Saturday, June 04, 2011

Where God Meets Man

I'm reading a book by Gerhard Forde called Where God Meets Man. I love it.  It is a little heady, but it deals with Martin Luther's theology on a conceptual level and has talked about things like Law and Gospel and the "hidden God" versus "revealed God" ideas in his thinking. I really appreciate Luther's thought and find it a helpful attitude toward such difficult concepts.

The hidden God and the revealed God

"What this adds up to is that a God who comes down to earth requires us to think differently than does a God who remains in splendid isolation up in heaven. That is why Luther saw that one must make a distinction between God 'hidden' and God 'revealed.' Generally speaking, apart from his concrete action in Christ, God in Luther's view, is 'hidden.' In that way Luther sought to give theological epression to the fact that general concepts and ideas such as almightiness, immutability, and even predestination do not in the first instance reveal God to us so much as they hide him from us. They do not at first comfort or console us so much as they frighten us or even repel us. They set us to wondering and perhaps fearing what such a God might have in store for us. But the point in saying that God is hidden is to lead us to recognize that this is exactly the way God intends it to be. He does not want to be known as he is 'in heaven,' in his mere 'almightiness' or even merely as 'the God of predestination.' He wants to be known as the God in the manger or at his mother's breasts, the God who suffered and died and rose again. His almightiness, his unchangeability, the threat of predestionation -all these things are 'masks' which God wears, so to speak, to drive us to look elsewhere, to look away from heaven and down to earth, to the manger and the cross, to preaching and the sacraments. For the point is that God simply does not want to be known and will not be known on any other level. He hides himself behind a mask which is intended to drive man away in fear to a place where he, as revealed God, wants to be known."

The omnipotent, sovereign God and the problem of evil

"When one is really met by tragedy and sorrow it is small comfort to be confronted with a theoretical discourse on whether or not God is completely in control of things. The real question is whether we have any warrant to affirm life and to believe in the face of evil and tragedy that the good God is in fact in ultimate control, whether we can confess our trust in 'the Father Almight.' The question is really whether anything that happens here is strong enough to enable us to look evil in the face and still say, 'I believe.'... Luther's conviction was that such a thing happened in the cross and resurrection of Christ. There something was accomplished: the will of God was revealed in such a way as to enable us to say, "I believe in God the Father Almighty," which means, "I trust God with the government of the world." Of course this is not a solution to the problem of evil in the sense that it explains where it came from or how it started or how exactly it is related to God's omnipotence. Luther has no better answers to those questions than anyone else: the problem of evil rmains for him a deep mystery. But by making the distinction between God hidden and revealed he points out better how it might actually be handled. Apart from his revelation in Christ, God is hidden. We have, ultimately, no means for penetrating that hiddenness."

Just like how the intended purpose of the law is to do drive us to the Gospel, Luther posits that even the mysterious and hidden things about God, which confront us, terrify us, perplex us, repel us, and often prompt us to use "natural reason" to come up with ways to explain them away, are intended by God to point us to the light He has revealed, in Jesus coming down to earth as a man and living, dying, and rising from the grave for us. There is a proper use for the law, and there is a proper use for the hidden things about God, as well.  Amazing stuff.

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