“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man…” (Romans chapter 1, verses 22-23a)
Picture this: A man is sitting inside a refrigerator, and he is very cold. For now, there is enough food and drinks to sate him, but he knows he will run out and then he is not sure what to do. You open the door a little bit and there’s an exchange like,
“What are you doing in there?”
“Not sure. I am very cold.”
“You don’t need to be, though. It’s quite warm out here.”
“That’s very silly. How do I know I’ll have food? And what will I do without the comforting order of these shelves? No, I’ll stay here, thank you.”
And maybe you’re a little exasperated, bewildered. Maybe you just laugh at him and close the door.
But please understand the poor man’s situation. He, like so many others, is trying to regulate things so they fit inside his head. Maybe because he is afraid of uncertainty, maybe he just won’t consider anything he can’t classify. It isn’t like you wouldn’t do the same if your world looked like his.
Fridges are fridges, regardless of branding
Maybe your world isn’t fridge-sized, but it’s probably pretty compressed. We humans like to think we are the most reliable measure of what can and cannot be. We draw the line at what we can explain.
At university I hear this in a lot of ‘nothing means anything and nobody’s in charge’, people proudly proclaiming godhood over themselves. We reject any higher power, let alone a loving and all-powerful one.
What are we left with? Something more chaotic than the Greek pantheon and much easier to control and classify. If we’re defining rationality, then yes, everything begins and ends with us.
It makes less sense when this same controlling, classifying logic makes its way into the church. Subtly. Putting strategy over prayer. Replacing basic Biblical concepts with marketable moral lessons. Trying to sell God to the masses by ‘cleaning up’ what we can’t explain.
We may say that meaning exists and someone’s in charge, but if you looked at most of us, you wouldn’t see that. You’d see an elite club or a business or a school of thought. Not faith.
A nice box or an ice box?
I am guilty of apologizing for God wherever I lack apologetic knowledge. That is, I forget he’s perfectly fine without our defending him from people all the time. It’s not just me, though. I’ve heard plenty of well-meaning Christians saying things like,
“I’m sure God would make an exception for this, though… It only makes sense… It’s within his good will…”
His sense or yours? His good will or yours? We don’t trust the Spirit to be enough, so we try to engineer movement by relying too heavily on persuasive tactics and pretty presentation. We try to rationalize what goes above and beyond comprehension.
So we find people in their fridges and we get right in with them and everyone is cramped and it’s horrible and uncomfortable and humiliating. Wqe try to fit the infinite into a skull-sized ice box, we do look very silly.
We’ve gotten ourselves trapped in the tragically limiting belief that mankind is capable of understanding all there is to understand. I think that’s why we’re so embarrassed when we don’t.
Get out of your head
The other day, I was in a lecture on indigenous ways of thinking. The concept being presented was of pō; darkness, the unknowable. The deeply important, undefinable spiritual currents moving in this world.
I can’t share the material, but I can share a classmate’s response. She said,
“Western thought wants to be so sure of everything all the time. I never considered this point of view, it’s freeing almost. It’s like oh, it’s okay to not know things. We don’t actually know that much.”
It was an admirably secure thing to say in front of a lecture theatre. ‘I didn’t think of this, this is new, it’s humbled me.’ We can tell the difference between someone who is afraid to be shaken out of their box and someone who has come to expand it. As Christians, where are we?
If we have a relationship with God, it won’t collapse under scrutiny. Admitting when we don’t know or understand gives us a lot more room to look.
It’s about faith. Don’t overthink it.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 19-22)
Picture this: You’re sitting inside a refrigerator, and it is very cold. For now, it serves you well enough, but one day it won’t and that’s uncomfortable to think about. The door opens a bit, and the most familiarly strange person you’ve ever seen – their presence is a shock of warmth – they peer in at you and ask,
“What are you doing in there?”
Eleesa Jensen is currently studying Psychology and Education at the University of Auckland. She loves to paint, play guitar, and write as a form of worship and to process her thoughts.