God Isn’t Holy…Anymore

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If God was not holy, what would change? Honestly, what would truly change? 

Simply put, I guess we could say that He would cease to be God. If holiness is synonymous with divinity, then God would cease to be God and instead become a god. 

If God lost His holiness, we would be worshipping a normal person. We would become a cult (in some aspects, we may have already achieved this status). Christianity would no longer be different from any other world religion.

Wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t everything change? Unfortunately, we are beginning to find out…because God isn’t holy anymore. 

Or at least this is how we behave (I had you thinking I was completely heretical). Lately, I have been reading “God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism” by Abraham Joshua Heschel. While reading the book, one thing has continually struck me in every chapter: the Jews see God holier than Christians do.

Take a look at some of our songs:
“I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. He calls me friend. Who am I that you are mindful of me? That you hear me when I call? Is it true that you are thinking of me? How you love me? It’s amazing.”
“I want to know you. I want to hear your voice. I want to know you more. I want to touch you. I want to see your face. I want to know you more.”
“Come closer closer to me. Find me broken. Find me bleeding. ‘Cause I need more now than a fairy tale, a God who lives in a book. I need someone real. So would you come?”
“And he walks with me. And he talks with me. And he tells me that I am his own. And the joy that we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

 Songs aren’t the only thing. So many times, I have said, and I have heard others say, “I just want to hear something from God,” or “I wish I could see God,” or something along those lines. We desire this dramatic relationship with God. These thoughts and attitudes and thoughts formed the “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. Fortunately, we’ve moved away from those a bit, but I still think we have removed the holiness of God.

In Heschel’s book, he says, “the gift of prophecy was not a goal for which the prophets strove…revelation occurred against the will of the prophet. It was not a favor to him, but a burden of terror…Moses hid his face…When called, the prophets recoiled, resisted, and pleaded to be left alone” (page 224).

We desire some intimate relationship with God where we are bffs and talking about our weekend plans, but the prophets viewed what they did as a burden. Their communication with God was terrifying. Hearing God speak caused them to say things like, “Woe is me! For I am lost” (Isaiah 6.5). Jeremiah practically hated his life for what he heard from God. Ezekiel was also terrified of what he heard from God. Rereading the prophets, one sees that prophecy was not a gift that was desirable. For when God spoke to the prophets, they were burdened with carrying out the word of God. 

A professor in college, Dr. David Reece, would always say that preaching was not something we should be excited about or want to do, it was something that we had to do. It had to be something that we had to get off our chest. Much like how the prophets felt.

I think that our eagerness to follow God has removed His holiness. Holiness is no longer something that we fear. We now replace fear with excitement. We no longer fear what God may ask of us, but we get excited at what God will do through us.

Excitement has destroyed the holiness of God. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think that we are excited to follow God. I think that there will be excitement. We are taking part in something greater than ourselves! What isn’t exciting about that? At the same time, however, it is terrifying. It is truly terrifying. God entrusts us with the Gospel? That’s a daunting task.

Recognizing God’s holiness has to evoke fear. Not terror. Fear. Good fear. The kind of fear that reminds you that God is great and you are not. The kind of fear that reminds you that God is in control and you are not. The kind of fear that reminds you that the task at hand is great and not to be taken lightly. There is joy in serving God…but there is also fear.

So the next time we say, “I want to see you, God,” remember that God blinded Paul. Or the next time we say, “I want to hear you, God,” remember that it caused Isaiah to say “Woe is me!” and it caused Moses to say, “Don’t send me! Send someone else!” The next time you begin to pray by saying, “Hey daddy,”…well, just don’t do that. It’s kind of weird, actually.

We have removed God’s holiness in the way we communicate with him. We think that because Jesus came and did what He did, it meant that we no longer had to view God as holy as Israel did. However, this is far from the truth. God is still holy and still needs to be viewed as holy. It is time that we restored His holiness in the way we interact with Him.

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3 thoughts on “God Isn’t Holy…Anymore

  1. DNK

    Caleb, a thoughtful post indeed, and I think you have put your finger on a truly serious problem. Heschel’s book is wonderful, isn’t it?

    My concern, however, is one I have raised with other of your essays. You use the language “Christian” and “Christians” to refer almost exclusively to contemporary American Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. The vast majority of Christians do not fall within these bounds. The largest communions of those who follow Christ today are the Roman, Greek, and Anglican. All three have been highly critical of the sort of language and thought patterns you’ve identified here (“attitudes and thoughts formed the ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ songs”) for at least a century. The historic rites of the church, which these communions (by and large) employ, are frameworks designed to shape, inform, and properly balance our engagement with Holiness. They are so designed because long experience has taught what human nature is always wont to do with Transcendence–make it more to our liking, suiting our preference, prejudices, and comforts. Of course, that’s always inevitable to some extent–we can’t see other than through our own eyes, after all. And, it is also true that the “veil” has been torn, that we have an incredible access to the Holy through the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection–so much so that we are able to call the Most Highest something an ancient Jew never would, “Father.” But, that’s the balancing aspect I spoke of–the liturgies have been practicing the tight rope of Holiness and Imminence for many centuries. I do not mean to say the church has ever got it perfect, or figured out exactly the proper way to approach Divinity without showing our incredible folly. That will never happen; but, at the very least, the rituals teach a humility and awe that, I think, cannot but provide a better entry into deep prayer than to enter blushing with “Is it true that you are thinking of me?”

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