and Bakker’s now defunct “PTL Club” to a lesser but significant extent. Neither Falwell, nor Robertson, nor Bakker were/are Reformed.

      With few exception, the late Dr. James Kennedy being among them, Calvinists have traditionally tended to view politics as non ecclesiastical.

  19. Randy Thompson says:

    Nietzsche was overly optimistic when he declared God to be “dead.” Something worse has happened. God has become “manageable.”

    Walk down the aisle at a revival, “receive Jesus” and go about your business. God has been managed.

    Go down the aisle at mass or Divine Liturgy, get your piece of bread, and go about your business. God has been managed.

    Master your theological system and go about your business. God has been managed.

    Suffer through your denomination’s annual meeting, vote, and go about your business. God has been managed (and often ignored, too).

    Crank up your faith and believe hard enough and God will do what you want. Go about your business. God has been managed. (Remember Kenneth Hagin’s booklet, “You Can Write Your Own Ticket with God”?)

    Maybe it is in the dark side of nature where we will see glimpses of who God really is. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, and bacteria run wild are nature at its most uncontrollable. Maybe it’s there that we get a glimpse of a God who is not “manageable” and rather dangerous. Here we get a hint as to what “the fear of the Lord” means

    If you want a vision of an unmanageable God, reflect on the apocalyptic imagery of “Revelation.” It is sad that so many people foolishly read “Revelation” for a blow-by-blow account of the world’s end and miss the point, which is that God is very, very big indeed.

    (Irrelevant Aside: GIven the amount of snow we’ve had here in New Hampshire recently, I probably should have added “snow” to my rather apocalyptic list of natural disasters!)

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      I don’t go to get just a piece of bread, I go to get the very body of my Lord. And I think that there He’s doing something mightier and more terrible than He is in any natural disaster; He’s killing my sin, resurrecting me to new life, uniting me to His Son. The Eucharist is a little Parousia.

      I get your point about managing God, but I think that sometimes we have to remember that God is at His most *un*manageable when He *looks* like He’s being ordinary and down-and-out: i.e. in Christ and His crucifixion, and then in His Word and Sacraments and in the charity of His people. We have to see these things with the eye of faith and not with our senses.

  20. David Cornwell says:

    “should have added “snow” to my rather apocalyptic list of natural disasters!”

    Very true. The same is true in northern Indiana, though I am sure NH is way ahead of us. The weather is wild, and almost every day proves it once again. Weather may prove to be a counterbalance to our self sufficient trust in technology and science. This has been a winter when I’ve found that I’m in control of NOTHING. It just magnifies and brings to light a truth that I’ve known anyway, but keep locked away in the closet out of sight. .

  21. The pride and arrogance of man has led him to believe that he is god. Though he may not state it that way, man’s actions reveal that he believes himself to be self sufficient and able to control all aspects of his life. What will it take for man to see that he needs God and the God is much bigger than he realizes? I believe that point only comes when man is faced with a life circumstance that is beyond his control and in his place of desperation he calls out to God. Thoughts?

  22. Bummer. A number of good discussion points were lost during the site maintenance.

    As I had stated before, I think the Apostle Peter was confronted at Caesarea Philippi by a God he could neither understand nor control – bent on a journey to the cross.