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Are you scared of holy?

scary alleywayDo you like getting scared at horror movies?
Love a good ghost story? Haunted houses?

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.

But why?

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.The_Holiness_of_God_by_R.C.Sproul

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Dianna said...

Hello Lisa,
I enjoyed your video from yesterday about the Fighter Verses. I think I am going to check into that for myself. I know I can always count on your for good sources! :-)

Thank you, also, for sharing about holiness in this post. A lot of good information there.

Thank you for stopping by yesterday. Lord willing, I will be back to blogging regularly again soon! I miss it, but I just really need to get this fall cleaning accomplished by Nov. 11. I have an appointment that day wherein right now lies some uncertainty. I just want a clean house...regardless of the outcome. ;)

Have a wonderful weekend, friend.

Becky said...

Lisa, This chapter was very interesting; lots to think about, right?. I had to stop and read and re-read several paragraphs several times. It was not an easy one for me.

Have a joyous day, my friend.

Lisa notes... said...

So sounds like Nov 11 could use some prayer coverage… You’ve been so good to me; praying for you will be something I can do for you! I’ll look forward to your return to blogging soon.

I did find this chapter very interesting and thought provoking. I just read what you wrote on Challies, so now I'm jumping over to your blog - you've really piqued my interest at what you're going to share. So glad you're reading along with us. Your commentary is always so practical.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Lisa. You capitalized on the good stuff in this chapter!

Psalm 96:9 says:"Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth."

I'm grateful that while we may tremble before Him, and rightly so, we can now come into His Presence without abject fear, having gained access into the Holy of Holies through Christ.

His perfect love has cast out all fear.


Liz said...

This was a good chapter, and I'm glad he defined holiness for me. The xenophobia that he brought up at the end was particularly interesting because I guess that is part of the fear of God that I feel. He is so different from us.

This chapter meshes well with another study I'm working through, The Fear Factor by Wayne Mack. It's pretty cool how God works together the things that I'm learning.

Lisa notes... said...

I like how you pointed out that we have now gained access into the Holy of Holies. And that perfect love casts out fear. Those are excellent points to make regarding the “scariness” factor of holy. Wish Sproul had made such! Ha.

I also liked your comment at Challies about how you explain to your children that God is “Other Other.” I can relate to that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Kevin Sorensen said...

Well said, Lisa. I found other's comments on this chapter a bit more diverse than what we've seen so far. I wonder how much of that is due to our overall lack of deep thinking about God's holiness, His "other-ness" and the fear this should produce within us.

Anyway, keep up the good thinking!

Kevin Sorensen said...

Well said, Lisa. I found other's comments on this chapter a bit more diverse than what we've seen so far. I wonder how much of that is due to our overall lack of deep thinking about God's holiness, His "other-ness" and the fear this should produce within us.

Anyway, keep up the good thinking!

Lisa notes... said...

I just looked up “The Fear Factor.” (Loved the image on the front cover.) And this line from a reviewer:
“Explained the difference between fear of God, natural fear and sinful fear.”

I think that could fit right in with chapter 3 in “The Holiness of God.” Yes, it is very neat when God hits us with similar things from different places.

You realize I’ve written down 3 book recommendations just this week from you? ;-) But I think I’ll put an asterisk by The Fear Factor. In my quest to really hand over my sin of worrying, I’m discovering that it’s really fear at the root instead of worry per se… I’d like to know more about what you think of the book when you get a chance.


Lisa notes... said...

I agree that the thoughts have varied more on this chapter, which actually is helpful to me because it gives me more to think about and sort through. Hmm…how much of that is due to its newness to us? Sadly, perhaps that could be the reason.

Mrs. David Hankins said...


Thanks for stopping by again and for your encouragement!

I think those who are noting that there are different types of fear are "on the right track". I'm a little confused as to why Sproul chose to highlight the type of fear that he did in this chapter (3), as opposed to the Biblical type of fear that Isaiah had (which Sproul wrote about in Chapter 2). Perhaps it will be more clear in Chapter Four? Until then, may God grant you insight into His character!


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