Today, I'll be sharing my thoughts on the preface and the first two chapters.
From the preface
True religion confronts earth with heaven and brings eternity to bear upon time. The messenger of Christ, though he speaks from God, must also, as the Quakers used to say, "speak to the condition" of his hearers; otherwise he will speak a language known only to himself. His message must be not only timeless but timely. He must speak to his own generation.
The message of this book does not grow out of these times but it is appropriate to them. It is called forth by a condition which has existed in the Church for some years and is steadily growing worse. I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. (vii)
Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words "Be still, and know that I am God," means next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century. (vii)
It is impossible to keep our moral practices sounds and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is. (viii)
From chapter one, "Why We Must Think Rightly About God"
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.and
For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God. (1)
That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. (2)
A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. (2)
But unless the weight of the burden [our realization of sin, of our separation from God, our lostness, our need, our filthiness, our lowness] is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. (3)
The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. (3)
Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. (4)
From chapter two, "God is Incomprehensible"
The child, the philosopher, and the religionist have all one question: "What is God like?" (6)
The yearning to know What cannot be known, to comprehend the Incomprehensible, to touch and taste the Unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calleth unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its Source. How can this be realized?
The answer of the Bible is simply "through Jesus Christ our Lord." In Christ and by Christ, God effects complete self-disclosure, although He shows Himself not to reason but to faith and love. God came to us in the incarnation; in atonement He reconciled us to Himself, and by faith and love we enter and lay hold on Him. (9)
For while the name of God is secret and His essential nature incomprehensible, He in condescending love has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself. These we call His attributes. (11)My thoughts:
Essentially, what he's saying is that it is VERY, VERY, VERY important that we think rightly of God, that we think right things about God, true things about God. That we just can't let ourselves imagine God any which way we want. The more we make God into our image, the more we make God reflect ourselves--our wants, our desires, our needs, our ideas, etc. The more trouble we're in.
We need to KNOW God--as God is revealed in the Bible, as God has revealed himself through the Bible, through Christ. In other words, what we think about God matters. It MATTERS because it is the foundation--though we may not realize it--of how we live our lives. What we believe about God, the thoughts we think about God, are reflected in our actions. So we could be saying all the right things, joining in community responses in our liturgies and creeds, but unless our true thoughts about God are worthy and right, then we need help. We need to stop and think, to repent, to turn to God in our need. We need to KNOW God. How do we come to know God, how do we come to know who God is? We can know only through God's revelation to us. We can't come to right ideas about God on our own. We can think and think and think and think and think all we want--but apart from God's revelation to us--through Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, through the revealed Word of God, through the spoken and written Word of God as it read and proclaimed--our thoughts won't get us any closer to the truth. God can be known, but only through HIS revelation to us. We can't climb up to God, but he can reach down to us.
I liked how he says that the message "must be not only timeless but timely." That is how I feel about the Bible. I feel it is both timeless and timely. It is not irrelevant. It is not outdated. It does not need help from people to make it "be" relevant to this generation. I think this is because no matter what generation we're in--the same problems confront us all. And the biggest problem for humanity remains sin. Which is what the Bible addresses.
The first two chapters stress that it is a) important to know the one, true God and b) the one, true God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. Both chapters, of course, serve as an introduction to a study of God's attributes.
What do you think? Do you think the church--generally speaking--has adopted a lower form of God? Do you think we've repackaged God and made him smaller and more understandable? Has the church become a bit lazy when it comes to contemplating God's majesty and glory? When was the last time you thought about how wondrous and amazing it is that God has revealed himself to us, that God wants to be known by us, that he has made a way for us to know Him through His son?! Do you think God is worth studying and contemplating?
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible