Your God is too Big

As a college professor interested in the psychology of religion I'm sort of an anthropologist of young adulthood spirituality. That is, I listen a great deal to how my students talk about faith, God, Christianity, and church. I'm particularly interested in listening to what moves them spiritually.

One of the things I've noticed in this regard--something, to be sure, not unique to this age group or generation--is the prominence of a focus on God's bigness. Worship that seems to move my college students, and many other Christians, tends to focus on God's transcendence and awesomeness. "Awesome" just might be the most common word my students, and many other Christians, use to describe God.

This focus on God's bigness is often used in worship to create an acute sense of our smallness in relation. Ecstatic worship is often triggered by a felt sense of God's transcendent power, size, and awesomeness. I leave such worship psychologically stunned and overwhelmed by God's bigness. My sense is that a lot of contemporary worship is explicitly aimed at trying to create this experience. And that makes sense. Worship means "to bow down." Thus, to worship God means to "bow down" before God's power and size.

And yet, I wonder about all this. Particularly from a missional perspective. Specifically, I struggle with how the felt sense of smallness I experience in worship is supposed to transition into Christian mission. I do see how an acute sense of our smallness works as a trigger for ecstatic worship, but find it hard to see how that sense of smallness helps Christians learn to eat with tax collectors and sinners.

Put bluntly, I'm wondering this: How does an experience of God's awesomeness help you learn that God is love?

Let me be clear. I think God is awesome. I think it's good, as a critique of human pride, to experience God's awesomeness. I'm just expressing a concern about how this sort of ecstatic worship transitions into missional living.

In light of all this, here's what I want to say to many Christians: Your God is too big.

Here's what I think. I think too much focus on God's awesomeness leaves us ill-equipped to see God's smallness in the world. Perhaps we'd be better able to transition from worship to mission if we started focusing on God's smallness rather than on God's bigness. Isn't it one of the purposes of worship to help us see aright? To see God more clearly? If so, perhaps we need to start worshiping God's smallness. Our God has gotten too big.

Let me try to illustrate what I'm talking about.

See the smallness of God in this famous section of Night, Elie Wiesel's memoir of the Holocaust:

I witnessed other hangings. I never saw a single one of the victims weep. For a long time those dried-up bodies had forgotten the bitter taste of tears.

Except once. The Oberkapo of the fifty-second cable unit was a Dutchman, a giant, well over six feet. Seven hundred prisoners worked under his orders, and they all loved him like a brother. No one had ever received a blow at his hands, nor an insult from his lips.

He had a young boy under him, a pipel, as they were called--a child with a refined and beautiful face, unheard of in this camp...the face of a sad angel...

One day, the electric power station at Buna was blown up. The Gestapo, summoned to the spot, suspected sabotage. They found a trail. It eventually led to the Dutch Oberkapo. And there, after a search, they found an important stock of arms.

The Oberkapo was arrested immediately. He was tortured for a period of weeks, but in vain. He would not give up a single name. He was transferred to Auschwitz. We never heard of him again.

But his little servant had been left behind in the camp in prison. Also put to torture, he too would not speak. Then the SS sentenced him to death, with two other prisoners who had been discovered with arms.

One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all around, machine guns trained: the traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains--and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel.

The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him.

This time the Lagerkapo refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him.

The three victims mounted together onto the stairs.

The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses.

"Long live liberty!" cried the two adults.

But the child was silent.

"Where is God? Where is He?" someone behind me asked.

At a sign from the head of the camp, the three chairs tipped over.

Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting.

"Bare your heads!" yelled the head of the camp. His voice was raucous. We were weeping.

"Cover your heads!"

The the march past began. The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive...

For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed.

Behind me, I heard the same man asking:

"Where is God now?"

