Thursday, February 3, 2011

Something Too Wonderful For Me

"Really, thought becomes giddy, and our poor feeble minds weary, in contemplating truths like these, but they are resting places for faith."

-- Marcus Rainsford
I hope you'll forgive this personal reflection. I've been trying to figure out how to express it.

It all began with ruminating on the omnipresence of Christ in his glorified body, the conundrum of which was planted in my brain like Inception weeks ago, if not months, by a good friend. "Isn't it something that Jesus continues to sacrifice, in a sense, because now being incarnate, albeit in a glorified body, his saving us means he has decided to give up omnipresence for eternity?" he said. Or something like that.

I kind of filed the thought away; it was daunting. I didn't know what I thought of it. I'm sure I smiled awkwardly and nodded. It is "something" indeed, although my first inclination was to think it was something false.

But I didn't know why.

The Scriptures are exhilarating. Jesus is clearly there, they say. He is at the right hand of God the Father. He has ascended to that place, heaven. He will return someday, the Scriptures say he says, which certainly communicates that he is not here, but there.

And yet heaven is not a penthouse apartment on the upper west side. It is the place where God is, and God is everywhere. Unless the fullness of the triune God has ceased to be, unless he is (they are) now limited to space and time.

The Scriptures are exhilarating. I see that Jesus is clearly there, but I also see that he is clearly here. He is in us (John 14:20-23; 2 Cor. 13:5). He is filling all things (Eph. 1:22-23, 4:10). He is with us (Matt. 18:20, 28:20). He comes to us really, although not literally, in the bread and wine. The Spirit administers the work and presence of the Son, I know, but revelation shows us that the Spirit and the Son, while both God, are distinct persons. So when the Son is said to be "in us," I don't think it will do to say "Oh, it really means the Spirit." (The Spirit indwells us, of course, occupying the temple of our bodies in order to comfort, convict, counsel, and cultivate fruit.)

The Son of God is incarnate, glorified. And the Son of God is boundless, immanent. As I began to stare at this idea, I found it slippery. Not because it is itself untenable, but because my mind is. I could see this tension barely, through a gauze, like the vague impressions left by a dream just woke from, handprints on a fogged mirror quickly fading. Or something seen in the peripheral vision, but invisible when looked upon directly.

I found myself encroaching upon something too wonderful. Should I even be thinking about this? Is it so lofty it makes me an idiot to even try glimpsing how it can be? Brother Lawrence wrote about thoughts of God "so delicious he was ashamed to mention them." I really don't know what he was talking about, but I wonder if this approximates the shape of it. I felt as though I had received an impression of something exceedingly wonderful -- delicious, even -- but something so gloriously inscrutable, so splendidly ineffable, that I should be ashamed of myself for thinking I could apprehend it.

I am praying this is an okay place to be. I do know that I have only grown in Christ when I have been discombobulated by his greatness.


Gabe said...

I have pondered this one myself.

And you are very correct about it feeling weird to the mind. The idea that omnipresence and, yet, directly accessible presence could be in the same moment, is daunting. I once heard Ravi Zacharias say something that stuck with me even twenty years later, "God is the only functional paradox in the universe."

A functional paradox leads me to not disbelieve in it, but rather, to understand that it is at once somewhat beyond my understanding. There are quantum mechanical theories about existence that, in my mind, seem to hint at the New Heavens and New Earth and that they exist but, as John would say, haven't been lowered down yet.

The tension of not knowing for sure makes me reliant. What I can nail down I can also, in some sense, disregard.

Danny Slavich said...

As usual, I enjoyed this reflection. I enjoy your tweets and your blog. The continuing incarnation is an amazing thing to think about. Have you seen the book Jesus Ascended by Gerit Scott Dawson? It's a reflection on this topic. Along with his own theological insight, he delves into a lot of the church fathers' thoughts on the ascension/continuing incarnation. Might be worth your time.

Appreciate your ministry.

Danny Slavich

Anonymous said...

"I do know that I have only grown in Christ when I have been discombobulated by his greatness."

Yes brother! I have often found that some of my most incredible and intimate times with the Lord have been after wrestling with some amazing truth that--as you say--I feel like an idiot for even trying to apprehend.

What an amazing God we serve that He would condescend to reveal things about Himself to us AND give us the grace to grasp them. And how wonderful it will be when we are spending eternity exploring and celebrating the depths of all that He is!

Rob said...

Good post. So many people think they feel happiest when they have reduced God into a nicely organised box. "Ineffable" is not part of many people's experience. May God be at once ever more ineffable and immanent to me!

Oh, and well done for getting "discombobulated" into a serious blog post :-)

Sam said...

This sounds a lot like the view of the risen Christ that Luther used to explain his version of the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper. (Christ is everywhere, therefore he is also in the bread and wine.)

Calvin didn't agree, arguing that in the supper we ascend by faith to where Christ is, to heaven, so I imagine it might be helpful to read him to think through this one further.