I recently read an article in which the author rejects any kind of fear of God. He especially hates the beavers’ descriptions of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
“I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion” [says Susan].
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
When the author read those words, he felt pitied Christians who believe them. He said, “Aslan made my feelings of insecurity and insignificance worse.” Elsewhere he adds: “the idea of God being dangerous and terrifying to believers is bitter beyond words.”
He rejects any kind of fear of God as evil, incompatible with the gospel.
Embracing the Mystery
If God is infinite, his nature must exceed our limited-wisdom. The spiritual path of a believer will always push past one seeming paradox to the next. That was the first divine principle I learned as a child, the first time I heard him speak: that God is real, and I didn’t understand.
The greatest obstacle to our intimacy with God is when we cling to our own ideas and reject what he reveals about himself. And God himself says we should both love and fear him.
Every heresy since the time of Jesus has emphasized one truth at the expense of another. Heresies are our refusal to accept the whole counsel of God’s self-revelation; they flourish when we say, “I like to think of God as _____, but I hate to think of him as _____ [fill in the blanks]. What matters is not what we think of God as much as what he thinks of us.
Theologians have a word to describe how to hold two seeming contradictory truths, but G. K. Chesterton just called it mystery. And he said it is only in mystery that we meet the real God:
As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.
The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them.
His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.
It is Good to Fear God
Whenever we encounter something bigger than us, we experience a type of fear. When I see the Milky Way on a clear night, or I get a glimpse of a 14,000-foot Colorado mountain, or I see a storm on the ocean, I’m in awe. Awe doesn’t detract from the experience, it enhances it.
To reject fear of God is to make him like Caspar the Friendly Ghost, a nice but pathetic, toothless power. If that god loves me, I’m not particularly stirred. I don’t know if I even care.
But if the fearful God who judged Egypt loves me—the one who controls hurricanes, whose holiness shrivels my pride, and whose love for his people scares my judgmental self—if that God also loves me, I am moved beyond words.
God never says the beginning of wisdom is love of God; he says the beginning of wisdom is fear of God; but when that fear of God meets and kisses his love for us, then (and only then) we meet the real God, the great Lion and Lover.
We need two eyes to know the love of God; one eye fixed on his astonishing, utter holiness, and with our other eye, we see his astonishing love for us.
P. S. In five weeks, I will be hosting a retreat at my house for men nearing retirement and wondering what they should do in this next season of their life. We call it, “Living a 4th Quarter Life.” We will host a similar event for men and women in the near future. For more information: Click Here.
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