And I heard a voice within me answer him:

"Where is He? He is--He is hanging here on this gallows..."
This is a powerful story, with particular resonances for Christians, a people who worship a God who hangs dead on the gallows. And I wonder, when I read stories like Wiesel's, if contemporary Christian spirituality, a spirituality so focused on God's bigness, is able to train us to see God in the figure of that little boy.

How can we learn to see God's smallness?

Perhaps no one described God's smallness better than Dietrich Bonhoeffer did in one of his letters from prison:
God lets himself be pushed out of the world onto the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matt. 8:17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering.
It is true that God is awesome. But, as Bonhoeffer observed, "God lets himself be pushed out of the world and onto the cross." God "is weak and powerless in the world." God helps us "not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering."

God is small.

God is that little boy hanging from the gallows.

God isn't powerful and mighty.

God is weakness and powerlessness.

So this, again, is what I'm wondering. Might a spirituality of God's bigness and awesomeness be hindering our ability to see the smallness and weakness of God? God as the child hanging on the gallows. God in the body of the demented mental patient. The craving addict. The senile old person in diapers. The starving child. The drooling retarded. The street walking prostitute. The homeless man on the park bench. The queer kid bullied on the playground.

Might our God be too big? Too big for us to see the smallness of God?

Where is God?

God is here--weak and hanging on the gallows.

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43 thoughts on “Your God is too Big”

  1. Great post! Yes, talking about God as being "big" or "other" without circling back to discuss Him as being "small" or "with us" makes about as much sense as discussing His judgment on sin without mention of redemption.

  2.  Ecstatic worship seems like merely a religious version of "Calgon, take me away!" I just don't see Jesus as disconnecting from real life in the name of worship. But I do see many disconnecting from church because the object of worship is a big, felt emotional experience. Like the car commercial that repeats "Big, big, big," in various forms.

    God with us, seems to me, has to be embodied as us with us, by not abandoning the least of these (ie. your bringing grace through a prison Bible study), in both a world and a church that's singing the theme song "Big, big, big."

  3. “Come
    in thy lowest form of love, and I will kneel and kiss thee; but at
    thy highest, come as mere supernal power; and though thou launchest
    navies of full-freighted worlds, there's that in here that still
    remains indifferent.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick

  4. I think this is true.  We meet God in unexpected places (people).  One of the most poignant accounts of finding/experiencing God in relationship with broken and marginalized people is 'Radical Compassion: Finding Christ in the Heart of the Poor' by Fr. Gary Smith, a Jesuit priest.  As Patricia says, your prison Bible study is an example of embodying Christ for the least of these, and as in the case of your dialogue with the foot-washing prisoner, finding Christ in those to whom you have extended compassion.  Beautiful.  God is big enough to facilitate that kind of thin place of illumination and revelation, and small enough to be contained in a human heart.

  5. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time outside of the coC, but I
    think that there is a good mix of the transcendent and the immanent in contemporary
    worship—music, liturgy, homilies, etc.—at least from my vantage point. I don’t see
    how an attempt to grasp the bigness of God necessarily blinds us to analogical
    moments in the here and now, the little stories that reflect THE story.
    But i feels like yesterday that people were critiquing my tribe
    of evangelicalism for its worship being too immanent: that our songs and
    practices made God seem too close and too personal, too much in the muck and
    mire of this world. My worry, then as now, is that the critique seems to want
    to push us to the other extreme. But why should we pull asunder this tenuous
    tension? (Or is this dialectic the natural breathing of the church through

    It is crucial that we never forget that it is through the
    smallness of God that we see his bigness, and the through the bigness of God
    that we see His smallness. Otherwise you have a God who is awesome but doesn’t care—or
    you have a God who is there and yet is not astonishing.

    Perhaps our view of this generation is too big. Perhaps a
    view of some of the smaller groups around will evince the ‘incarnational’ and ‘missional’
    worship that you seem to be seeking. Look to the groups who are actually crafting
    new songs, not those who perpetually consuming the music.

