Sunday, November 07, 2010

Short Catechism 2: Our God is an Awesome God

I've finagled the order a little this week.  This third post becomes the second in the series:

1. Mercy trumps justice.
2. God is an awesome God.
3. God wants to save everyone.

These are kernels of chats with my younger children.

Our God is an Awesome God
1. Hard for us even to understand how great God is.
Think of your principal or someone you look up to.  Think of someone really strong on TV or in the movies.  God makes such people look like ants.  He could crush the earth with his pinky.  How do you normally act around someone so strong?

He made the earth out of nothing--so he designed it all, understands it all.  He doesn't need us--he helps us because he likes us!

So how should we act around someone like this--all powerful, all knowing, but someone who made us, likes us, and sees everything we do?  Should we insult him?  ignore him?

2. Sometimes God intervenes, sometimes he lets things go.
We don't know why he saves us sometimes and then other times does not.  Sometimes he swoops in to the rescue like Superman.  If we ignore him long enough, he often lets us go, with all the bad things that happen when we are selfish.  There's a point after which you have lost his phone number and don't even realize it.  You wouldn't know where to find his number even if you suddenly became desperate.

3. After we die, if we have been friends with God, we will be with him forever.  If we have ignored him, he will abandon us to the course we have set in life, separation from him forever, eternal death.


Bob MacDonald said...

I have lots of problem with the third in its written form. And with the first - why is this relevant to children? It comes across as conditionally threatening. Doesn't sound or feel to me like good news.

1. How great God is (skip the 'understanding') If you could crush the earth with your pinky would you - or would you lift your little pinky and touch the winter sky. Love's all over the mountains where the beautiful go to die.

Children - even adult children - are cowed by abstraction a la Rambo - give it a contrast - a delicacy. God loves us - he may not like us and we may not like him.

3. How do we die? Jesus died and we have died already in our baptism with him. What does 'after' mean - it means now. Should we be 'friendly' or just say hello and learn what this God is like. My theology reduces to three words : help, thanks, and sorry.

The linear movement of time may or may not be a true image. If all those who are past are present to God (as in this morning's lesson from Luke 20) then after and before are almost irrelevant.

Now I am being severe with you - not with the children. I have taught kids for 2 years and have never had to approach these concepts in this form.

Ken Schenck said...

I was unhappy (and sleepy) with this, Bob. I was trying to get at the judgment side of God without falling into the same old rhetoric. My children are in the next town over this afternoon so I haven't actually talked to them yet today ;-)

Must we not somehow retain some element of the justice and "fear" of the LORD. I do not feel like I have found the sweet spot of balancing it with "mercy over judgment." Must there not be a point where God simply dismisses us? I am very open to thoughts that do not fall into the same old same old.

Hell is a difficult thing to conceptualize for me, so I really am unsure how to relate it to my children. The consensus view seems almost incoherent to me, an infinite punishment for a finite sin (and I strongly resist Piper's explanation as a warped view of God). And of course what little the NT says about Gehenna comes straight from intertestamental Jewish literature, the contours of which no Christian would accept.

But I am neither an ecumenical council nor the convener of an ecumenical council. I am left to vagueries and mysteries.

I recognize that this week's is weak. But alas, I must keep moving...

Bob MacDonald said...

Thanks for your gracious reply Ken - Its a good question - how does one explore justice, judgment and 'fear' with children? I tend to teach what is in the Bible by story and by word. The judgment and fear things just arise from the text - not as abstract concepts to be memorized. Also they arise in the sharing that must go on between children. They 'know' already what's what. What we don't know is the extent of God's love for us - that just takes time - and how much seems to depend on the individual. Even then it is God's initiative not our catechism that proves critical. And that's a good thing - otherwise we would have to worry about all those who never heard our catechism is just that form.