I recently read an article in which the author rejects any kind of fear of God. He especially hates the beavers’ descriptions of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
“I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion” [says Susan].
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
When the author read those words, he pitied Christians who believe them. He said, “Aslan made my feelings of insecurity and insignificance worse.” Elsewhere he adds: “the idea of God being dangerous and terrifying to believers is bitter beyond words.”
He rejects any kind of fear of God as evil, incompatible with the gospel.
Embracing the Mystery
If God is infinite, his nature must exceed our limited-wisdom. The spiritual path of a believer will always push past one seeming paradox to the next. That was the first divine principle I learned as a child, the first time I heard him speak: that God is real, and I didn’t understand.
The greatest obstacle to our intimacy with God is when we cling to our own ideas and reject what he reveals about himself. And God himself says we should both love and fear him.
Every heresy since the time of Jesus has emphasized one truth at the expense of another. Heresies are our refusal to accept the whole counsel of God’s self-revelation; they flourish when we say, “I like to think of God as _____, but I hate to think of him as _____ [fill in the blanks]. What matters is not what we think of God as much as what he thinks of us.
Theologians have a word to describe how to hold two seeming contradictory truths, but G. K. Chesterton just called it mystery. And he said it is only in mystery that we meet the real God:
As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.
The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them.
His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.
It is Good to Fear God
Whenever we encounter something bigger than us, we experience a type of fear. When I see the Milky Way on a clear night, or I get a glimpse of a 14,000-foot Colorado mountain, or I see a storm on the ocean, I’m in awe. Awe doesn’t detract from the experience, it enhances it.
To reject fear of God is to make him like Caspar the Friendly Ghost, a nice but pathetic, toothless power. If that god loves me, I’m not particularly stirred. I don’t know if I even care.
But if the fearful God who judged Egypt loves me—the one who controls hurricanes, whose holiness shrivels my pride, and whose love for his people scares my judgmental self—if that God also loves me, I am moved beyond words.
God never says the beginning of wisdom is love of God; he says the beginning of wisdom is fear of God; but when that fear of God meets and kisses his love for us, then (and only then) we meet the real God, the great Lion and Lover.
We need two eyes to know the love of God; one eye fixed on his astonishing, utter holiness, and with our other eye, we see his astonishing love for us.
Well, I foresee a good deal of knee-knocking for the author you cited when he appears before the King.
Samuel C. Williamson
Yeah. I understand how someone cannot comprehend the fear of God; maybe they had an abusive dad and they project that onto God.
Our problem always arises when we forget God’s entire word and just cling to one side of God’s revelation because it makes sense to us, or just because we like it more. We’ve lost the true God.
Thanks, Sam, for taking up a topic that has bothered me considerably. Grace is hard to view in balance; we either talk it up big but minimize it in practice, or we magnify it at the expense of holy fear. We think either-or, but the Bible doesn’t require such a choice and, in fact, doesn’t allow it. It’s both-and. God’s love doesn’t defang Aslan, and that word, “mystery,” perfectly describes the tension zone where our limited minds grapple with a God who truly is God. Reading your post, I once again find myself nodding my head, smiling, and thinking, “Bang! He’s nailed it again.”
Samuel C. Williamson
Like almost all spiritual truths, grace itself is a mystery: he loves us (we love that) but it also means we were so sinful he had to die for us. We don’t like admitting our own evil deeds.
But when we take them together, God’s love is even more powerful. If God would die for us when we are Superman and Mother Theresea, well that’s one thing. But if he loves us so much he dies when we’ve lived pretty rebellious lives; that means he REALLY loves us.
I like to think of god as ??? When i hear that I know they’re talking about the small g god. Their personal god. To think about the real God is to ask to live. Contradictions are where we live to the fullest. What is the joy of winning without the fear of losing? The joy of love is not without the dread of loss. What is success without striving, work without reward?
Is God love? Sure!! But not everything is always roses kind. It’s the swat you one the behind when you run into the street kind, the I know what’s best for you and I’ll straighten out your path if you stray kind. Ever watch a momma lion nurture her cubs, it’s lick, lick and then whack. My God loves me that way, and I’m committed to Him because He does.
Samuel C. Williamson
You made me burst out laughing when you described the momma lion’s nurturing pattern: “it’s lick, lick and then whack.”
And, as you say, the nature of love itself is a deep mystery. It’s not just lollipops and candy corn. In fact, that would not be love.
But as they said about Aslan: He’s good.
Thank you, Sam.
Thank you Sam, for this article. I totally agree and somehow we have lost the “fear of the Lord” which is the beginning of wisdom and have also lost the blessing of “friendship” with the Lord. I have a wonderful book where the theme is: The fear of the Lord is the key to “friendship” with God. There is such a “mystery” in the tensions of our faith.
Sam, thanks for continuing to challenge and evolve my understanding of our ineffable God. The Chesterton quote was especially helpful. he and Lewis were able to peer into places I don’t know if I will ever see this side of the tomb!
Scripture is clear, God IS Love, and God Loves you! Therefore:
God is patient with you;
God is kind toward you [always];
God is not jealous, does not brag, and is never arrogant in relating with you;
God is never unbecoming toward you;
God never seeks His own over your own;
God keeps no record of your wrongs [sin];
God is not joyful when you don’t walk with Him;
And He is full of Joy when you do;
God bears with you; believes in you; and hopes for you;
God hangs in there with you;
God will never fail you.
I stand in overwhelming awe of that God,
but how could I ever be afraid of God, who is always for me?
God Bless you (because that is what He does!)
Marion L Schleusener
Proverbs 17:27: The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
It’s worth noting that the life-giving nature of the fear of the Lord is what turns us from the snares of death