Dec 13, 2013

Is God Patient? (Part 1)


Why this Question?
In Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer writes, “We wait for the sun to move from east to west or for the hour hand to move around the face of the clock, but God is not compelled so to wait. For Him everything that will happen has already happened.”

Wait.

God is not compelled so to wait?

What does that mean? Does waiting factor into YHWH’s existence at all? Is “patience” relevant to discussing His nature?

Granted, at the heart of such questions is a mysterious God of many attributes and many names, the “I am”, YHWH, who has no creator, who created our world, entered it at a specific time in history as a specific human being, Jesus of Nazareth, died and rose from the dead in that lifespan, and then, shortly after ascending to Heaven, came to reside permanently in that same world as the Spirit that dwells within and guides the hearts of His disciples in truth and wisdom. And more.

Straightforward?

Christians have heard these ideas countless times. It is taken for granted to be sensible, but think about it again. Really think about what has been communicated. Perhaps consider it another way:

As the orthodox creeds of Christianity proclaim, this God is the one and only eternal, triune God. One. Triune. He is not only the Creator, King, and Judge, but a man, Jesus, fully human and fully divine, the embodiment of YHWH’s love that fulfills His justice while professing His grace and mercy to humanity. Outside the universe. In the universe. And more.

With so many facets and apparent paradoxes, there seems to be more mystery enshrouding my hope for a holistic view of YHWH than clarity. Through His Word, Jesus, and how it interacts with the Holy Spirit, however, I do believe that YHWH has provided the essentials of His nature. Perhaps the rest is not essential—though by no means unimportant. Jesus, this Word, is the blood that flows through the heart of YHWH’s mystery. It gives life. It stains it. Once covered in it, filled with it even, it is nearly impossible to remove. Furthermore, being that Jesus is not directly, physically here at the moment, humanity probably only has blood stains to decipher anyway. It is enough for hope and salvation, but it is not the complete body. There are only pieces—living: growing, active—but pieces all the same.

This mystery has been confounding brilliant minds for centuries, differing theories of interpretation—too readily called doctrine, I suspect—that have often led to serious division and even violence. Libraries are full of mortal reason in all fields of study wrestling with the right words to explain the mystery. Yet reason is not enough to explain YHWH. Scientific process, art, personal testimony—everything in the human arsenal of experience unfortunately proves inadequate to provide a complete understanding of YHWH. Thus faith must step in to bridge the numerous, seemingly insurmountable chasms that human hearts and minds cannot cross. Attempting to journey across such thresholds demands courage, therefore. And humility.

I have so many questions against current presuppositions, against those claiming exegetical backing—which, if we are honest, is often more eisegetical in nature—that I cannot possibly address it succinctly in one body of writing. Nor do I want to. The questions become stifling. They can cramp the will, prevent me from fostering the resources to actually take action. Not all will feel this way, but they have their own strengths and passions—their own vision. I am more compelled by the wilderness of how art speaks to experience rather than reason or science.

Every once and a while, though, I feel drawn to enter the world of scholarship to challenge what I may deduce. In this instance, Tozer provided the nudge.

Let me assume, for now, then, that YHWH is outside of time, and, therefore, knows both the end and the beginning simultaneously; that there is no future, no past, and no present for YHWH. I cannot really know this for sure because its infinite potential extends beyond my finite limitation. I am led to understand that time exists in a half-dimension: it has a starting point, and proceeds in only one direction. There are so many other dimensions, so does it really matter that I understand the nature of how YHWH exists outside time and space? In the sense that trying to answer the questions draws me closer in relationship with YHWH, yes. In the sense that it affects how I should live right now, maybe not so much.

As a disciple of Jesus, I am called to follow him—to be like him. Though some may debate this, I believe that at the heart of the Gospel is a story of YHWH’s love. Though I do not fully grasp how that all works with its tensions of justice and grace, and much more, it is a critical aspect of YHWH’s character. It is written that “God is love” (I John 4:8). Tozer would add that YHWH does not so much show love, but offer the only true, complete reality of it. Again, YHWH is love. He is the starting point of understanding it.

So what is love?

One of the most well-known definitions begins with “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). This suggests that patience is one intrinsic link to understanding love. Therefore, it must be an aspect of YHWH’s character, right? Or is it yet another failed attempt at human understanding? In fact, are most things that we call attributes of YHWH limited expressions of the Truth?

It is remarkable how swiftly the question can lead one to the edge of the chasm of utter perplexity. Hence, for now I will try to focus only on one word, one idea. Patience.

What does “patience” really mean? What does the Bible provide to the conversation? More specifically, how does patience specifically relate to my relationship with God and, therefore, with other people?

It takes a lot of time to begin to thoroughly study a word. Therefore, this brief mental journey has been divided into a few parts. The Hebrew and Greek words commonly translated into English terms associated with patience will be examined along with Scripture in the next posts. As will the ramifications of such knowledge, which is the more important purpose and outcome of this work.

If you are interested, if you dare, bear with me a while longer—join me—as I venture further into this wilderness.

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