  6. As someone who's been struggling lately with theodicy, this helps quite a bit. More and more, I've gravitated toward the inescapable conclusion that God either is not all-powerful or that he purposely limits his ability to foresee and act accordingly. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems this post is heading in that same direction.

    And for the record, when I'm truly moved in worship, it's usually by the notion that God would care enough about me to love me and save me from the pit in which I was trapped. I spent a whole life with a transcendent, bigger-than-life God; it's hard to love a God like that. Thankfully, he took the time to show me how wrong that view was, and how much he loved me. I guess you could say he showed me how small he really was.

  7. Amen.  How odd that we sing of the bigness of God rather than the Jesus Christ-ness of God.

  8. My experience of evangelicalism is the focus on big--big buildings, big numbers, big giving, big programs.  As if  the "big" is an advertisement of their success, spirituality and God's blessing.  But they leave little space for the "still, small voice" to be heard.  That God could be incarnate in a child is a foreign concept. 

    Could it be that Alabamans are missing it, too, by denying Hispanic children a place at the table?

  9. The genuine experience of “God’s” awesomeness – I’d prefer to say that of life or being itself – presents itself in mystical experience and experiences that verge on this: for example our responses to the natural world. Such experiences are themselves often tinged or colored with love.
    These experiences aren’t  based on imaginative contemplation of God’s attributes – “Wow, he’s all-powerful, all-good and he made the world from nothing – awesome!” Our emotional  responses to thoughts-about-doctrine are a different matter – not genuine awe at all.
    Real awe, far from eclipsing the portals of compassion, enlarges them since what it eclipses is our egoism.

  10. I am deeply touched by this post.  (To me this defines "awesome".)  As I stumble my way back toward belief, it is through missives such as this.  Thank you, Richard.  

  11. One place it can start is with creation - it is not a singular occurrence, it is a continuous process. God is transcendent and immanent - God is here and now and more than here and more than now and more than what exists and more than existence. God is in the continuous process of creation and is more than what is being created. God is an accessible perceivable persistent presence of love and excellence - always calling us forward from where we are to be more than we are, to be closer to God and to be more like God. This is more than a singular relationship in the same way that creation is more than a singular occurrence. Through the continuous process of forging a personal relationship with God, God calls us to expand that relationship and to be a loving community to all people and to be in loving community with all people - who, through unrestrained love and unconditional grace, are also in a continuous process of forging a relationship with an immediate and present boundless God.

  12. This reminds me of the current search among physicists for the "God particle" (Higgs boson) - that elusive fundamental particle that would finally unify particle physics. Apparently then, God is small enough to be a part of everything, yet He is big enough to encompass all things.

    "In Him we live, and move, and have our being."

     I guess the scripture is true. What a surprise. ;)

  13. I don't know if this would be the right approach. My argument is that to the people so wrapped up in transcendence, sometimes bordering on quasi-deism, that there God is too small. I see it as a sign of God's bigness, that He is LORD, Creator of Heaven and Earth and yet He is born in a manger-cave, to save tiny Humanity from their sins.

    He's so big He cries with us when we're beaten and knocked down, He is comfort when we are perplexed, and that His weakness, His giving up, is truly Strength. It is a Holy Paradox, but that doesn't make it a contradiction.

    God is largest when He is small.

  14. Trouble with making God so big is it makes him transcendent, out there, not for us. It puts up a barrier. OK, we do believe that he's all of that, but we believe he's immanent and accessible as well. There's a difficult tension there, which we don't always handle well. The other extreme is gentle Jesus meek and mild who lives in our hearts, but only with permission. He's never lord of anything else but our hearts either.

  15. Thank you once again Richard. You have an uncanny knack of
    tapping into a real and present spirit that is flowing (even globally ; ). The
    Wiesel story made me weep and yet cry out in my heart a defiant alleluia.

