I’m not a theologian.
That’s a weight off my chest already. Any serious student of the discipline will probably chuckle at the following thoughts, but that doesn’t bother me. They are my thoughts, and I like them. This to say though, that this article is not one of instruction—I’m not trying to teach you something you ought to believe; I’m only telling you something that I think.
I am a thinker: your typical analytical, skeptical questioner. It turns out though, that it’s tough to be both a skeptic and a Christian. For one, the American church is not very good at answering my questions. Most queries that begin something like, “Hey, how does God …” prompt answers like, “I don’t know, He just does.” In my opinion, it’s astounding how many Christian answers start with, “I don’t know.”
Perhaps more importantly, God the Father’s nature is rather troublesome to the skeptic. He’s mysterious and bold and makes no attempt to explain many actions that, on their face, are quite perplexing (read the book of Joshua and tell me how you would feel about God if you weren’t one of His chosen). Instead He asks for faith, which is the very thing the skeptic is trying to avoid.
So at some point in the last few years I found myself drowning in a playground plastic-ball-pit full of questions while most Christians kept running up and down the same old Sunday morning slide. Either they knew something I didn’t know, or they didn’t care to. But I desired to understand God the Father, to know Him, and so I started digging.
As I looked into God the Father I came up with two certainties: He really wants us to know Him, and He is impossible to understand. You can imagine my consternation.
I came to realize that although His desire is for us to understand Him fully, His nature prevents it from the outset. He is a different sort of being than us: larger, more comprehensive. As C.S. Lewis says, our trying to understand Him is like a two-dimensional sketch trying to understand you or me. From our vantage point, God is limitless, and our human capacities don’t deal in the infinite. We are strictly limited to the world of limited things.
It was at this point that I became interested in the nature of God’s Son—perhaps because my exploration of the Father had been so seemingly fruitless. My starting point, of course, was the life of Jesus. Reading the Gospels, I came upon a rather enigmatic passage in John that I figured held some sort of great truth: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
This Word, I read, was the means by which all things were created. And it was this Word that somehow was born into the family of Adam and became Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. I understood the idea of being a son pretty well, being one myself, but I did not quite understand what it meant that the Son of God was also the Word.
So, as any good thinker does, I put the question on the backburner of my brain and set it to simmer. This feels a lot like having the back of your mind occupied by that kid in high school who took any opportunity to ask the teacher something she didn’t know. Every time the din of your thoughts dies down the kid pipes up. Car rides, elevator moments, conversational lulls – all devoted to the contemplation of the Son of God.
Once I decided to take the term “Word” seriously, the first question was obvious: Who spoke the Word? And the answer, equally obvious, was God the Father. From the sound of it, He was the only one around. So what was He talking about? Since we know that all things were created through the Word, we know that the Word was spoken before all things we created. So the only thing that God had to talk about was Himself. The Word, then, was about God. He was describing Himself.
This thought was worth pursuing.
If we follow this Word through time we find that all of creation came through it: all those limited things that we can feel, smell, marvel at, react to, all found their source in the Word. Although God is spirit and invisible, through the Word His ideas became palpable realities to us.
And then the Word became a man in the person of Jesus, and in so doing became the only begotten Son of God the Father. And we know that Jesus lived a short, remarkable life for which he was called the “perfect representation” of God the Father. And whereas the Father’s nature is so very different from ours, the Son’s is the same. He is a man. His type of experience is the same type as ours. His methods of communication are well known to us.
The Word, it seems, is God’s way of describing Himself so that we can understand Him. By speaking this Word about Himself, God created a limited version of Himself, just as our words create limited versions of our subjects in the minds of our listeners. And although the Word is limited in ways that the Father is not, it is limitless in its fidelity to God. It is the perfect painting.
Just like you, if you wanted to introduce yourself to Lewis’s two-dimensional sketch, might hire an artist to paint you in two dimensions, so God painted Himself into created reality, and He did it with the perfection for which He is known. This picture includes his Creation, His Book, His Son—all those tangible things that we attribute to God, all manifestations of the Word.
And so in the Word we have an opportunity, the only opportunity, to know the Father. As Jesus—the “Word become flesh”—said, the Father is in Him.
Again, I’m no theologian, so take these thoughts as you will. I only hope that my words, like the Word, will help us to a better understanding of God.