Tuesday, September 8, 2009

what defines humanity

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us" (Tozer 1961:1). So writes A. W. Tozer in an effort to encourage his readers not only to think about God, but to think rightly about God. The implied distinction is of such weight and import that it should not be overlooked easily, for the potential reality of God, or by contrast, the potential reality of non-God, predetermines the reality that directly impinges upon, for example, humankind. I know that it is not a unique claim (though I apologize that I cannot offer a citation) to state that true religion is a balance between orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right action). This is because what we believe intrinsically relates to, and inevitably affects or informs, what we do in and through our lives. Applying this to theology, what we entertain about God necessarily determines how we act and respond to God. Additionally, our thoughts we hold about God, by extension, translate into how we act towards His creation.
If Tozer's declaration is correct, than we do well to devote ourselves to the task of thinking rightly about God which, given the relation between belief and action, leads to (if not already implies) "knowing God," as J. I. Packer puts it (Packer 1973). Notice, however, that Tozer does not write, "God is the most important thing about us," or something of this sort. Again, we should not overlook the implication. In one sense, God is the most important thing about us, since He created us and "in Him we move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Accordingly, our existence cannot make sense apart from Him, a truth that is expressed by the ontological distinction that holds between us. That is, God is by nature distinct from the entirety of creation: God exists a se ("from Himself"), which is "a unique perfection of God," whereas we exist ad ablio ("from another") (Craig 2004:173). God, therefore, informs our reality and existence because He precedes it, initiates it, and substantiates it.
On the other hand, it is one thing to assent intellectually that Christ lived, died and rose from the dead in order to redeem humanity and all of creation to God, and it is another to believe in the validity and actuality of the person and work of Christ and desire its application. So, while God, as the ultimate reality, defines our reality, our response (thinking rightly) to His prior action enables the efficacy of what He has already inaugurated, such as salvation through His Son. If this conceptualization is accurate, then what we think about God is indeed the most important thing about us.
Engaging in theological reflection is therefore a momentous task, which presses upon us with urgent immediacy. In it we either admit to the reality to which we are all predisposed, or we deviate under misconceptions and false illusions that potentially bring about eternal consequences. The one frightening thing about the entire undertaking is the moment of realization that the subject of our inquiry is alive (see Kreeft 2008) and, alive not only in a manner which merely resembles our state of being, but in a manner which defines it.

Craig, W. L., and P. Copan. (2004). Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker and Apollos.
Kreeft, P. (2008). Jesus-Shock. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine's.
Packer, J. I. (1973). Knowing God. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Tozer, A. W. (1961). The Knowledge of the Holy. New York, NY: Harper.