  16. Some provisional thoughts...

    1) I could see God's bigness as useful in a missional context--if done correctly--as perhaps helping us scale things. Mars may be smaller than Earth, but next to the Sun the size difference between the two planets doesn't seem especially relevant. Focusing on God's bigness might help us see others, those we'd like to think of as less than ourselves, as no longer relevantly less. But this only matters, really, if we also hold in mind the idea of the God of the sparrow, the God who might be big but is concerned with the small. (A macrocosmic vision must include a microcosmic one, even while the reverse does not hold true.) But I say "I could see" at the beginning of this post because this isn't really my usual stance on it: size rarely makes a difference to me at all, since size--even bigness--requires boundedness and the qualities of transendence and immanence make boundedness impossible.

    2) I'll also point out that deliberately becoming vulnerable is not cowardice but courage, and perhaps not an indication of weakness but of strength. These terms are a little slippery here, as is usually the case when we deploy truisms, but that's what I want to point out--ideas of weakness and strength are not especially clear either experientially or as they are played out in Scripture. We get flexibility rather than certainty, and I'm all for that personally. But we need to be careful when deploying language like "weakness" and "strength" because it's not always clear what we mean.

  17. I just ordered "Death on the Barrens" by George Grinnel because it had this note from the author:

    "Although I was terrified of dying, there were moments when I felt so at peace that I just wanted to remain in the arctic forever. Having my terror transformed by beauty into awe was like receiving, what mystics call, the ecstasy of the grace of God. It is such a wonderful feeling--a mixture of awe, peace, and love--that, if I could, I would share it."

    It intrigued me that the "big" God experience could be distilled into something comforting. I'll let you know if the book proves interesting.

  18. God is like the TARDIS. He is smaller when viewed from the outside and not limited by time or space.

  19. Well said, I concur completely. God's awesomeness is demonstrated in his smallness....

  20. I disagree in some respects with this post.  I think that while we might try to focus on God as being so Big and Awesome if we truly thought God was awesome then we would respond to him in such a way and I do not see that. I generally do not see a church that truly believes that their God is awesome.  People don't get nearly excited or seem nearly as passionate about God or worship as they do about football or the latest sport. I think our society has created a church in many ways that is trying to set God up to be Awesome in the worldly sense to compete with everythign else in our lives that are all so amazing, awesome and entertaining.  The true problem lies however I think in cultures definition of what is amazing or awesome. Awesome has been cheapened by culture to be big and flashy, but it is the simple, immanent things about God that make him awesome. His sacrifice, humility, and suffering, but those things are not seen by our culture as awesome. The transcendent all powerful God that shoots down columns of flame or makes the sun stand still, becomes Awesome.  The problem is not in God as transcendent or immanent, he is both and he is awesome in both respects.

  21. Maybe I've misread your post, Richard. I hope not, please forgive me if I have. I got excited when I read the title because I have often wondered this. Your example from Wiesel's Night is so eloquent. For some reason, it reminds me of The boy in the striped pyjamas. 

