Discovering God on the pilgrimage of Christian faith

Who is God and what is God like? asks Christopher Holmes. 

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
What is the source of all that is good, true and beautiful? And what is a good life about?

These are important questions, and they have to do with God. God created us for a life of friendship with God. Think about that: our life is not our own. Each of us is from God and made for intimacy with God.

Who is God and what is God like? These are demanding questions, intellectually and spiritually. Christian faith teaches that in order to know God we must become lovers of God.

This is strange to us. Our permissive culture teaches us that we are the authors and makers of our own destiny. We are encouraged to do things our own way. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments teach otherwise. As St Augustine reminds us, God has made us for himself, and we are profoundly restless until we rest in him. And the Old Testament prophet Isaiah says that God's ways, though not our ways, are nonetheless the best ways.

What is good, true and beautiful? This question cannot be answered in a vacuum. In order to rightly answer this question, we must become certain sorts of persons.

What kind of persons? Persons who pray, who rejoice, who accept each day as a gift. Persons who worship God with others who are learning to love God and their neighbour in relation to God. Persons who read the Scriptures with open hands and hearts.

Christian faith is a pilgrimage. It involves us learning to love, little by little, what God loves. It also involves us turning from those things God hates.

Where do we receive our moral compass? Where do we hear about our destiny as creatures made by God? Where do we learn to set aside the myth that says we are what we make of ourselves? Where do we encounter the best news ever?

Believe it or not, we encounter it in the church. When the Christian church is being remotely true to itself, it is the one place wherein the avalanche of cruelties related to global consumer culture hold no sway. Where the truth is spoken in love.

Indeed, we learn that God really loves us. We discern God's compassion for the poor. We hear of Jesus' unrelenting condemnation of the rich, most especially those who benefit from others' poverty. We are given eyes to see.

In God's world, the tables are overturned. The things that we think are rubbish are what God values most. A humble and contrite spirit, these things matter to God. Not only are the poor in spirit blessed, but the poor themselves.

Is this true? Yes. There is nothing better than God. The God we meet in the Old and New Testaments is ``the Lord of all the earth'' (Psalm 97:5). Is this good news? Yes. What must I do? One can begin by singing to the Lord, blessing his name, and telling of his salvation from day to day.

Christian faith makes scandalous claims about the way things are. It articulates judgements about the nature of reality. It is also deeply concerned with the moral life, with what we do and say, at both an individual and a social level.

The joyful news of the Scriptures is related to God. The Bible is a book about God, and God's creation of a people who love him. It reveals God's character as One who is supremely good, true and beautiful.

We are created for a life of friendship and intimacy with this God and with others who are on their way towards loving and serving this God. The business of theology is to consider God and to understand all things in relation to God.

This requires certain sorts of persons. Above all else, persons who listen to God's voice in Scripture, pray and praise, and gather around the Lord's Table. Though far from perfect, these are folks who see that goodness, truth and beauty matter. And they know that these things matter, because they worship the One who is infinitely good, true and beautiful.

Christopher Holmes is an Anglican priest and teaches theology in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Otago.

 

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