No contradictions

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Do we offer conflicting reports on God?

I keep receiving conflicting reports on God.

A few weeks ago I heard Pat Robertson—who called Hurricane Katrina “God’s punishment” on America—blame the tragic Haitian earthquake on Haiti’s “pact with the devil.” Apparently, unlike Katrina, God didn’t actually send the natural disaster to Haiti, but allowed the devil to do the dirty work this time.

It seems that every conversation with my Vedic, Buddhist, Jesus-loving, ultra-postmodern friend Adam gives me a new picture of who he thinks God is and how God works in the world. To Adam, we know God by recognizing God in ourselves—we become one with God internally to know who God is.

From my friends, I hear that we have a sovereign God who numbers and directs our days, controls all things, chooses us (or doesn’t choose us) as the elect, all the while gives us free choice every day.

My own thoughts and actions reveal fickle and often conflicting views of God. I usually follow statements like “I believe that God desires to be in right relationship with us and is a loving and forgiving God” with thoughts of new ways to hide from God. I believe that God will judge the righteous and the unrighteous, but my life shows that I’m relying much more on God’s forgiveness.

Conflicting reports on God come from self-appointed figureheads of the Evangelical church, from postmodern seekers, from Calvinists and Arminians, from you and from me.

I think we’re all wrong, and we’re all right. And maybe that’s all right.

When we look at the biblical text, we realize that even those who long to truly see God in fullness are denied. God says to Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Ex. 33:20). Here lies the paradox: We so desperately want to have a full picture of God but couldn’t handle it if we saw it.

What is more, to us God’s nature seems paradoxical and sometimes even contradictory. Often times the biblical picture of God doesn’t match up with our life experiences, which surely results in conflicting reports on God. When we say God is sovereign but look at the Chilean earthquake reports, we cannot help but scratch our heads and wonder in our hearts.

Yet we continue to confess God, who we believe God to be, in spite of reports in our world. Our proclamation of who God is has as much to do with eschatology (end times) as it does with theology. Our world is one where God’s kingdom has been established through Jesus. Still, God’s kingdom hasn’t come in its fullness and will not until the return of Jesus. And until that day when we see God face to face, we will continue to receive conflicting reports about who God is.

For a person to have an accurate report on theology, he is going to need a tight grip on hope. Much of what we know and believe God to be and what we see in our world are strikingly disparate. So we hope. We hope for the further incoming of God’s kingdom in our world. And we hope for the return of Jesus Christ, who will finalize his project of making all things right.

In the meantime, we continue to proclaim who we believe God to be.

Our Confession of Faith (Article 1) provides a beautiful portrait of this. This is our confession: “We believe in the one, true, living God, Creator of heaven and earth. God is almighty in power, perfect in wisdom, righteous in judgment, overflowing in steadfast love. God is the Sovereign who rules over all things visible and invisible, the Shepherd who rescues the lost and helpless. God is a refuge and fortress for those in need. God is a consuming fire, perfect in holiness, yet slow to anger and abounding in tender mercy. God comforts like a loving mother, trains and disciplines like a caring father, and persists in covenant love like a faithful husband. We confess God as eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

This is what we believe and whom we hope in.

May we, this month, hope in the one true God, in spite of conflicting reports about God. And may we participate in the kingdom and by doing so provide for someone else an accurate report about whom God is through lives that point to God.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).

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