Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The True Greatness of God

I think that many times people are put off by the idea of God, or feel threatened by Him, because they think of God’s greatness and power as if God were a “thing” in the universe, alongside of all the other things in the universe, who is different only because He is the biggest and the strongest thing. If God were merely the biggest and most forceful part of the universe, and if He were demanding our worship and total adherence on this basis, it would really be oppressive.

A prominent atheist once objected that Christians conceive of the universe as a kind of "Divine North Korea." I have no hesitation in saying that if the Christian understanding of God were really what I just described, he would be quite right. But this is not the point at all. God is not the Great Cosmic Bully; He is the Source of the whole universe and everything in it. He is beyond all things as their origin, sustenance, and purpose.

Nor is God just a kind of Power or internal Cosmic Force that some posit as necessary (and others not) for “starting” the Big Bang billions of years ago. He is, right this moment, the Reason why anything exists at all, and why each thing exists in its individuality. This means that He is not a "part" of the universe at all (not even its "greatest" part). He is not "in" the created universe in the way we are so easily tempted to imagine.  He is transcendent Truth, Goodness, and Beauty; He is the Being, who is “beyond” everything in the universe, who is the Source of everything, who is “infinitely greater” and yet at the same time mysteriously intimate to every reality in the universe as its Creator and Sustainer.

I must dwell on the total dependence of all things on Him, in every moment, for everything that they are, and especially for the fact that they "are". I must also remember that He who creates all things also remains infinitely greater, infinitely more beautiful than His creatures. Without His creative act, there are no "things" at all. Only because of the power by which He creates and sustains beings, in their origins and now, in this moment, does the universe remain outside of nothingness and live with the spectacular dignity of being a sign of His Infinite Greatness.

It is in this way that I can have a real sense of His majesty; it is in this sense that I can affirm that, indeed, "God is great." Not only is He worthy of my worship, but He alone is worthy, because every thing and every person–no matter how great and powerful–comes forth from His hand and is a reflection of His Infinite glory.