In front of me, a little boy was playing with a toy — one with a face and metal shavings under a plastic shield, and a magnetic wand to move the shavings. He had propped the toy against the back of the pew so he could kneel on the floor and play with it. He was struggling, though. He would pull the metal shavings up to form eyebrows and they would drop back down in the pile.
I watched, slightly amused. Clearly he understood the basic properties of magnetism. What he was failing to account for was the additional force of gravity pulling the shavings down once the magnet was no longer acting on them.
Bud reached over the pew and laid the toy flat so the boy could create his masterpiece. He whispered a simple explanation, then we all watched while a face was successfully haired.
Later, as the guest preacher spoke, my youngest son, a teenager too old for junior church, reached over and grabbed the toy.
The pastor was speaking about the two gods in the Old Testament — one who was angry and vengeful, and the other who was loving and compassionate.
I felt sad for the minister.
In so many ways, his mistake was not much different than the boy with the toy. In focusing on one aspect of God while denying another, he failed to understand God’s ineffability.
You see, God is like the magnet and the shavings. They share physical properties, kind of like Jesus as God becoming man. Imagine Jesus saying, “I am this great and powerful magnet, so powerful you cannot possibly understand me, but I’m going to allow myself to be shaved down into little tiny pieces so that I can interact with you. I can bump against you and move with you. You’ll be changed if you spend time with Me.” Indeed, Jesus even says, in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
But God is also like gravity. Everyone, whether they are aware of it or not, is affected by it. Every step we take, every move we make, every silly little toy we play with is impacted by gravity. If I said that I no longer believed in gravity, it wouldn’t change the way it works in my life. If we ignore gravity, it doesn’t ignore us. It is a constant presence on this oblate sphere.
And God is somehow in the wand and the muscles, the nerves, the brain fashioning that picture. His Spirit fills us. Guiding, directing, creating. Shaping, forming, transporting. Moving in our lives. Moving through the shavings. Giving us a free will, but working in and through us as we yield ourselves to Him.
Dichotomous God. Phooey.
There is only one God.
He is bigger than gravity, magnetism, and the creative idea.
He is bigger than vengeance and compassion.
He is far far bigger than the toy in the pew. Or the woman in the pew. Or the man at the lectern.
When will we learn that we cannot put God in a box?
The question isn’t how can we edit God to fit Him into our box, but what is it about God that we are failing to understand.
As C. S. Lewis said, “He is not a tame lion.”
(My apologies to pastors everywhere that I don’t pay better attention in church…)