The Grammar of Christianity, Reconsidered Ten Years Later

“Why did God make you and everything else?”

“For his own glory.”

These words have haunted me since I learned to drone them in the fourth grade along with the rest of the “Grammar of Christianity.” Right after who made me and what else did he make, this question. And it’s a question that informs all the rest. Why did God make me? For His own glory? Really? And then what follows is “How can you glorify God?” “By loving him and doing what he commands.”

I wholeheartedly and vehemently reject the answer that I was conditioned to believe, that causal explanation that told me that God needed something to make him feel better, to make him feel exalted, and that that person was me.

“Why did God make you and everything else?”

For love.

Sure, the Westminster catechism. Yes, our chief end, as some might say, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But I believe the causal reason He created was sheer love, I believe He created out of the force that governs and illuminates all things, that light that, every so often, hits us, leaving us addled and adazzle. Love. He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change. Praise Him.

It isn’t that I resent evangelicalism or being raised as a Christian. I’m deeply grateful for being exposed to the faith, albeit in somewhat unconventional ways. It’s just that the Church didn’t really teach me. It was never ready to field questions or to travel down the menacing path of unknowing. It was ready to offer pat answers and solutions to clear up any confusion I might have. It was never ready to encounter the confusion for what it is, to journey with me through the questions and to see what we might find. And so I memorized and chanted that the causal explanation for my existence was something other than love. And so as I grew up, I learned the formulas and the apologetics, the ways to evangelize someone, the answers to offer for every question. The manipulation, really. How not actually to listen and respond to a person, but just to use what’s in the arsenal to “get them on our side.”

It was enough to make me very close to leaving the faith altogether.

And it kills me that this is the way that things are done. There is such a rich heritage of what can only be called grappling. The church fathers, the saints, the pagans, the poets…all searching for truth in their own way, exploring the enduring questions that are what it means to be human. Why does truth often seem to defy reason? If God is with us, then why do I feel alone? Can science and religion be reconciled? Who’s my neighbor in a global society?

Is “loving Him and doing what He commands” all there is to glorifying God? Is it not reveling and delighting in the wonders that He has made, in all the world? Does this not include searching to understand the world, to understand existence, to understand ourselves, to understand the questions? Does this not include our intellect?

Let us take ourselves and our questions seriously. Let’s trust our intellect. Let’s not accept pat answers as necessarily true. Let’s search for more. The glory of God demands it. It’s too wonderful, too charged with grandeur to be condensed into a fourth-grade drone.

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2 thoughts on “The Grammar of Christianity, Reconsidered Ten Years Later

  1. Abbie, I love to read your posts. You write so beautifully and think so deeply. I think we sometimes wrestle too much with seeking to understand God and our role and place in this world. Our relationship with our God reminds me of the Robert Frost poem. To paraphrase: “I took the road less traveled and it made all the difference”. All I know is that I’m an adopted child of God. How and why is less important, but it has made all the difference. As Psalms 40:10 reminds us “Be still and know that I am God”. Be STILL and KNOW. We should struggle less to find “meaning” and rest more in our confidence and knowledge of God. He is the air we breath that gives us life. We struggle too much to understand why He created the air and how we are suppose to breath or why we breath. Just breath and live!

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