Throughout my ministry, I have endeavored to find appropriate ways to hand on the light of God’s redeeming love to non-churchgoing people. Now at this time of aggressive and arrogant atheism, it seems to me that we need to revisit this task. The substance of the message of God’s gospel remains constant but the way we communicate it needs to be fine-tuned in every age. The reasoned apologetics of the twentieth century need to be re-cast for the twenty-first.
That said, in an interesting article in The Weekend Australian (October 28-29) entitled, ‘Idea of God is perfectly logical’, Greg Sheridan wrote: ‘…It is important to understand that there is nothing in reason that contradicts God. That our public culture so routinely suppresses this knowledge, mocks it and teaches the reverse, demonstrates just what a strange and dangerous cultural dead end we have wandered into. Yet even in our moment, in our society, there is already a nostalgia for God.
‘Reasoning from first principles, of course, is not even the primary rational way you can come to a rational knowledge of God. For it is one of the central realities of humanity, one of the deep mysteries of the human condition, that all truth involves a balance of truths. Rationality needs a context in order to be rational…’
Sheridan goes on to observe: ‘There are countless clues of God throughout the world and within humanity itself. There is the strange phenomenon of joy, the even stranger delight of humour, the inescapable intimation of meaning in beauty and music. There is the mystery of love, along with the equal mystery of our consciousness and our self-awareness…’
Once we get past the inconsistencies of the popular culture we often find that many will agree that God does exist but that he is unknowable – he is abstract, impersonal, and a mystery.
To return to words of Deuteronomy 6 that I have touched on over the last two weeks, we need to feel the sharpness and precision of verse 4: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
The words speak of the supremacy, the unity, the uniqueness and the personality of God. The Hebrew word translated ‘one’ here can refer to more than one person. Significantly it is the same word that we find in Genesis 2:24: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
In the light of this meaning of the Hebrew word, one, it is consistent that in Genesis 1:26 and 27 we read, Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Furthermore, it is not surprising that amongst Abraham’s three visitors (Genesis 18:1-21), the supernatural figure Jacob encountered (Genesis 28:1-17), the fourth man in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:24-25) was the pre-incarnate Son of God. We so often forget that the God of the Old Testament is the same as in the new. The one God exists in three persons. But I digress.
The God of Deuteronomy 6 is not an abstract being, without meaning or message. The language of Lord and unity (as we learn) implies personality – indeed, more than one person who enjoys a relationship and who speak. Deuteronomy 6 reveals the God who is Lord and who is passionately committed to being known and being loved by his people.
This theme is even more evident in the New Testament where we read in Philippians 2: At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, every tongue will confess him as Lord, to the glory of God the Father (2:11).
Every generation needs to hear these truths so that they come and live under them.
The French poet, writer, and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, once observed: If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
Given our task of handing on the light of God’s truth found in Christ, perhaps we need to start considering ways we can paint a larger picture of life, lifting people’s gaze from the ground to the reality of God who has not only given us our existence, but also the opportunity to experience life in all its fullness and joy.
How important it is that we keep before us God’s words to his people: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com