    Just to add some random thoughts I've had on this:
    1. When we think of ourselves as transcendent and teach our kids as well that nothing is too great for them to conquer, are we not putting the onus on God to be even more transcendent and bigger than we perceive ourselves (or our children, or students)? We build varying degrees of disappointment with God when his transcendence falls short of our own.
    2. We have to make God bigger than all of our other interests, as adults and for our children (and students, for those of us who teach). 
    3. When church communities have to work so hard and spend so much money to love outsiders and draw them in to communion then transcendence is hardly God-created, is it? Who wants to fall at the feet of a small God when our criteria is celebrity-based and it's more fun and uplifting to worship with a lot of bling?
    4. Doesn't ecstatic worship tell us more about ourselves than about God? Can I meet God in a happy-clappy worship if I prefer choral evensong? He must be a small God indeed if he won't meet me in the worship style of my choice. And if I can't find that style outside my parish, how many parishes will I have to drive to before I'm satisfied and happy? It's a real struggle if I'm stuck, so I'll worship God on my own, forget the social club fellowship. 
    5.Those of us who grew up going to church every time the church doors were opened have been conditioned to channel God and his awesomeness from inside the church building and from within the womb of the church community. If we find ourselves in a place where life-long church goers are not familiar with the bible, much less in-depth bible study, or where folks don't need to sing Kumbaya to make their world go round then our tools for improv in the Kingdom are limited. Many Sunday mornings when more of life seems to take place outside the church walls than inside, I wonder if God has even bothered to show up. Especially if the worship is not for him.
    6. God can choose to present himself through many venues, many small. Sometimes he must be weary of meeting our demands and expectations for his divine appearance to enchant and entertain us to the high spec excitement we seek. Maybe there are specific times he does not want to be effusive and instead would meet with us in a different manner. He can choose the venue, some not always exciting or happy, and some gut-wrenchingly tragic and sad. 
    7. We are a fickle lot, accustomed to getting our way and having control. God sometimes sets us down in places we never imagined to be called. Can I recover enough from the shock to meet God in the adventure, even if it is smaller or larger than my dreams?
    8. That God would choose the time in history and the place of the cross as the way to display his ultimate weakness and vulnerability is no small thing. That he did not wait until our life time in this age of advanced technology and globalisation to send Jesus to us in person is a big mystery. 

    Sorry this is so long. 

  22. "This is a powerful story, with particular resonances for Christians, a people who worship a God who hangs dead on the gallows."

    I beg to differ.  I am certain I worship a God who has risen and is seated at the right hand of the Father. If Christ were still hanging on the cross, than I worship in vain and have no hope for eternal life.

    Bonhoeffer was dealing with a world that has posited and accepted God's non-existence all the while experiencing the horrors of Nazi Germany.  The letter was speaking of Christianity which exists in an increasingly secular world (at the time), a world that lives "as if there were no God".  He states that God compels us to live in this world esti deus non daretur (even if there were no God).  A world which rejects God and bears little faith is a world in which "God has been pushed out" and in which "He is weak and powerless".  Jesus demonstrates this in his hometown in Mark 6:4-6 where he could do no miracles due to the lack of faith.  By no means is Bonhoeffer saying that Jesus is weak and powerless ontologically.  I think that would be a tragic mistake.  He is weak and powerless only in a world which lacks faith.  Rather I believe Bonhoeffer is seeing Christ as meek and mild, humble and obedient even unto death.  Notice the phrasing "lets himself".  Bonhoeffer knows who is really in control, yet in humility the all powerful Creator of Heaven and Earth is beaten with senseless brutality and he makes no reply.  He does not force himself on others.  He is no tyrant.
    Does this affect my ability to see a prostitute or a drug addict as being made in the image of God?  No actually it is because I believe God to be "Big" that I believe this.  During the lifetime of this planet, the world has seen billions if not trillions of different faces of God, people of every tribe, nation, and tongue across all generations from creation to today, each one formed in his image.  And yet God is still bigger than all of this.  I work with the downcast and brokenhearted daily, people rejected by society, and never have I needed to consider God as small and weak in order to see him in those around me.  I work because I know that there exists a God that is bigger than anything life situation and the very heart of missions is one that sees a global picture of a vast God reaching out to every corner of the Earth.  Practically speaking, if I were to minister to a couple who just lost their child to gang violence, the last thing I would say to them is, "Don't worry, my God is weak and powerless in this world and died on a cross and I thought I should speak to you because you remind me of Him, weak and powerless."  Maybe instead something like, "Don't worry, God understands what you are going through for His child was murdered as well.  He knows your suffering, but there is hope for those in Christ because he has defeated death."

    Is my God too big?  Perhaps, but perhaps if we are looking too closely for God in the little places, we'll miss the bigger picture.  It used to be that I wondered where God was.  These days I cannot find where He is not.

