Summary: We "dumb God down" by confining Him to characteristics we can’t fully understand, and we shrink Him to fit our level by trying to make Him in our image.
The Incredible Shrinking God
September 22, 2002
The Tulsa State Fair begins next week. If you walk along the midway, you’ll hear what are known as carnival barkers. They don’t literally bark, but they do shout out the attractions they want you come and pay for...
You’ll have some weird things, some funny things ....most carnivals have some strange two-headed animals...some have some people with strange attributes.
Some are just inviting you to come and sample their food: “cotton candy, peanuts, corn dogs, funnel cakes, get ‘em right here!”
As I was preparing this message, the idea of a carnival barker came to mind. This one would have quite an attraction. He’d be shouting, “Come one! Come all! Come see the incredible shrinking God! He used to be all-powerful! He used to know everything! But now, He’s shrinking.... come and see the incredible shrinking God!
That’s the title of this morning’s message: The Incredible Shrinking God.
It’ll hopefully make sense to you as we go along. But we’ll open with a passage of scripture which describes just the opposite. A truer picture of God’s nature and not what we tend to do to Him...
Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
34"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 35"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
For the past several weeks, since before the last time I was in this pulpit, I feel like a man who has been climbing a majestic mountain. Many times when you climb mountains, you climb what are called switchbacks... what that means is that you don’t climb straight up, but you climb around and up, and then you might change directions because of the terrain, and climb around and up some more, before you do it all over again.
My reason for this climb is to see what’s at the top. As I climb, I see more and more below me. But I also realize there’s much that I can’t see clearly, either beyond my vision, or just around the switchback. Now, it’s all there – the One who made it all can see it, but for me, some of it is too far away to be fully attainable.
I can make some of it clearer with binoculars, bringing it closer. But the vastness of this mountain and all that surrounds it, is more than I can fully take in. As I approach the top of the mountain, I struggle still more. This is not an easy climb by any means. Finally I reach the top, and there’s initially a feeling of exhilaration, as I see this magnificent vista all around me.
But as I look down, I see that there’s more depth that I haven’t explored. As I look around, I see there are additional heights I haven’t reached. Now, there are two possible responses to this. I could try to make sense of it, based on my puny ability to see it all, based on using my binoculars, based on what I can only partly make out from a vast distance, and I could try to imagine the rest, based on my own understanding and experience.
But there’s way too much for me to imagine. I couldn’t begin to grasp all the nuances of the landscape, let alone see what’s around the bend - those things which I, right now, at the top of this mountain, cannot see at all...
The other potential response is to fall down on my knees in worship of the One who created this magnificent mountain and all the surrounding landscape, and marvel at the hint of His glory, which is revealed in a small way by His creation, even though I can’t see it all, and even especially because I can’t see it all.
Two of the last three weeks, we’ve looked at pieces of this theme of God’s vastness...
- a few weeks ago when Jim Grinnell preached about grasping the greatness of God, especially through His creation.
- and last week, as Hal Reed challenged us with his excellent message to consider how Christians can worship the creator, and also be good stewards of His creation without worshipping His creation.
So, this morning, we’re going to take that thread in a slightly different direction, hinted at in the passage of scripture from Romans we just read. Just as God’s magnificent creation reveals His vastness, His power, and His authority over the universe, His plans, His ways, and His judgments, also reveal much about what a great and mighty God we serve.