Saturday, January 31, 2009

Judging a Book By Its Cover

Over the years I've built up a decent collection of books, primarily of a theological nature. Many of them have incredibly deep insights from scholars who have devoted their lives to digging deep into the scriptures and knowing as much about God as he has revealed. Quite a few have been life-shapers, challenging my worldview, changing the way I understand the truth about God and people. These books are well worth the effort to dig into them and mine the valuable truths contained within - classics from Calvin and Edwards and Luther and Charnock, modern titles from Piper and Packer and MacArthur and White. These books have so much good material in them, being so thoroughly scripture-soaked, I never regret cracking one open, reading, meditating, and letting the truth of scripture as explained by these godly men change my life.

But this isn't about any of the deep truths found in any of those books. I started a new book this week, and the first big challenge came before I'd even opened it up. Right on the front cover, the title of the book: Discovering The God Who Is. It's a new edition of an old book by RC Sproul (a tremendous author - you simply can't go wrong reading his stuff), and the title just captured my attention.

Perhaps more than at any other time in history, our age is a spiritual smorgassbord. With so much knowledge of the world's religions readily available, and with postmodern "whatever you believe is true" nonsense being crammed down our throats and taught as "enlightenment", it's no wonder that so many people believe (as evidenced by the way they talk about God and how they act) that God is whoever they want him to be. Don't like the part about hell? It's optional. Don't like being subject to an absolute sovereign? Invent limits for his sovereignty, or pretend he doesn't know the future, or just don't bother thinking about it. Generally in favor of God's judgment, but have a pet sin you want to remain a slave to? Take a big ol' plate of condemnation for other sins, and ignore the serving of justice for your favorite sin. Maybe all people go to heaven, or a lot do and the rest just go into soul sleep, or almost everyone goes to heaven and hell is reserved for the Hitlers and Stalins and Urkels, or maybe salvation is found only in Jesus and all who remain in open rebellion against God go to hell. Whatever works for you is fine (well, except the last one - if you believe that, you're just a hater), and we can't really know what's true anyway, right?

Well, that's where this book title gets it exactly right. See, if there's a God - and there absolutely is - then he is who he is. What we believe about him and about what he does has no effect on who he is or what he does. God is objective reality. Our thoughts, musings, desires, hopes, and fears about who we want God to be simply don't make it so. We may all mentally create our own idols, but that doesn't make God conform to our expectations. He is who he is, and it is our imperative to know him as he is. My mental image of God may be nice, logically consistent, and comforting to me - but if it doesn't accord with who God actually is, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

There are things God has clearly revealed about himself that offend us to the core of our beings - his sovereignty over all, his righteousness in judgment. But though we may enshrine our own ideas, invent a God of our many understandings, imagine a God who is not sovereign and who doesn't judge - at the end of the day, who wins? If God is sovereign, he is sovereign no matter how much we object. If God judges, he judges no matter how much we ignore or oppose it. Let God be true and every man a liar.

So when we come to study God as he has revealed himself in scripture, we need to remember this first and foremost. We are not creating the God we would like. We are learning about the God who actually is. And the time will come when those who form God in their own image will discover the truth and be sorely disappointed - actually, horrified and aghast. Besides, God is most certainly better in every way than the best we could ever hope to imagine. Let us press on to know God - the real God, the one who is.

1 comment:

kerri said...

whoa, wait. why is steve urkel going to hell? and why was i not informed of this when i was getting emotionally attached to his character on Family Matters?