  23. Dear John, I appreciate your passion around this issue, but I fear I am either misreading your objection or reacting to your language. The brokenness and rejection of God in Christ is both an indictment of a fallen world and the revelation of the glory of God. It is a mistake to see Christ crucified as the weakness before the ultimate power of God is revealed in the resurrection. This is not how Paul understood it nor, I would argue, the Gospel writers - there's a reason we call that part of the narrative 'the passion'. I would like to understand you better. Perhaps you could sharpen your language. Are you suggesting that the meekness of God is revealed in the cross but not God's power? I would commend you to revisit 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

    'For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the
    philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the
    world? For since in the
    wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was
    pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who
    believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not
    many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not
    many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for
    us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

  24.  I appreciate this perspective, and I do think it is helpful to remember - "God is that little boy hanging from the gallows.. . .   God is weakness and powerlessness."  However, I think we can do better than conclude that our God is too big.  I also tend to see God in human frailty and brokenness, and like the young worshipers you describe, I also once went through my "awesome God" phase, and it still means a lot to my spiritual formation.  I just disagree that we have to put our view of God into either - or thinking.  This sort of argument  is just our human "box"  again of all or nothing.  We don't need to say, "God isn't powerful and mighty,"  just because we are noticing that He is present also in weakness.  We are seeing that He is present in His seeming absence.  That is He is God.  

  25. I was recently told "Your god is too small" It irked me so I wrote this;
    In fact I came to the conclusion my god is too big as try as I might I can't let go of the security loving power promises.
    Your piece really touched me and I hope to keep shrinking my god.

  26. What is it about a small god that keeps us from seeing Him that way? I believe with all my heart that God is big. Bigger than my sins. Bigger than my pain and hurt and the things that keep me from giving myself over to Him. And certainly big enough to lower Himself, die on a cross as a small, innocent man and slay death, not with a crash of thunder or a parting of the sea, but with whispering, "It is finished."

    Thanks for this!

  27. I have little use for the Big, Awesome God. He is far too concerned with Mission, Commission, casting Vision, and Being Holy than to stoop to the level of my little life. If I have to deal with the Mighty Powerful God, I'm on my own.

  28. Richard,

    Beautiful piece and very true, and why, I think, Mark wrote his gospel. We see the powerful Jesus, but like the first blind man, we do not see Jesus clearly if we see him only as BIG God and all powerful. It takes a second dose of healing, the revelation of God's smallness on the Cross, willing to bear humiliation and disgrace because of the shame the sin fuels in us. His the servant, the ransom paid. Only when we see the smallness of God alongside his bigness can we join the second blindman in Mark and follow Jesus on the way (to the Cross) ourselves.


    Phil Ware

  29. The concept of the big theistic (all powerful, immutable, omniscient, etc.) god that is promulgated by most of establishment
    Christianity is the reason why thoughtful and compassionate atheists who care about injustice and inequity are atheists.
    Case in point is this blog entry by a southern Mississippi paramedic who goes by the moniker “Megadoom.”  He is an atheist because the reality of human suffering and injustice compels him to be.

    He writes about a recent call to home of a prostitute and her three young children:

