Let God be God

For Blog LWA

I will be speaking at the God Focus Conference at Red Cliff Bible Camp, June 11-13. My two workshop topics are as follows: 1) Triune God Focus that Produces Humility and 2) Triune God Focus that Produces Holiness.

Here is an excerpt from a book that I have been reading . . .

Why is the revelation of God at Sinai so new that is smashes all categories and idols? What exactly is so brain hammering and conscience wracking? Is it the fire, the smoke, and the thunder? These are but pyrotechnics, the merest fringe sideshow, compared with the nuclear sunburst of the truth revealed—“I am who I am.”

We may tidily label God’s revelation to Moses “radical monotheism.” We may knowledgeably pronounce it “unique” in the history of world ideas. We may even repeat “I am who I am” as if it were the theological equivalent of a familiar television jingle. But if we do, we do so at our peril. For at the heart of Sinai is a heart-stopping mystery before which we should remove our shoes. As Moses reminded the people of Israel in Deuteronomy, “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice [emphasis added].”

No form, only a voice. . . . Why does God call? Why does he not show himself and defer to the eye, which Leonardo da Vinci called “the prince of the senses” and the “window of the soul”? Why does he not give us a picture that would be worth a thousand words? Why does he use words that are so fragile and disputable, words that so notoriously evaporate with our breath? Apparently the God of Sinai prohibits not only idols to rival him but also images to represent him. He does not allow imagining. God’s attributes, as Arnold Schoenberg groped to express them in his opera Moses and Aaron, are

Inconceivable because invisible; because immeasurable; because everlasting; because eternal; because omnipresent; because omnipotent.

With the brief, merciful, and marvelous exception of his Word in human form, God speaks to us in words, and our responsibility as his creatures is to listen, to trust, and to obey those words. But the reverse side of this truth leads us to a fundamental aspect of calling: Words are the deepest, fullest expression in which God now discloses himself to us, beginning with his calling. So it is in listening to him, trusting him, and obeying him when he calls that we “let God be God” in all of his awe and majesty (pp. 63-64).

- The Calling (Thomas Nelson, 2003) by Os Guinness

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6 comments

  1. Todd, is the theology of the Mormon community in flux?

    I suspect, from a very little reading, that the JW’s will change whatever theology is necessary to keep the organization going and the monies rolling in. So in a debate it appears you often find yourself trying to hit a moving target because they DON’T hold to the true inerrancy of the written Word — though they say they do. And what they once denied (such as transfusions) they now allow. But they don’t exactly announce their changes. So you think they believe something THAT THEY USED TO BELIEVE but then you find out it’s changed.

    So, particularly with the uproar of DNA showing that native americans are NOT part of the chosen people (or whatever it showed) how much theological flux is going on? Do they ever update their versions? jb

  2. Todd, do you have anything good for me to read that might give insight into what’s going on in the current version of the LDS?

    Lest I forget this post, could you e-mail me?

  3. jb, in regards to your first question in comment #2, let me pull in believing LDS apologist Blake Ostler for a possible answer:

    “I interact with evangelicals regarding LDS beliefs. Our way of approaching issues of ‘doctrine’ drives them crazy because they feel like they are shooting at a moving target. It seems to me that they are shooting at no target at all. We approach the way of being in relation to God so differently that we are not really even talking to each other about doctrine. Let me explain.

    “The notion of ‘doctrine’ is that of a carefully formulated or set of beliefs that are adopted as definitive for a ‘religion’. For traditional Christians, ‘doctrine’ means the set of propositions affirmed in the creeds or in carefully thought through statements about belief. The careful statements at Trent or Chalcedon were worked out by scholars skilled in elucidating ‘doctrine’. The LDS Church started out in this vein. Section 20 of the D&C was intended as the Articles of the Church which set forth its basic beliefs and practices. However, Section 20 was a statement at the beginning of an incredible deluge of revelation — and the revelations that have followed have not been nor can they be so easily formulated. We’re still drowning in this deluge and we’re not sure how to navigate these waters. We have no doctrine of ‘grace’ though we know grace. We have no doctrine of the ‘Trinity’ though we know God. We have no doctrine of ‘baptism’ though we have baptismal practices and baptize.

    “With due respect to Bruce McConkie, I propose that we now have no Mormon ‘doctrine’ whatsoever. There are a few very basic assertions that are not really theological in nature that define what is essential — and these questions are those of the temple recommend interview. What is essential is orthopraxis or what we do and are rather than the content of our beliefs. What that means is that it is pretty difficult to be right or wrong about LDS ‘doctrine’. I don’t know anyone who has been excommunicated for having wrong ideas — I know some who have been because what they taught essentially undermined and usurped priesthood hierarchical authority. The real issue is almost always political it seems to me.

    “It also seems to me that LDS are also therefore unfettered and free to explore the implications and inspirations of LDS revelations and how they illuminate issues of interest. We have powerful messages that may revolutionize many areas of academic pursuit. So, for example, because we have no doctrine of God’s providence (like Calvinists and Thomists who have carefully articulated systems) we are free to explore various ways of approaching these issues and we are free to accept what works best for us. However, we are not free to define appropriate conduct or practice.”

    But of course, not all traditional LDS are currently where Blake Ostler is at.

    To answer your last question in comment #2:

    Yes, there are continual updates and an ever striving for an advanced LDS theology . . . ongoing anticipation of new revelation.

    To answer your question in comment #3.
    For current Church LDS positions, read Ensign and Deseret books and talk to the neighbors in the local ward.

    For current, intellectual LDS positions, read the whole variety of colors on the internet.

  4. Very, very helpful response Todd. They are a moving target aren’t they.

    Could we call them “emerging?” grin

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