While reading Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment With God, I was halted by a personal discovery of his. Writing about his research for Disappointment With God, he comments: “After two weeks of studying the Bible, I had a strong sense that God doesn’t care so much about being analyzed.”
“God doesn’t care so much about being analyzed.” So what does this mean? Do we dispose of any serious thinking and discussing of God’s nature and actions? I don’t think so. Plus, if that were so, then Yancey’s book goes against his own conclusion.
What I think Yancey is pushing us to reflect upon is not whether we should do theology and think about God and who He is, but the way we do it. Martin Luther wrote that one must grow “worried when people become scholars through writing lots of books—but do not have the slightest idea what it means to be Christian.” Such scholars were termed by Luther to be theologians of glory. These scholastics spent a great deal of time in speculating about God, but they did not know him.
“What God wants,” writes Yancey, “is to be loved.” Not loved because He is in need, but to be loved because it is our need and His passion. Our estrangement from God is what God seeks to reconcile. And He does so by the cross. For it is by the cross that we know what love is. John writes that this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
Walter von Loewenich has written that it is the cross that “leads a person out of his or her spectator stance and propels him or her into the decision of faith.” In other words, when considering the cross, it cannot just be “analyzed,” but moves those who are Christ-followers to a deeper relationship with God characterized by trust and obedience.
I believe we ought to think deeply about God. We should not be afraid of theology as it is the task of the community of God. But Yancey does well at calling us to remember that our task of “studying God” is more than just attaining some facts. It’s about pushing us into a deeper love relationship with our Creator. Doing good theology should leave us in a sense of awe of who God is and what He has done.
May we, as we grow in the knowledge and grace of God, declare the words of Psalm 100…
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.