     “Frustration isn't a strong enough explanation for how I feel when 3 small kids, none of which are older than nine, come stumbling out of smelly stained single wide with a one eyed prostitute smoking a cigarette and a toddler propped on her hip. The five year old had the family's medicaid card...what a little helper. None of the children had shoes, and most had torn pants and smelled of pot. My head was screaming inside as I wrestled my demeanor into the necessary professionalism to ask the necessary question required to explore why I was called. Fever, a kid had a fever, and she never gave any tylenol either. A kid with a low grade fever does in no way constitute an emergency, but this sorta thing is very common with the folks welding medicaid cards. Like it was a health care credit card to the VIP ER, and in some ways it is. Nevertheless, I was happy to obliged knowing I'd have the opportunity to report the situation to DHS at the soonest opportunity, which would be in a few minutes at the nearby ER. So the whole dirty gaggle hopped into the ambulance module to watch a paramedic blow up latex gloves and draw funny faces on them. Settled in for the short trip, vital signs taken, I open the ePCR (electronic pt care report) to begin documenting my findings when the rough one eyed mommy leans over to ask if I had found Jesus Christ and had been saved? This question has always made me uncomfortable for a number of reason, least of which would be guilt, but after so many questions along these lines from fundies I'm become a little more resolute and hardened when I answer. No. I have seen too much in my line of work to believe there's some paternal, trinity family residing in the heavens above that looks out for us. But I won't say there isn't one either, because how would I know. Seems like superstitious nonsense to me though, a belief structure that gives comfort in world full of grief, pain, and misery.  When I die, if there is a god, a soul, life after death, and so on, then god can judge me. But if I'm sentenced to hell because I didn't accept this Jesus despite my life of sacrifice and caring for others, than to hell with god himself. Wouldn't want to hang around a being like that anyway. I didn't go into all this with the mother of course, but that's kinda how I feel after two decades of putting myself into the human circle of tragedy.”

    I recommend reading the entire blog entry for the full context.

    “Bless the Children”

    Why does Megadoom have this reaction to Jesus? Because Christianity has by and large slandered Jesus by identifying him with the big, theistic god that rules from above by divine fiat.  When in truth Jesus is the supreme atheist and at Golgotha that big, theistic, omni god--made in the image of human philosophy and religion--was revealed to be a delusion. All powers, authority, and especially the all mighty power of death (for death is the only almighty power in the universe) were exposed for the lies and frauds that they are.  

    YHWH (I shall be what I shall be) has become the humble, crucified Galilean, Jesus of Nazareth. As Jesus he has indeed gone to hell and has died the death of all deaths. This is how all-mighty power is vanquished. Not by a greater might or power, that would be absurd; but by non-power, by The Life poured out even into the depths of hell.

    And the question remains: OK that sound great on paper, where it the real thing?

  30. More than anything to
    do with a big or small God, it sounds like this posts and the bulk of the
    comments are really about authentic Christianity versus kitschy, centripetal forms
    of piety. Again, I hope we don’t lose our wonder at the paradox of God—His
    bigness and smallness.

    Man’s maker was made man,
    that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His
    mother’s breast;
    that the Bread might hunger,
    the Fountain thirst,
    the Light sleep,
    the Way be tired on its journey;
    that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
    the Teacher be beaten with whips,
    the Foundation be suspended on wood;
    that Strength might grow weak;
    that the Healer might be wounded;
    that Life might die.

    -Augustine (Sermons 191.1)

  31. I think we need to see God as BIG *and* small. But then we're in danger of making Him the Goldilocks God. And that just wouldn't be right.

    Seriously, though: When I ponder the God of the Universe — the Creator of galaxies and nebulae — and realize that He cares for *me*… I guess what I'm saying is that it's only in a true appreciation of His bigness that we can be blessed by His smallness.

  32. I should add that the story of the child being hanged was one of the worst and most sad stories I've heard of in a long, long time. It made me almost physically ill, and I didn't cry over it until a day later. People can so easily seem to become so obscenely, obscenely horrible. I wish and hope that somehow Wiesel was correct. And that in some invisible way God was there. God was identifying with and present somehow with that child. And with those other horror stories I read about in war or just in life. I wish and hope Bonhoeffer is right and that in some way Christ crucified is him in some invisible way "the only way He is in us and helps us." I doubt it very much often, and yet hope it true.

  33. Isaiah 6 is helpful here, as is Peter's interaction with Jesus in Luke 5:1-11. Not that worship is ever as simple as step 1 and following, but I do think we begin by encountering the holiness of God which leads to an understanding of our own sin, brokenness, and weakness, which makes God's forgiveness all that more empowering, which leads us to say "Here I am, send me" when Jesus calls us to be fishers of men.

