We live in a pluralistic society. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of "gods" out there. It sounds silly to say out loud, but people still live in the same way as they did back in the times of the old Roman Empire, at least when it comes to religion. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that they live like that - or think like that - again, but somehow I think the pagan confusion about God is still with us, not back for another round.
Everyone seems to have their own idea about God, and the only thing they seem not to be able to tolerate is the idea of truth, or that someone knows the absolute truth about God. Even conservative theologians get caught up talking about the "penultimate nature of our knowledge about God," which means to say that no one knows everything about God perfectly.
No one knows everything about themselves perfectly. The human mind is not capable of that level of knowledge and understanding. That is what makes shows like Bones or Monk so interesting. They have a character that appears to be so super-aware and knowing that the most indecipherable mystery unfolds naturally before them. We all kind of wish we could handle life like that. But even those fictional heroes have their flaws and shortcomings, and the writers eventually have to build in error and ignorance on some level to keep the storyline going and interesting.
Admitting that no one knows everything about God is a significantly different thing than saying no one knows the true God or who He is or what He is like. We simply do not know God as He knows Himself. We are not equipped intellectually or spiritually to do that, and sin has limited our abilities even further.
The first thing we need to know about God is that He exists. Philosophers and unbelieving scientists have stretched reason and reality beyond all recognition to try to eliminate the necessity for the Deity. They postulate, then affirm and then demand everyone accept as settled science that all of physical reality once functioned in a way no one has ever observed anything functioning, and altered its fundamental nature and became, for a while at least, capable of sorting itself into more complex and intelligently structured systems. That is the "big bang and consequent macro-evolution" described differently than most scientists would like to hear it described.
The Bible tells us that "every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God." Scripture reasons from evident order that there needs to be an organizer. Modern man reasons from evident order that the order we see is not really there, it is simply "apparent." That is docetism on a grand scale - it only seems like order has been imposed on random matter, just like it only seems that the letters on this page come together to form known symbols called "words" and the words only seem to form sentences, and express ideas.
God exists. You start there, as Scripture does (Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created . . .") or you deal with a physical reality which cannot truly be known, and so we make up stories that prove useful for our managing to exist in the world that makes no sense, like the ancient Greeks did when they invented the stories we now call mythology.
The second thing we know about God is that He is who and what He is, even though we cannot pierce the veil and see Him or know Him as He is precisely. God told Moses that His name was "I am who I am." We could say that God is God and we are not, which has been a tough pill to swallow since that unfortunate incident in the Garden. We could also say that God does not report to us, unless He wishes to. He is under no obligation to deliver the sum and substance of His being in words and concepts we are capable of comprehending with utter clarity.
Among the things He has reported to us, however, is that He likes to be recognized as a He, not a she or an it. Human arrogance assumes that we made God masculine in our patriarchal societies. When identifying God becomes a matter of human pride rather than humbly receiving what He tells us about Himself, every idea we have about God measures us and speaks about us and not Him. That a human male is identified by the same personal pronoun as God says something about God's intentions for man, the males of the group, not about Him. That the name of the first man was "dirt" says something about the first man (and all subsequent human beings too).
God has also revealed his nature as Trinity or Triune, although He never used the word in Scripture. The "three-ness" can be traced from the first verses of Scripture where God creates, the Spirit hovers or moves over the face of the waters, and then the Word of God brings order and life into the world. We see the three again as they approach Abraham to discuss Sodom and Gomorrah. We can trace the revelation of God through the New Testament in which Christ Jesus commands baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
It is in connection with Christ that we come to know God as "Father" most clearly. It is also in Christ that we come to understand God and His nature most clearly. Everything the New Testament asserts about the Father is revealed also in the Old Testament, but until Christ, men could not see it. It is so because the will of God was to keep the fullness of the truth under wraps, as it were, until the fullness of time and then to manifest it all in Jesus and in the Gospel.
The compassion of God is proclaimed by the prophets, but seen most brightly in the gift of His Son for our sins and for our salvation. The will of God to forgive was announced over and over again in the prophets, Ezekiel 18:32, for example, "I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD. "Therefore, repent and live." It is announced most forcefully in the passion of Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel in Christ's name.
