The theory of “divine accommodation” (that God “accommodates” himself to humans) needs to be approached with caution. It seems clear from a straightforward reading of Scripture that some language about God is figurative (i.e. God is not my husband nor should I suppose that he is flying about with eagles wings somewhere). But it seems just as clear from a straightforward reading of Scripture that other language used to describe God is not figurative. That God learns things, that he changes his mind, that he regrets and is sometimes surprised.
But we’re told that this way of speaking of our divine being is not appropriate. We’re told to believe what the historic Christian faith imagines God to be like. That this other language used to describe God is figurative as well. We’re told that God is “timeless” and that he is “emotionless”. That he doesn’t change and that he really doesn’t “feel” anything at all. That he doesn’t move or make decisions. He doesn’t really perform actions because actions require duration which a timeless being is incapable of doing – or else he wouldn’t be timeless. We are told that this is the image of the Christian God. He is not as he has revealed himself in the Bible. That “revelation”, we are told, is “not literally true”. The revelation of God’s word is a lie. We are not to trust the Word of God; we are to rather place our trust in theological and philosophical constructs. Paul Helm says as much:
“If a timelessly eternal God is to communicate to embodied intelligent creatures, who exist in space and time and to bring about his purposes through them, and particularly to gain certain kinds of responses from them, then he must do so by representing himself to them in ways that are not literally true.”
If God is to communicate with us, he is to represent himself in a false manner? I don’t get it, what kind of communication is based on misrepresentation? What’s going on here – we are told – is a case of God not wanting to reveal himself as he really is, so he’s left that responsibility in the hands of the theologians.
When I became a Christian I did so because I believed in the God of the Bible. It was that plain and simple. He loved me. He died for me. He cares for me. He reached out to me. He feels my pain. And what’s more? He’s holy and yes, sometimes angry. He deals with sin one way or another. “He acted then, and he’ll do it again” was one slogan I knew well. I watched the Jesus film as God incarnate, Emmanuel, was illustrated before my very eyes through the medium of modern technology. I fell to my knees in belief. I prayed. I hold Jesus that I wanted to follow him. “I will serve you” I said.
But now we’re told to stop suckling on milk and chomp on some real meat. God is not really all of those things you just said. He only made you think he was like that because you were only a baby and he had to talk to you like a baby. He needed to accommodate himself to you.
But now, here’s the meat: God is static. He is timeless. He is emotionless.
So why then, I want to know, did God reveal himself as having emotions if he has none?
“If dialogue between God and humankind is to be real and not make-believe, then God cannot represent himself (in his role as dialogue partner) as wholly immutable.”
Have you ever felt like you’ve been duped? Like the mission you’ve set your mind to has been based on a false pretense? Because that’s what theologians are telling me: I’ve been duped. It’s like the day my mom sat me on her knee and explained to me that Santa Clause doesn’t really exist. I wondered how she could lie to me all of those years. I was devastated.
Christianity had lied to me. It had promised one thing and delivered another. It told me what God is like, and then told me that God is not really like that at all.
I feel like a boy in the Kings army who one day receives a message from a teacher in the royal court telling me there is no real King. There is a throne, of course. And that throne is emblematic of a once for all declared cause. But at the end of the day it is just a throne. Just a chair in a really large room. It does not give out any more commands. It does not comfort, nor protect. It does not care, love, get angry or act in any way.
One thing it does, it does not go away. It is there, as it always will be.
I may only be a boy in the Kings army. I may not be a distinguished teach with accolades behind my name and church leaders like Aquinas and Calvin tucked away in my back pocket.
But I’m nobody’s fool.
I flip the letter over and write on the back these words before I send it with the messenger to return it from whence it came:
“I’ve met the King, and trust His word”
I cannot accept systems of theology that try and go behind God’s self-revelation in Jesus and the scriptures and try and convince me that God is actually something else altogether. I cannot accept a system of theology that asks me to trust in it rather than the Word of God.