Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The invisibility of God

We more or less write into our definition of God that he is the one "whom no one has seen or can see", and that must be right. But I dare say you've noticed the problems it causes our generation, raised to believe that what you can't see simply doesn't exist.

Sometimes I've tried to side-step this problem. I have said something like "if you'd been in Palestine in the early first century AD, you could have seen God face to face". And I think that's true, theologically and historically. If you had come face to face with Jesus Christ, you would have seen God.

But recently I've become profoundly uncomfortable with that answer, and I don't think I'll give it anymore. Because another question has come up in my mind.

Was God ever more invisible than when he was the man of sorrows? Was the invisibility of God ever more evident than at Golgotha - a felt invisibility, like a shadow, or a dark spot where you know you should be able to see something?

Might the invisibility of God be a vital part of life on this side of the day when I will see him as he is? Might the only visibility available to us now be that by the Spirit's power, through faith and not sight, we can "see" the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?

3 comments:

  1. sounds like some great theology of the cross right there...

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  2. Perhaps it's more of an expression of how utterly, utterly blind we are to God that we would not really recognise him - but in fact put him to death. It's having our eyes opened by the Holy Spirit that allows us to see that it is God hanging there on the cross.
    I think the question is whether we are any less able to see that Jesus is God now, reading/hearing the Gospel, than we would have been walking around in 30AD. I don't think we are - if God needs to give us spiritual (in)sight for us to recognise him in Jesus then he can do it as we encounter him in the New Testament just as well as when those in first-century Palestine encountered him in person. So maybe the answer isn't that we would have seen God had we been around at the same time as Jesus, but that we can still see God as the Spirit reveals him to us in the Word?

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  3. Yes, I think that's quite right. I guess we have to take seriously the fact that the 'sight' by which we now see the glory of God in the face of Christ is compatible with the fact that we have not seen him (as per 1 Peter 1). So spiritual sight, which I think we might loosely bracket with the faculty of faith, is very different to physical sight and rational inference...

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