I am an evangelical Christian. My roots are in the Restoration Movement in America. My heritage is the Churches of Christ. For a good explanation of what’s good about that see this article by Josh Graves.
But I have to confess something. Evangelicals make me uncomfortable. Why? Because they seem so sure of everything. Perhaps I do to. Perhaps we Evangelicals have learned a fancy little game. Save face on tough questions about God. Even if you are unsure, never let on that you don’t know the answers to all the questions.
I am not sure what is happening psychologically when we do this, but I am reminded of a quote by Stanley Hauerwas: “Never think that you need to protect God. Anytime you think you need to protect God, you can be sure you are worshiping an idol.” And I think that is a practice that we Evangelicals have perfected. We know how to protect God. Or, we know how to protect our image of a safe and secure God – a God that doesn’t demand too much of us – a God that always conforms to our expectations of him – a God that it makes perfect sense to worship – a God that works into our science – a God that fits our mathematics – a God that always behaves according to the status quo – a God that happens to square perfectly with our political and national allegiances – a God that, as Anne Lamott says, ‘turns out he hates all the same people we do.’.
And that vision of God, knowing at all times who he is, what he is up to, and what the proper answers are to the tough questions – that makes me incredibly uncomfortable.
There is a story at the beginning of the Pentateuch called ‘The Akedah’ (Hebrew for ‘The Binding). It is the story of God asking Abraham to kill his only son, Isaac. The temptation is to moralize about ancient sacrifice, theologize about God’s desire for obedience, or psychologize about the meaning of allegiances when beginning a nation. But no matter what sort of churchy or succinctly evangelical answer you give me for this story, you cannot dodge that the God we worship asked a man he loved to kill a son he loved. And the bottom line is this… if you are comfortable with this story, then you make me uncomfortable, because I don’t have any sort of nice or neat answers about God for this one. Furthermore, I don’t think I am going to come running to God’s rescue this time just so I can reassure people that God is an okay dude after all. I am not going to swoop in here and provide a gift-wrapped answer to soothe our souls about the nature and character of God. Because the truth is, I don’t know him well enough to do that. And after all, I don’t want a God I have to protect. I prefer the God of ‘the Akedah’.