Drew Dyke offers a challenge to uncertain Christians who find it difficult to defend the image of God as presented by the prophets of the Old Testament. Tony Reinke’s article, “Stop Apologizing for God,” reviews Drew Dyke’s new book, Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God So Stop Trying. The warning is clear, the “living God of the universe is un-tamable. He’s good, but he isn’t safe.”
This teaching flies in the face of the soft-serve offered in too many congregations across America today. Gone is the “majestic, holy, awesome Tiger of Scripture… [after all] who wants a God who roars, who threatens, who judges? Why not rather fashion a friendly god… we can pet, leash, and export for popular appeal?
In attempts to make God palatable to the masses, the churches across our country have embraced a heavy reliance on charismatic preachers that offer pop-psych messages, upbeat music that focuses on man rather than God (except man’s depravity, of course), humor and the unexpected (as one church puts it “church that doesn’t feel like a church”). While probably found in their statements of faith, talk of sin, substitution, atonement, and surrender is avoided or at least spoken of in euphemisms (after all, it goes against all the wisdom of what is popular to cause folks to feel badly about themselves).
When we treat God with such easy approachability and familiarity, when the god we present carefully conforms to the world’s standards, when we worship a god who resembles a domesticated kitten rather than the Lion of Judah (as seen in Isaiah 6), our spiritual walk becomes routine and lackadaisical (despite the fun, fun, fun service we might regularly attend for one hour each week). We actually undercut the spiritual life and derail the mission of Christ. Reinke offers five ways this is done (I assume these are primarily gleaned from Dyke’s book).
1. Boredom with God will cost us our worship.
Any one of these churches (mentioned above) is prone to give as much time to their “worship experience” as to the proclamation of the Word of God. By all appearances, these churches have elevated worship over all other portions of the service. But the “cruel irony of choosing God’s love over his holiness is that we end up losing both. If we are not talking about the great and majestic God who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), then his love [offered to his creatures] loses meaning.”
2. Boredom with God will cost us our purity.
Without God’s transcendent holiness, personal holiness gets fuzzy fast. And if I’m not too concerned that God is serious about sin, I’m certainly not going to hold myself or anyone else, for that matter, to any rigid standards. “God’s holy transcendence not only protects us from laziness in our ethics, it also empowers us for personal change. I think a lot of people out there have tried a lot of different things to change themselves. They have consumed every self-help book that has come along to find the secret. They have prayed a formulaic prayer. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t work. What I would like to say to those people is: What if what [is] missing from your life are the deep things of God? What if only a ravishing vision of God’s holiness and love will ultimately make the difference in your life?”
3. Boredom with God will cost us our mission.
Seeing God as dangerous is essential to how we live. As children of our Father in heaven, we, too, are called to be dangerous. I’m not talking about being violent or destructive. But like God, we should be dangerous to evil and injustice, a holy threat to anything that preys on the innocent, crushes the powerless, and enslaves people to sin” (Dyke, 60). Following a god who is simply a kind-hearted, do-gooder will not empower us to overcome self-preservation; we will lack the courage to take the gospel to the uttermost ends of the earth, making disciples of all nations.
4. Boredom with God will cost us our place in global work.
Dyke points to an encouraging trend: In the global Church we are seeing a fluorescence of faith that we haven’t seen since the book of Acts – China… Africa… South America… [the Middle East] – God is on the move. The 1990′s marked the greatest gathering of people into the Church in the history of the Church. When it comes to proclaiming God as he has revealed himself in Scripture, the American church may be getting left in the dust.
5. Boredom with God will cost us our relevance.
“I think in every heart there remains a deep-seated desire to stand in the presence of a holy and transcendent God,” Dyck says. “People are thirsty for transcendence. They need to hear about a holy God. And even if they deny that they are sinful, I think deep down they know that they are — they know they need the grace and mercy of a holy God.”
“Ooh!…I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe?” Susan asks about the Christ-like figure, Aslan.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
~ C.S.Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, ch. 8.