Not me. I’ll be glad when Halloween is over.
Does the thought of God ever scare you? Not just because he has tremendous power to do anything he wants to.
But because he is holy?
I don’t think of myself as scared of God. I trust him. I know he loves me. But if he appeared here suddenly out of the blue? I’d be scared. Would you? People in the Bible were. They were even scared when God’s angels appeared out of the blue.
R.C. Sproul suggests it’s because God is so different from us.
I’ve been waiting for this chapter in The Holiness of God. Sproul finally defines holy. For years I had a cultural definition. I thought it meant spiritual, sinless, perfect. I’d picture an aura of haloes and angels and God on his big white throne.
While holy does have those secondary meanings of purity and moral perfection, I’ve since learned as Sproul points out that the primary meaning of holy is separate.
When the seraphim sang their song, they were saying far more than that God was “purity, purity, purity.” The primary meaning of holy is “separate.”
And upon an even closer look, it further means “a cut apart, or a cut above something.” So,
...When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be “other,” to be different in a special way.
Is it that “otherness” that scares us?
Rudolf Otto thought so. A German scholar who scientifically studied holiness in 1917, Otto called it the “mysterium tremendum” – translated, the awful mystery (I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:18-21). Otto explained that,
The clearest sensation that human beings have when they experience the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creatureliness.
That is, when we are aware of the presence of God, we become most aware of ourselves as creatures.
God is obviously not like us.
God is the ultimate object of our xenophobia. He is the ultimate stranger. He is the ultimate foreigner. He is holy, and we are not.
And because of his holiness, we feel threatened. His “otherness” contrasts too greatly with who we are.
God is too great for us; He is too awesome. He makes difficult demands on us. He is the Mysterious Stranger who threatens our security. In His presence we quake and tremble. Meeting Him personally may be our greatest trauma.
Thankfully, that’s not where our relationship ends with holy...
But this is where Sproul ends Chapter 3. Chapter 4 begins “The Trauma of Holiness,” next week. Read along with us at Challie’s.
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