Wednesday, January 27, 2010

OMG: Jehovah is Intolerant

We are reading in the One Year Bible about how Moses persuaded Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. As the drama unfolds, it becomes obvious that the gods of Egypt are being humiliated. Each god is defeated in the area of his own specialty as Moses keeps on proclaiming God’s message.

At the end of the game, the score is:

Jehovah 10; Rah and Osiris 0.

Our scriptures tick off a lot of people. They don’t like the exclusivity that God demands. They think he should share the stage with Thor, Vishnu and Aphrodite.

He doesn’t care.

He demands a class by himself. He refuses to share the stage.


Because He claims that when He made everything, there was no one else around. He looked for Thor but Thor wasn’t there. So He had to make it all by Himself.

He’s the creator.

Alone, or ECHOD, as the Hebrew puts it.

When I think about how God created the world, I have a mental picture of this cosmic fountain spewing out quasars and photons, parrots and giraffes, oceans and meteorites. I think of creation as God’s nature overflowing itself, a mighty flood of being, pouring out from the Godhead to become the visible and invisible universe.

It’s a nice and inspiring picture, don’t you think?

However, before we get too carried away with my artistic imagination, we have to stop for a moment.

Christian faith teaches two vital truths about our Creator and about His creation.

First, Christians believe that the creation reveals the nature of God, much in the same way as a piece of art reveals the personality of the artist who creates it.

Secondly, Christians believe that although creation flows out from God, it is not, strictly speaking, a part of God.

These two points are extremely important for Christian theology.

“Why,” you ask?

Because these are precisely the points in which Judaism and Christianity differ from other religious and philosophical systems of the world. We define reality differently.

Some religions teach that all the pieces of creation are parts of God. This means that the created universe must be something like “God’s body.”

We call that belief pantheism.

(Greek again! The word pan means “everything.” Theos means God. Hence: Pantheism, meaning “God in everything.”)

Christians do not see reality in this way.

We believe that God has granted to each part of His creation the dignity of an independent existence.

That doesn’t mean that creation no longer needs God. It just means that God is not a great watchmaker who creates His machine, winds it up, and then leaves the scene.

Not at all!

God is not the type of a Father who abandons his household. God eternally and constantly upholds and sustains His creation. He keeps giving breath and being to all His creatures, even to those who do not follow Him.

When an artist paints a scene and hangs it on the wall, we know that the painting is not a part of her in the sense that her arm or foot is a part of her. But we do say, “she really put herself into this work” Or, “Look, that could only be hers!” That is what the Bible means when it says things like, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament His handiwork.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could stand at the edge of the universe and look at all of God’s handiwork from that vantage point! If we could look at all things, angels and archangels; all the company of heaven; at butterflies and even single-cell life forms, finally even to the non-living parts of creation; what exactly would we see?

We would see a manifestation of God’s character and personality.

St. Paul says this in Romans, chapter one.

In that passage Paul tells us that human beings can understand even God’s attributes, simply by observing His creation.

(Maybe you will want to stop and read that chapter. Its concepts are very important for Christian theology.)

A few years ago, I was praying on a Florida beach at midnight. As I looked out at the waves, bathed in silver moonlight, I was suddenly gripped with a great reverence for God. I began to pray something like this: “I have always known you as my Savior. From my childhood I have sang about how you walk with me, talk with me and tell me I am your own. But tonight I worship you as my Creator, my Father, and source of all that is.”

That night my intimacy with God deepened.

I came to know God in a new way.

As you can see, we keep returning to the subject of worship.

That’s what real theology does; it leads to intimacy with God. It helps us know Him. It leads us to worship Him.

For all these reasons, it is important to know God as Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

Today is the feast day of St. John Chrysostom. He was a great pastor and his age’s most famous preacher. Back in the fourth century, the emperors were very powerful people and Bishop John pastored the church where the emperor attended. When the emperor ordered a synagogue burned with people inside, the bishop publicly refused to serve him communion. This resulted in the bishop getting kicked out of his church.

Years later, the population rose up and demanded their pastor be returned. Bishop John agreed but said that he would still refuse the emperor communion until there had been a public repentance of his sins.

God is not our Heavenly buddy. He is the Sovereign Lord. He created all things, visible and invisible.

Knowing Him in this way fills us with awe and reverence. We stand before One who is incomprehensibly great.

When you know a God like that, Thor and Osiris are not very big deals.

Not to mention a mere pharaoh or emperor!

No comments: