Over at The God Journey, Brad and Wayne were talking about Chuck Colson’s criticism of the book The Shack. Colson criticized that The Shack’s low view of God and the Bible, pointing out that Isaiah, John (the Revelator), Paul et al fell down in abject humility before the glory of God while the main character of The Shack ate collard greens with God and called her “Papa”. The conversation eventually turned to discussing who God is. Is God High and Exalted as experienced by Isaiah or is He Meek and Lowly as experienced through Jesus. Is God our Sovereign Lord or is He our Abba? On the Day of Judgment, will we kneel in reverence before His Majesty or will we be giving high-fives all around?
In the conversation on The God Journey podcast, Colson represents the God Most High attitude. The most intimate word that he could use for God would be the formal Father, but only because it’s in the Bible. Approaching the other end (if not completely on the other end) are Brad and Wayne. They would prefer to use Jesus’ word “Abba” to address God, a word that is supposed to be roughly equivalent to our “Daddy”. Colson thinks the appropriate relationship to God requires falling on our faces and proclaiming “How Great Thou Art” before the throne while Brad and Wayne want to play in God’s lap the way that little children did with Jesus. Which is appropriate? Should we grovel or should we dance before God?
The Bible shows God as “Most High” and “Most Nigh”. In the beginning Adam and Eve took walks in the garden with God. After the Fall, they fled from His presence. Abraham haggled with God over Sodom and Gomorrah. The Israelites cowered at the foot of the mountain begging that God not speak to them. Moses and the elders ate and drank in the presence of God. Isaiah fell prostrate and confessed to be a “man of unclean lips”. David called God his “shepherd” and described Him lovingly in the famous Psalm. When God came in the man Jesus, He dandled children on His knee and turned over tables in the temple. Sinners were drawn to him. Roman soldiers “drew back and fell to the ground” before Him. After the resurrection, Mary threw her arms around Jesus while Saul of Tarsus fell to the ground and called him “Lord”. The appropriate concept of God is one that is able to accept the all of these expressions. Some folks groveled. Others danced. Some responded in other ways. Relationships are complex as the Bible shows.
I don’t know if it’s necessary or not, but it seems to be fairly common that people who are growing in their faith go through a period of extremes. Someone grows up with God Most High, finds out that he is free in Christ and rushes toward God Most Nigh. Another one starts out with Big Daddy, Junior and The Spook in the commune only to end up with The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost at the Orthodox Church. Some folks need to experience greater intimacy with God. Others need to experience greater reverence for God. Some need to hear that they can approach the throne boldly. Others need to realize that it’s a throne and not a Lazy-Boy recliner.
If it is an error to tend toward one of these attitudes or the other, I tend to err toward the throne forgetting that the One seated there is Love. There are days when I boogie when I should bow. There are other days when the reverse is true. Some day, I’ll see God and I’m confident that whatever attitude I have then will be the appropriate one…for me.