  34. I would add that our problem is when we try to boil down an encounter with God in Christ to one of these elements. We either want to simply experience holiness or only mourn our sin or only celebrate our salvation or only go out into the world. The transfiguration story is another example of the importance of witnessing the glory of God on the mountain only to then follow Christ into the valley in order to bring healing to those who are suffering.

  35. Have you ever read Rudolf Otto's "The Idea of the Holy (Das Heilige)"? Otto deals with the bigness and smallness of God as functions of immanence and transcendence. It is a very powerful and yet short book.

  36. Here's a great post from 2004 by a Lutheran pastor with an identical title to yours. Key quote:

    Our comfort is not that God is big. Our comfort (and even greater
    awe) is that the big God became small. He became small like us, taking
    on flesh and blood for our sakes. And He got even smaller than that.
    Humiliation can make us feel so small that we could sit on the edge of a
    dime and swing our legs, but His humiliation was even smaller in the
    eyes of the world which rejected Him.

    He who became small for our sakes now comes to us in small ways (in
    the eyes of the world). A little water and a few words. A little bread, a
    little cup; His body and His blood. We are too small for Him to come to
    us in His bigness. It is gospel where He comes to us in the small ways
    of Word and Sacrament.

  37. This is brutal. What Hebrew name for God is small? Outside of Jehovah-Rohi (The Lord our Shepherd) there is nothing that mentions God as small why? For He is the great God. And Lord our Shepherd in the ideology that we, the sheep (the small) are to follow our great God. The transcendence of God, His outside of time and space, is something to be worshiped and marveled at and while it is true, He chooses in Himself to become imminent as He is... a friend closer than a brother and a personal Saviour, He does not in the least loose an ounce of His awesome might and power. I know not who you are, Richard, but your theology needs a tune up and you need never to loose the passion and awe for the amazing God that we do serve, Yahweh. Never bring God into a smaller idea that you may 'better understand Him' for you cannot understand Him... You are man! He is not. I know what you are trying to imply with this post... but the argument is weak and the theology worse. God is love... meaning, once we marvel at the awesomeness of God, we choose to submit and follow Him in everything... meaning, the greatest commandment, loving the Lord our God... and our neighbors. Theos- God ology- study of. Study of God... meaning the study of His GREAT character... not smallness. Please, read your Bible in the correct light. Now... after reading, feel free to delete this post out of whatever emotion you are undergoing. 

    PS- This was not just a post to 'start a quarrel' or fight but rather encourage you to remain strong to the God we do serve. Take care. Titus 3:9 

  38. This is one of those dualities that mystic Christianity loves and literal Christianity despises.  How can God be both big enough to encompass the universe and small enough to whisper comfort in our ear when we experience loss?  To begin to understand God, as mystic Christians, we must be capable of dealing with these seeming contradictory ideas and knowing that they are BOTH true and BOTH not true enough (yes, I sound like I'm echoing Zen philosophy!  deliberately!).

    To answer your question about the missional perspective, though Richard, being impressed by God's awesome power and how small we are by comparison ought to have the effect of equalizing us in our minds with those "sinners" to whom we ought to be ministering in our day-to-day lives.  Since we are all small by comparison to God, we are certainly no bigger or better in His eyes than that "tax collector" or "prostitute" across the street.

  39. I agree with your conclusions regarding the 2 different perspective on God  "big" vs. "small".  How this manifested in my own journey was the switch in thinking from we are all depraved, ruined sinners beyond hope, to we all have the spark of God in us.  What makes us human, and worthy of love is that we are HUMAN and have the breath of God in us.  When Christians see this in others and not just their "unforgiven sin" then we truly start to see others as God sees them.  Dont we all have the breath of life "God" in us??  This is how we love others without an alterior motive of saving them.  Love others because they are Gods handiwork, they ARE God. 

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