Monday, December 21, 2009

What Is God Like?

A few years ago, a friend of mine wanted me to hear a Joan Osborne song. It was very popular at the time, but man, did it put me on tilt!

In a way, it’s a Christmas song. However, I doubt I will ever hear any church choirs sing it!

If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him
In all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

And yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like?
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that
you would have to believe
in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints
and all the prophets

It’s a great question!

Did you hear the story about the lady who found her grandson drawing on the wall with his crayons?

“What are you drawing?” she asked, before reminding him not to mark on the walls.

“God!” he replied.

“But dear, no one knows what God looks like,” the grandmother said.

“Yeah, I know. But they will when I get finished!” the child said.

We laugh at the little boy but do exactly what he did! Aren’t our conceptions of God mental pictures of our own creation?

Who knows if the saints in glory are not as amused with us and our mental pictures as we are of the little boy?

It is actually presumptuous to claim to understand God. Even though He tells us what He is like, can we, intellectually and morally limited beings as we are, fully understand what He reveals?

Still, the Bible claims to teach about God, and we are supposed to stretch or hearts and minds to understand this teaching.

I can’t go into all the ins and outs of why we claim to know God in this short blog. There are entire books dedicated to that. However, since you are reading this, chances are you have already accepted that the Bible is an accurate source of information about God and that something of what it teaches can be conveyed to others.

We can always begin describing God with a list of attributes.

Christians believe God to be Almighty. We believe He is the origin of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

We believe that He is One.

We believe that God is the cosmic composer of a great symphony, called a universe, in which we are called to play a part. We believe that we gain understanding about this symphony – and of the conductor who composed it -- by paying attention to what He reveals in history and by listening to that echo of His truth, which He has placed within our own being and which we call conscience.

In other words, nature around us and conscience within us, leads us to understand our Creator. That’s how human beings all over the world, in many cultures and religions, have come to know that God is True, Good and Beautiful.

Since God reveals Himself through the universe and human conscience, then everyone who has access to these two tings already know a lot about God. St. Paul clearly says this very thing In Romans, chapter one.

We often hear people blame Christians for saying that every other religion but our own is wrong. Actually, we don’t believe that, at least if we have much understanding of our own faith!

We believe that most religions say similar things about the basic moral message that God has revealed to all people through His creation and human conscience.

Christians go on to say that the great religions and philosophies of the world, while contributing much to our moral instruction, have also come to erroneous conclusions. We make that judgment because we believe that there is a standard of Truth by which all ideas can be compared and evaluated: what God has spoken in history through His chosen people, Israel.

All other teachings about God, including what we learn through creation and human conscience, must be judged by that spiritual standard.

This assertion sounds terribly narrow in our times. We have gotten used to the idea that in religion and philosophy, one person’s ideas should be as good as another person’s ideas. But please notice what we are not saying.

We are not saying that Israel is a more important people than the other peoples of the world. We certainly do not believe that Israel has been a perfect people. Far from it! Israel was always nation of sinful men and women. Nonetheless, by the grace of God, Israel has been called to make the ways of the Creator known to all other nations.

God chose to make His covenant first with the servant people we call the Jews.

And here we should stop to take note of something: the most important word in the Bible. Without this word, the Bible just doesn’t make any sense.

The word is “covenant.”

A “covenant” is a special kind of agreement.

In our time the thing most like a covenant is marriage.

For many centuries, knowledge of God’s covenant was largely confined to the physical descendants of Abraham and to those few gentiles (or non Jews) who were willing to become Israelites.

That doesn’t mean that other people knew nothing about God, or that everything they thought about God was wrong. It means only that God has established a standard, against which all other beliefs about God were to be judged.

Christians call God’s revelation to the ancient Hebrew people the Old Testament. (Naturally enough, Jews call this collection of writings, the Hebrew Scriptures.)

The writings contained in the Old Testament tell us what God is like, how we should live, and how we should worship.

Christians revere these writings as God’s Word, on an equal plane as the New Testament. However, unlike Jews, Christians believe that God has revealed Himself not only through nature, human conscience, and Holy Scripture.

We believe that God has revealed Himself through a special man.

Indeed, we believe that this special man was God.

God once decided to draw upon this cave in which we live. We call what He wrote, The Holy Scriptures.

Then, one day in the middle of human history, God decided to do something else. He became one of us. We could now touch Him, hear Him and see Him.

All this occurred because God wished to be known. Not just “known about,” but known.

And so, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory. No one has seen God at anytime. But the Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

If we want to know what God is like, we have a perfect picture:

"This is Christ the King;

Whom shepherds guard and angles sing;

Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the babe the Son of Mary.”

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

...been thinking much of the day on this: 'the difference' in the god "we want" and 'the God Who Is.'