the danger of defining the divine (with thanks to Alabaster Crippins)

You can find my conversation with Mr. Crippins here. Something he said immediately reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

“God created man on the sixth day, and everyday since, man has returned the favor.” – Blaise Pascal

There is truly an inherent danger in defining the Divine, and it is a subtle one that we don’t often realize. Before I add my two cents to this, though, I’d like to point out that everything I’m trying to say has been said before, and much better, in The Knowledge Of The Holy by A.W. Tozer.

Tozer said in the first chapter of his work,

“What comes to our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us,” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

and I couldn’t agree more with him. But when we define God, we need to keep in mind that God is wholly Other, and not at all as we are. The painting above is one of my favorites, but I blame Michaelangelo for one of the greatest misconceptions we have about God. God, with his flowing white beard (and looking like the fourth member of ZZ Top), reaching out to a lounging, half-hearted Adam. The fundamental premise behind the beard being that God is seriously old.

As human beings, we are so tied up in our own temporality that we have a hard time conceiving of a God that is essential non-temporal in His existence outside of time. So we wrap our minds around it the best way we know how. We imagine Grandpa. After all, grandaddy is older than all of us, so if God is older than grandaddy, then He’s really stinking old!

I think we sort of like the idea of an old God. After all, a God that has long since retired to Boca Raton, Florida, can’t really care about the intimate details of our lives. He’s probably too busy playing shuffleboard and writing his memoirs, or hanging out with Billy Graham. The conception of an old God keeps Him nice and distant…

So what are your misconceptions about God?


About this entry