The Sound of One God, Clapping

internetmonk.com » Blog Archive » The Jonah 4 Club

The iMonk asks this question:

Can you find places in scripture where someone had to drastically revise their idea of God in order to know and follow the true God?

And I think this goes to an experience of God in the Bible and now that the preaching and writing of the church shies away from…that God may be perfectly consistent when viewed from a, well, divine perspective — but He is often experienced by mere mortals as a blatant contradiction.  And not just an intellectual contradiction, a  moral contradiction.

I think Michael’s question goes beyond just looking for moments when somebody had to learn something new and scary about God. It makes us sort all the experiences of God in the bible into two qualitative categories: 1. those that may stretch and challenge you, but further in the same direction your God had already started in, and 2. those you experience as spinning your psyche around in a brutal contradiction of the god you thought you knew.

These are both high-stress experiences, but they are fundamentally different types of stress.

For example, John in Revelation is certainly stretched and has to see and learn new things about Jesus, but it’s all more of the Jesus he had glimpses of already.

Similarly, when you go from being a pagan polytheist to seeing the One True God, you probably had mental structures in your religious psyche for this God; you just have to admit to yourself all the other ones are fake, but this One is real. Further, in the same direction.

But  Hosea was told by God to marry a harlot. This is something qualitatively different, like Peter’s experience in the three-fold vision; it’s not just having to obey something you have moral qualms about — it’s that the moral qualms are the very ones you got from God Himself, and now He’s contradicting those qualms. Major mental crisis.

Abraham’s raising of the knife to Isaac was the same sort of experience; Isaac was God’s own promise, not just a son, and not just a favorite son. Isaac was the very symbol of God’s character — then God seemed to say “kill it”.

I hate to say this, but we’ve worked so hard in Christianity to make God “consistent” that we have to reach outside the church to find mental constructs to help us grasp how deeply God can shatter yesterday’s trust as He hammers tomorrow’s trust into us.

Koan. These Hosea / Abraham / Peter moments are more like God is delivering a zen koan.  At these moments, God seems like the laughing but slightly cruel zen master.  When the one true God, who saved you from the insanity of unbelief and set your feet on solid ground, suddenly pulls that same ground from under you and seems to CONTRADICT what you know of Him…that’s not just hard.    That’s cruel.

Everyone recoils at this point, as if I’m saying God is out to destroy our linear thought.  No, not at all.  Everything the theologians have established about the internal coherence and consistency and ultimate rationality of the Christian God is true.  Ultimately.   But we do not necessarily experience Him so.

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