Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why is God hiding?

Many of the most difficult questions about Christian faith would be easily answered if God were only here - and now.

Q: "Is there a God, and if so, who is he, Jesus or Allah or Buddha?"

A: 'Yes, there is a God. He lives in apartment A-777. Let’s go over right now, and I’ll introduce you – trust me, it’s Jesus.'

Q: "And what about the problem of evil and pain and bad things happening to good people? "

A: 'Oh, don’t worry about that, just let God know what the problem is and He’ll take care of it. '

It’s hard to think of a problem that wouldn’t be better if God were here.'

But He isn’t.

But it’s for our own good.

Exodus 33 makes me think that one reason God isn’t here is out of mercy toward us. At this point in Exodus, God has delivered the people from Egypt, fed, clothed and protected them in the desert, and even given them His word written in stone (which Moses dropped and broke). And in return, Israel has griped against God and his servants, disobeyed Him, and even worshipped a golden idol in His stead. So God says that he is going to send Israel up into the Promised Land, but that He’s not going with them.[1] He will send an angel with them to lead them, but God Himself will not go. Why? Because, God says “You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you…”[2] He goes on to tell Moses that if anyone were to see His face, he would die.[3]

So the problem is that God is too holy to be around sinful people. His holiness might cause him to kill them. This sounds harsh, but it’s actually spoken in mercy. If God wanted to kill the Israelites, He could have done so. But He didn’t want to kill them; He loved them and wanted them to live.

And so perhaps this is the case with us nowadays as well? The kind and degree of sin in our world is certainly as bad as anything the Israelites did. So if God were here, it would pose a grave danger to human life. His presence might mean the death of many people. So instead, perhaps God refrains from breaking into our troubled world because He loves us, has mercy on us, and wants us to live in repentance instead of die in rebellion.

[1] Ex. 33:5.
[2] Id.
[3] Ex. 33:20.


jose said...

Was it you or Dave who told me about Yancey's book, Reaching for an Invisible God? God has progressively become less and less present, from the OT parting the Red Sea to the NT in the form of man to the present age where the Comforter Jesus promised is our "God with us."

Then again others would say we're just putting aside our myths.

And I have to be honest, while I agree with your post, it still sounds like a convenient answer to comfort the faithful.

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

Being a late-comer to your blog, in reading your earlier posts gradually as I am doing (because I find your posts worthy of reading, and straightforward enough for a simpleton like myself), I found this one, which I think is worthy of comment.

Like Jose I also agree with your conclusions, but I don't feel at all that you are presenting a "convenient answer to comfort the faithful."

I don't think that any right-minded follower of Jesus needs to hear "a convenient answer" and he or she doesn't need "comfort" in the sense he is implying.

And honestly, I know it may sound incredible to say this, but although the Bible describes some pretty radical acts done by a very present God, especially in the Old Testament, I don't feel any more in awe of "those earlier signs of God's love" than I do of the miracles recorded of Jesus and the Apostles, or of the saints since that time and up until the present hour. And furthermore, I do not experience God the invisible as anything short of totally present among us at this very moment. His presence with me right now is more certain to me than my own existence before Him. Since when is invisibility a problem? We can't see the air we breathe, but lock us in a vacuum chamber and withdraw it, we don't last very long!