Stop Deifying God

I like to talk about God. What else is life about? But, when talking about God, I often hear people say a buzz phrase:

“Stop humanizing God.”

It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to. Often times, I’ll get into conversations with conservative evangelicals about theology. When things the topics get tough, they’ll often tell me, “God is beyond our knowledge. His ways are higher than ours! Any attempt to talk about him is ultimately outside of our ability. We don’t need to humanize God.

Then, I’ll talk to Christians of a more liberal or radical theological persuasion. When talking about God with these dear friends, I’ll frequently hear God referenced as “the Other,” in order to fully communicate the loftiness of God. Whoever (or whatever) God is, God is above us and unable to be grasped. In other words, we shouldn’t humanize God.

While I understand where both sides are coming from, I think they often miss the beauty of one of Christianity’s important tenets: the incarnation. Too many times, when I talk about God with others, I want to tell them, “Stop deifying God.” 

People tend to not like to talk about God in human terms. But, we tend to forget that God chose to talk about himself in human terms—in and through Jesus Christ.

Now, of course, I don’t mean that God isn’t deity. He is. I’m not saying that his ways aren’t higher than ours or that he isn’t above us. However, in the incarnation, we find a beautiful paradox of a God whose ways are higher than ours, yet a God who entered into the human way. We find a God who is far above us, yet a God who lived among us. We find a God who is deity and human. It’s easy for most people to see God as someone up there, but the fact is that our God also came down here. I think that we are too inclined to grasp the loftiness of God and ignore the accessibility of Jesus.

God is beyond description, yet in Jesus we find the full description of God. Colossians 1:19 tells us that “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” The fullness of God dwelled in Jesus. In other words, this infinite God stepped into finite form. However, God didn’t become less God in Jesus. In reality, all God wants us to know about him is in Jesus! That’s why Hebrews 1:1-3 says that Jesus is the one that God is speaking through today, rather than the prophets. It also says that Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature. Everything that this ungraspable deity is became graspable in Jesus.

Yet, too many of us still don’t take advantage of this. We’ve been exposed to Jesus so long, some of us our whole lives, and yet when we insist on “deifying God,” we’re exactly like Phillip asking, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” But, what does Jesus say? “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Many of us still refuse to acknowledge that seeing Jesus really does mean seeing the Father. We aren’t getting a partial picture of God in Jesus. We’re getting the full thing.

In Jesus, we see deity and humanity in perfect intersection. Jesus is God and he is also human. He is the King and he is also a citizen of the kingdom. He is the Image and he is also an image-bearer. He is the God of Israel and he is also an Israelite.

So, while I think it’s awesome to think about how high above us God is, I think it’s just as incredible to think about how immersed God was within humanity. The truth is we need to stop both deifying God and humanizing him. Because he isn’t one or the other. He is both. To deify him is to rob him of his humanity and to humanize him is to rob of him of his deity. Taking one without the other is one is one of the oldest heresies of the faith. Jesus is our God, and he is fully God and fully human.

Let us never forget that Jesus is the Word. Even so, never let us forget that the Word became flesh.

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