Dis­cov­er­ing God on the pil­grim­age of Chris­tian faith

Who is God and what is God like? asks

Otago Daily Times - - OPINION - Christo­pher Holmes. Christo­pher Holmes is an Angli­can priest and teaches the­ol­ogy in the Depart­ment of The­ol­ogy and Re­li­gion at the Uni­ver­sity of Otago.

WHAT is the source of all that is good, true and beau­ti­ful? And what is a good life about?

These are im­por­tant ques­tions, and they have to do with God. God cre­ated us for a life of friend­ship with God. Think about that: our life is not our own. Each of us is from God and made for in­ti­macy with God.

Who is God and what is God like? These are de­mand­ing ques­tions, in­tel­lec­tu­ally and spir­i­tu­ally. Chris­tian faith teaches that in or­der to know God we must be­come lovers of God.

This is strange to us. Our per­mis­sive cul­ture teaches us that we are the au­thors and mak­ers of our own des­tiny. We are en­cour­aged to do things our own way. The Scrip­tures of the Old and New Tes­ta­ments teach oth­er­wise. As St Au­gus­tine re­minds us, God has made us for him­self, and we are pro­foundly rest­less un­til we rest in him. And the Old Tes­ta­ment prophet Isa­iah says that God’s ways, though not our ways, are none­the­less the best ways.

What is good, true and beau­ti­ful? This ques­tion can­not be an­swered in a vac­uum. In or­der to rightly an­swer this ques­tion, we must be­come cer­tain sorts of per­sons.

What kind of per­sons?

Per­sons who pray, who re­joice, who ac­cept each day as a gift. Per­sons who wor­ship God with oth­ers who are learn­ing to love God and their neigh­bour in re­la­tion to God. Per­sons who read the Scrip­tures with open hands and hearts.

Chris­tian faith is a pil­grim­age. It in­volves us learn­ing to love, lit­tle by lit­tle, what God loves. It also in­volves us turn­ing from those things God hates.

Where do we re­ceive our moral com­pass? Where do we hear about our des­tiny as crea­tures made by God? Where do we learn to set aside the myth that says we are what we make of our­selves? Where do we en­counter the best news ever?

Be­lieve it or not, we en­counter it in the church.

When the Chris­tian church is be­ing re­motely true to it­self, it is the one place wherein the avalanche of cru­el­ties re­lated to global con­sumer cul­ture hold no sway. Where the truth is spo­ken in love.

In­deed, we learn that God re­ally loves us. We dis­cern God’s com­pas­sion for the poor. We hear of Je­sus’ un­re­lent­ing con­dem­na­tion of the rich, most es­pe­cially those who ben­e­fit from oth­ers’ poverty. We are given eyes to see.

In God’s world, the ta­bles are over­turned. The things that we think are rub­bish are what God val­ues most. A hum­ble and con­trite spirit, these things mat­ter to God. Not only are the poor in spirit blessed, but the poor them­selves.

Is this true? Yes. There is noth­ing bet­ter than God. The God we meet in the Old and New Tes­ta­ments is ‘‘the Lord of all the earth’’ (Psalm 97:5). Is this good news? Yes. What must I do? One can be­gin by singing to the Lord, bless­ing his name, and telling of his sal­va­tion from day to day.

Chris­tian faith makes scan­dalous claims about the way things are. It ar­tic­u­lates judge­ments about the nature of real­ity. It is also deeply con­cerned with the moral life, with what we do and say, at both an in­di­vid­ual and a so­cial level.

The joy­ful news of the Scrip­tures is re­lated to God. The Bi­ble is a book about God, and God’s cre­ation of a peo­ple who love him. It re­veals God’s char­ac­ter as One who is supremely good, true and beau­ti­ful.

We are cre­ated for a life of friend­ship and in­ti­macy with this God and with oth­ers who are on their way to­wards lov­ing and serv­ing this God. The busi­ness of the­ol­ogy is to con­sider God and to un­der­stand all things in re­la­tion to God.

This re­quires cer­tain sorts of per­sons. Above all else, per­sons who lis­ten to God’s voice in Scrip­ture, pray and praise, and gather around the Lord’s Table. Though far from per­fect, these are folks who see that good­ness, truth and beauty mat­ter. And they know that these things mat­ter, be­cause they wor­ship the One who is in­fin­itely good, true and beau­ti­ful.


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