Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

The great and terrible God

In order to reduce Christianity to moralistic, therapeutic deism, we must reduce God to a warm fuzzy, namby-pamby therapist whose only desire is to help us find relief from the emotional and existential complexes that befuddle our lives.

That is not the way that the Bible describes Him. Nehemiah twice speaks of God as being great and terrible (Nehemiah 1:5 & 4:14) and David once (Psalm 99:3). When Isaiah saw God, he said “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5). When John saw Christ glorified, he “fell at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1:17).

This appears to introduce a conundrum. As we read through the Bible, we are repeatedly admonished to fear God. Yet there are equally frequent admonitions to “fear not.” Is there a way out, an answer to this riddle? As I consider the lives of men like Moses, David, Isaiah, Nehemiah and John, a striking fact emerges: those who had the greatest fear of God did not have much fear of anything or anyone else.

The Scriptures invite us to a personal relationship with this great and terrible God. Those who accept this invitation find that their fears melt away in proportion to the closeness of their relationship to God. They truly find Him to be a God of love, a Father of the fatherless and a Comforter of the brokenhearted. Yet He is still the omnipotent one, having all power over all things, seen and unseen. We must submit to Him and serve Him, for He will not be our servant.

Many want to believe in another kind of God, one who will produce miracles and healings on demand, yet never find fault with willful disobedience. This kind of soft, loving God often seems unable to generate either true love or true peace in those who profess to know Him.

Real love comes from being in a relationship with the real God who knows all about us, not just our words and actions but our deepest and most hidden thoughts and feelings, and yet forgave us completely when we repented. Genuine peace and security comes from trusting our lives completely unto this God who is completely beyond our control.

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1)

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4 responses to “The great and terrible God

  1. Christian Thomas Golden August 6, 2014 at 11:49

    Too many people read of the “harsh” God of the old testament and come away with a bitter taste. Look at all He put up with! How many chances did He give His people? How often did He demonstrate his Love, Mercy, Grace, and Forgiveness, only to be cursed!

    You are absolutely right. We cannot truly appreciate God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness if we don’t recognize just how powerful and terrible He can be!

    • Bob Goodnough August 7, 2014 at 21:54

      You make a very good point about the supposedly “harsh” God of the Old Testament. Yes, there are accounts of severe judgement; but there are also accounts of love and forebearance toward people like Jacob and David, who were considerably less than perfect in their conduct. He is still the same today – severe towards those who are willfully disobedient, kind and merciful towards the ineptitude of those who truly want to serve Him.

  2. John Kramer August 6, 2014 at 11:56

    Amen!! Very well written, as always, and so true. I see the consequences of the “fuzzy God-love all” spirits that are prevalent today in many of the people that I work with and for. Vey sad.
    One can easily be taken up with those spirits with constant exposure. Appreciate the truth!!

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