reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Talking about God.

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
Especially working ye olde CUs one occasionally gets into a conversation that goes a bit like this.

A(vaguely heretical but nice): we should talk about God's love. People needs to know that God loves them because they have low self esteem/need to love him back/other platitude

B (not heretical but a tad self-righteous): People need to know that God is holy and angry at their sin so they know they need to be saved.

A: weeps

B: smiles beatifically while not intending to tell anyone who isn't a Christian anything about God at all.

Well, last week we tried this new thing at church. We had an excellent talk on Isaiah 6 at church in the morning. If you aren't aware, Isaiah 6 is the passage where Isaiah has an amazing vision of God's holiness and suddenly realises what a sinner he is.
In the evening, we then just sat round with coffee and discussed the talk, applied it, worked out what it means for us. I was in an excellent and lovely group of peeps who helped me to some great insights.
The thing I noticed is this. The response God wants from us in the Gospel is repentance and faith; that is to say - to realise that he is God and I need his help, and then take his help. As soon as Isaiah sees what God is like that is exactly his response - at least that is my paraphrase of "Woe is me for I am a man of unlcean lips". And so God's cleanses him with the stone from the altar.
No one explains to him what repentance and faith is. No one goes through two ways to live or knowing God personally with him. He just sees who God is and his response is "I am sinful, I need help".
Which means A is wrong. But so is B probably. The whole conversation stems, I think out of a wrong presumption - that my job is to tell people the route map to becoming a Christian - the steps. And then we disagree about what order the steps come in.
Rather it seems to me, we'd be better just talking about God. And cleverly, the way God has set it all up to work is that when we see who he is and what he is like (and I mean really see that - in such a way that he himself must have opened our eyes to it) our "knee jerk" reaction is to say "oh help" - which is exactly the response that the Gospel requires.
So much of my own sin and lack of repentance doesn't come through lack of effort, weak will and no self discipline - although those are certainly factors in my life. Those things, and my sin all come from on a lack of reflection on who God is. For if I reflected on that and God's Spirit opened my eyes to it as I reflect on it, then my reaction would be - well it would be to repent and believe.
It isn't cruel or nasty or cold to talk about the holiness of God. Because if people really get it they will knee jerkily think "help me". Exactly what God is looking for. Genius.


Blogger Dave K said...

You said: 'Which means A is wrong. But so is B probably. The whole conversation stems, I think out of a wrong presumption - that my job is to tell people the route map to becoming a Christian - the steps. And then we disagree about what order the steps come in.
Rather it seems to me, we'd be better just talking about God. '

I agree passionatly, but I just wonder wern't A and B focusing on talking about God anyway - just different aspects of his relations to us. God has only really revealed himself in the context of how he relates to his creation, so I don't think either A or B could get away from that. Maybe their focus is in the wrong place as you identify, but I don't think the content of what they say could be changed much.

Have I missed your point?

Good post.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Little Mo said...

Oooh - a commenter I don't know! I feel honoured - thanks for dropping by!

No - you haven't missed the point.

I thought this as I posted it. I think the deeper issue in what both A and B say are the "so thats". We define the problem and then look for God's solution.

Whereas, what we need to do is stop defining the problem and then looking for a type of God to solve it - but teach God as he is - and know we are programmed to respond rightly (as He opens our eyes).

IMO, B is closer to the real problem than A - but saying "because we NEED this, therefore tell people this about God" seems to me to be missing the point of the Gospel which is that God is. Make more sense?

9:12 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Ahh.. I see. Highlighting the word 'need' made it all clear to me. The second comments by A and B also seem a lot more relevant to your point now as well.

I enjoy reading your blog, its one of the few that puts quality above quantity. Plus I feel like I have a rough idea where you are coming from which appeals to me. Most (esp. US) blogs I read just seem quite distant even when they are saying good and relevent stuff. I found you through Dave Bish's blog.

11:48 AM  
Blogger étrangère said...

I haven't yet read it, but perhaps Piper writes of this in God is the Gospel. I think it was in studying the doctrine of the Trinity last year that (in a Midlands Relay day) we came to the conclusion that if someone had truly grasped who God is, they'd be a Christian. So the gospel is presenting God. But if God's self-revelation is in action+explanation, then presenting God includes talking of what we'd think of as the broader gospel. Not that it is broader. Sorry, I've probably confused more than anything - I'll go back to thinking in French.

3:15 PM  
Blogger thebluefish said...

top post Mo.
i think this may well be where Piper is going in God Is The Gospel.

Hmm. Need to think hard about this. :)

7:37 AM  
Blogger Little Mo said...

Yes. Most of my thoughts which I think original turn out to have been thought by John Piper before me.

Most of his were thought by Jonathan Edwards before him though. There is nothing new under the sun. ;)

7:54 AM  
Blogger thebluefish said...

The longer I live the more I see that knowing church history is helpful. I get scared when I get what looks like an original idea. Its quite reassuring that someone in the last 2000 years has already thought of it.

I remember reading Acts and discovering the connection between God's glory and evangelism, and being very reassured 18 months later at Relay 2 to read the first page of Let the Nations Be Glad.

No new truth or new heresy under the sun... maybe someone should have pointed that - but people love to invent lost Jesus' for themselves. Or the Mormon I was chatting to who sounded just like the Colossian heretics.... hmmm.

2:51 AM  
Blogger étrangère said...

I often think we'd fit right in with the athenians, chatting all day about supposedly new ideas. But as you hinted at, it reminds us how God's word is always there to address our thoughts or confront our culture - like Colossians to a Mormon, or John to someone who's swallowed the da vinci code, etc.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous God said...

blah, blah, dont people like you start wars?

7:17 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

Mo first I must appologize ... I miss you! So I will call you once I get back Home (I am now in Washington DC looking for a job)

Anyway, Spot on post for the theologist in the group. I think you hit the heart of the Bible and the work of the Holy Spirit quite well. However, from experience, I am afraid of the people who will use this concept to talk generally or vaguely about God, rather than explaining the Gospel clearly As Paul states as his desire in Colossians 4:4. I know this isn't what you are saying, and I don't think people do this on purpose either ... I guess what I mean is that maybe it is better stated that we need to approach talking to people about God as he truly is more as an introduction rather than as a biography.

This acknowledges that the "soon to be convert" needs to be in a place where his theology (understanding God) meets his reality of responding to Him in repentance.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

Maurice he I read the previous post "Evangelical = No head on my sholders"

Loved it! Nice to hear those thoughts being spoken, I have wondered some similar thoughts too.

Let's talk more on this topic!

Talk to you soon. Have you checked out my blog yet?

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why isn't aren't A and B heretical?

Umpah Lumpa

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mo...where did you go? Its been too long since you've last posted!

3:21 PM  
Blogger Nghia James Brown Room said...

You've been Tagged.!!!!!!

see my Blog for Why.

6:28 AM  
Blogger mallangong said...

I totally agree.

A thought that just popped into my head:

The proper response to the gospel is "What must I do to be saved"? Are we just pre-empting this question?

8:51 AM  

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