Hebrews tells us that we come to see and understand the nature of God by learning of Jesus Christ. That means that those who do not hold to Jesus do not know God the Father at all. Of course, that is not a new idea. Jesus said as much Himself on a number of occasions. Most pointedly in the gospel of John, Jesus says: "You know neither Me, nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also." (8:19); the Father is in Me, and I in the Father. (10:38).
Jesus makes the point that the only access we have to God the Father is through Him: Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. Up until the time of Christ, the access to the Father was through the covenant and the Scriptures of the people of God. Now Jesus is the way to God, the truth about God and the source of life from God. Access to the Father means knowing about Him, not just being in touch with Him. We cannot appreciate who the Father is or what He is about or what His will is for us and all of creation until we know Jesus Christ, who He is and what He is all about - and what His will for us is.
Of course, we have no access to God in worship or prayer except through Jesus, in connection with Jesus, and on account of Jesus. Jesus said, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Now, those words were spoken to the disciples in John 14, but they are true for us as well. We understand God the Father by knowing about Jesus and taking Him at His word and understanding Him from His Word and from His work for us on the cross.
The Father is seen by looking at Jesus, and since we cannot physically see Jesus, we have to look at Jesus through the Word, and through His works on the cross, in Baptism and in the Lord's Supper. When we begin to grasp His love and compassion and desire to rescue and save us in Jesus we come to understand the Father as well. "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me."
Jesus even states it in the negative in John 15:23, "He who hates Me hates My Father also."
Finally, although not in the order it appears in the text of Scripture, we see that even judgment comes through Jesus, "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." Jesus says that God the Father would only receive worship through God the Son.
So, this is God. If we want to deal with reality, this is the God we must deal with. Modern man, much like ancient man, wants to have a god served up to order. They want God to be customizable to themselves and not be bothered knowing or seeking out the God who exists. That is the fundamental fuel that drives the ecumenical spirit of our age. We don't all agree and since we cannot open a door and show the world God in bottle in a way that satisfies the world, the world demands that all visions of God are equally true and valid. Anything else is prejudice and hate speech and judgmentalism.
But we must stubbornly return to first things. God is who He is, not who we want Him to be. His nature is not determined by majority opinion or vote. What He demands and what He gives are His to demand and give, not ours to regulate and modify.
Those who deny the divinity of Jesus are pagans, pure and simple. It doesn't matter what they say or what political correctness wants us to say. Without Jesus they all worship a fantasy of their own fabrication. Call them Jews or Moslems, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, or whomever, they are old-fashioned pagans, worshipping a dream at best and a demon at worst. Anyone who makes common cause with them, such as the Pope declaring that Jews and Islam and Catholicism worship the same God, simply declare themselves to be pagans too, just pagans who wave the name "Jesus" around but impotently and blasphemously.
The people who deny the existence of God are stubbornly opposed to the truth. They are also like the practitioners of the religion of Moloch. In ancient times those who worshiped Moloch would offer their living children to be burned as a sacrifice to Moloch to make satisfaction for whatever offense caused the god to bring them distress of any sort. This is much like the modern ungodly emphasis on abortion in our society.
Those who define God as the angry Judge don't know Him. The ones who picture him essentially as the kindly, white-haired elderly gentleman in the sky have no knowledge of God and are also pagans. They want to have the world as they desire it, and they want God to deal kindly with them when all is said and done. The public religion of our age in this society is a religion of the enabler God who could not hold people accountable for sin or any behavior. If there is a life after this one, it must be open and available to all equally, except, perhaps, for those narrow minded, unloving Christians who insist that their religion is the only true religion.
But God is who He is, and He has revealed Himself in His Word, both the Word made flesh and the Word in Scripture. If we want to know Him we have to go to the Word and learn of Him, and set aside our personal desires and prejudices in favor of believing what He has revealed. What He has revealed is a will to save and a love beyond all comprehension. We can grasp some of it, but we can never fathom the depths of it. We can merely hear, learn, believe and give thanks, as Luther wrote, "For all of which I owe it to Him to thank and praise Him, to serve and obey Him."
Yours in the Lord,
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