From Arthur McGill’s Suffering:
“In the Christian world today almost no one talks about God himself. Christians are preoccupied instead either with God’s acts — with the things that he gives us and the moral demands he makes on us, with Jesus whom he sent and the church that he created — or with the human response to God’s acts — with our faith and our doubt, with our believing and unbelieving. But attention never seems to pass beyond these events on the human scene to God as he is in himself .
. . . there is a great danger in this modern procedure.”
The danger is that we develop false theologies of God. We make him into Jonathan Edwards’s sadistic Angry God, who eagerly anticipates staining his own robes with our blood. Or we make him the Great Balancer, who will send us a tragedy as soon as things really start going well for us. Or the Grandfather God, who looks the other way while we do what we wish, but who is always there with a Band-Aid and a cup of hot chocolate when we want him.
A more sophisticated transmogrification is accomplished by John Piper, icon of Reformed Christians, who fashions God into an Eternal Narcissist who does everything for his own exaltation. To his credit Piper attempts to show how this is proof of God’s love for us, but he falls prey to the great sin of the intellectualized Western Church: our attempt to positively define God’s attributes, which inevitably creates boundaries that make him smaller than he is.
Pondering the nature of God is essential, but it should be done with fear and trembling. We Westerners are trapped in a legalistic, contractual mindset. Many of those who led us here were hardhearted men in rebellion against Rome, yet enslaved to its juridical mentality. What can we claim to know about God, 2000 years after his Incarnation, having rejected 1500 years worth of experience and tradition, along with practically every insight taught by those who sat at the feet of the Apostles? What can we say about God? What dare we say about God?
God is love. God is a father, and a son, and a whispering ghost. God struck down nearly all of humanity in a killing flood. God nursed at the breast of a woman who freely chose to be grieved. God wept for the dead. God climbed unto a cross for his children. God is a consuming fire who will come again in power and glory and majesty.
Who then can know God by mind alone? Who will stand before him on that day and declare: This is why you have done these things, Lord, for these reasons that I have explained in my books and sermons? Who claims to discern the entire essence of God? Who sees him more than in a mirror darkly?
Intellectualize him at your peril.