A Deep God?

Source: Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Being Catholic: How We Believe, Practice, and Think (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2006) 185.

“There are many ways to see God in creation. Everything that is is somehow created to reflect God. We can see the power of God in the thunderstorm and the immensity of God in the sky and the sea. A cat helping her kittens shows us something about God’s tenderness. The seemingly endless variety of plants is an indication of the generosity of God who was not content to create just a few species, but thousands and thousands for our use and enjoyment. When we enter the realm of the human, the images of God are even more varied. Tall people and short people, creative people and plodding people, people with gifts of affectivity and people with gifts of logic and mental discipline, people who talk and laugh a lot and people who are quiet and reserved–all of them reflect something about God.”

I like this quote because it says that God displays his attributes through all of creation. And it also states that all sorts of people–even the socially awkward–play a role in communicating who God is.

I’m not in the mood to answer a bunch of counter-arguments. “What about hurricanes, which take away people’s lives and homes? Do they communicate a loving God?” Good questions, but I don’t want to deal with them right now. I just want to relax and appreciate how nature communicates God.

God is deep? There are plenty of passages that suggest that God’s thoughts are deep. There have been times when I have felt this way, and times when I have not.

Let’s start with the times when I’ve not. I already know a lot about Christian doctrine, and, to be honest, I don’t find it all that deep, compelling, and profound. Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and those who continue in sin and don’t accept his sacrifice are going to hell. Also, God is three persons in one being, a “mystery” known as the trinity. Maybe I’d appreciate Christ’s sacrifice more if it were not so abstract to me, but, as an idea, I have a hard time perceiving its depth. And people act like the trinity is some big-time mystery, but I don’t understand why. A family has many members, and yet it is one family. There are all sorts of collective unities, so why can’t God be such?

What makes matters worse is when fundamentalists and evangelicals proclaim these ideas as if they’re the sum-total of the universe. Okay, so I’ve learned the substitutionary atonement. I know the right way to live. Is there anything else to learn?

And so there’s a part of me that looks at the depth and the variety of nature, and feels that Christianity doesn’t match them at all.

Yet, I’ve also had times when I’m reading the Bible, and layer upon layer of meaning emerges. I realize that I have many unanswered questions–about the text, about how God relates to real life, etc., etc. It’s weird how I can read the Bible again and again, and something new always jumps out at me (or at least usually does). And I’ve had quiet times in which I’ve felt that I could go on for another hour, as if it would take a long time to exhaust the dimensions of the text. In those cases, God does appear deep.

On some level, my God is definable–almost to the level of a caricature. Yet, there’s so much that I don’t understand about him–when I look at the Bible, or nature, or life. My God is too small, yet he’s somehow big.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Bible, Books, Daily Quiet Time, Life, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Deep God?

  1. Dennis says:

    I find it difficult to see how amazing and sacrificial God’s sacrifice of his son, Jesus was, when they both seemed to know it was merely a weekend inconvenience. There would be no reason to mourn the loss. Jesus comes back better than ever in two or three short days and it’s all good.

    Seems contrived. A hyped story that makes little real sense in real human experiences of pain and loss. A sacrifice should stay dead.


  2. James Pate says:

    Hi Dennis,

    The way many evangelicals would answer you is to say that Jesus experienced hell on the cross because of his separation from his Father. So that Friday (or Wednesday, or whatever) was pretty bad, to say the least. Also, I heard Tim Keller say that Jesus being absent from his Father’s immediate presence hurt the Father, since they had spent eternity together before the incarnation.

    But I can see your point. Christians like to liken Jesus’ crucifixion to the akedah, but the crucifixion strictly speaking wasn’t a sacrifice–in terms of losing something forever. But it was something that Jesus didn’t have to do, but did anyway.


Comments are closed.