Sunday, June 11, 2017

Too Big to Fail

My morning walk/prayer reverie was disrupted by the sight of a bumper sticker that read like so:

“God is too big to fit inside one religion.”

Interesting. On the surface it sounds like a compliment — this guy has a big god. Big is good, right?

Well, yes and no.

Breadcrumbs and Kernels

But the god of the bumper sticker bromide is not my God. See, that “big” god is a resounding failure. He sprinkles small ‘t’ truth here and there across history. The Muslims have a few grains of it: homosexuality is not a positive lifestyle choice, fathers should be respected, community is important. Modern Judaism has a few more, not least that it matters if we please God in this life. Baha’i, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism all probably have a moment or two where one might concede they’re on to something, though it ultimately leads nowhere.

These are breadcrumbs, kernels … teasers, really. A god who doles out truth in such meager handfuls is big, sure: big enough to make his way around the planet more than once. But he’s not big enough for me. That god is a failure at communicating.

The Exact Imprint

My God is too big to fail. If he wants to say something, he says it, and he said it once and for all in Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews concedes that God spoke to men frequently prior to sending his Son into the world, but makes the case that in the person of Christ he has spoken clearly and with absolute finality:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
There is not much more final than an exact imprint. Or, if you prefer, “exact representation”, “express image” or even “the very image of his substance”. All these translations have some merit in that they make it very clear no further communication is needed. God is done talking. What he wants to say to mankind has already been expressed perfectly.

Hymnwriter Josiah Conder grasped this over two centuries ago. He wrote:
“In you most perfectly expressed the Father’s glories shine.
Of the full deity possessed, eternally divine.”
But Christians don’t sing those kind of hymns much anymore, do we?

A Failure to Communicate

“But,” the objection goes, “people still disagree about the nature of God. How can that be anything less than a failure to communicate?”

The retort to that is so obvious it barely needs to be made. The fact that many do not recognize and accept God’s final word in Jesus Christ does not mean God has failed to speak loudly or clearly enough, anymore than the failure of a septuagenarian to respond to my question means that I have mumbled. Perhaps his hearing aid is turned off. Perhaps it’s still sitting beside the bed. Perhaps the battery is low. Or maybe grandad’s just a bit surly this morning and is taking it out on anyone within reach.

There are lots of reasons much younger people fail to respond to a message that have nothing whatsoever to do with its clarity. They may simply not like what they are hearing.

God is big enough to make himself understood to mankind, and he has done so. Whether or not we accept what he has said has less to do with God’s bigness or his designated mode of communication, and more to do with the choices made by each individual in his vast audience.

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