Catechism (repost): The Great God and the Terrible Lie


Q4. What is God?

God is a spirit, Whose being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.

Here is a reprint of my comments on this question from September 2014:

…we discussed Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden.

This is, then, a very good week to discuss with our children the profound gulf between God and man. As we consider the attributes of God, we must reflect not only on His absolute goodness, but also on our almost-irredeemable badness. Indeed, the memory verse for this week is from Genesis 6:5: “The Lord saw that the human heart was only evil.”

Many of us, and children especially, fall into the trap of thinking that sin is merely a matter of making mistakes or an inability to follow all the rules. This vastly undersells, even trivializes, human total depravity—as adults, with far more experience of the world’s fallenness and our personal understanding of limitation, mortality, failure, and suffering, we must come to grips with our sinfulness being more than just “nobody’s perfect” but a complete and utter inability to do right without the taint or corruption of rebellion. We should understand our need for salvation is not just for someone to tidy up our messes, but a Lord upon whose grace, power, and mercy we must utterly depend at every moment.

How do we communicate this to children, though? I think too often we focus too much on Adam and Eve’s “slip-up” in the Garden. We see them as dupes who were tricked into taking a wrong turn. We’re drawn to the human drama and the nasty villain, and we conflate the whole incident with other stories, both mythical and conventional.

We would do well to help our charges reflect on the true protagonist of these chapters in Genesis: God. God who is generous, creative, kind, and relational… and not just in a way that seems nice, but at a depth and breadth we cannot fathom. God whose power, wisdom, justice, and so on are infinite, eternal, and unchanging. God who cannot be contained by images, edifices, or even imaginations. The more we reflect on who God is, the more we realize how unlike Him we are. And the more we reflect on what He planned for us, the deeper the sense of loss we feel when we look at the world around us.

[Biggie] and I have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia as bedtime stories for the better part of a year, and we’re on the final book: The Last Battle. Two things are emphasized over and over again to devastating effect in this book — that Aslan is not a “tame lion” and how truly awful it would be if he were any different from what he was. And yet, we constantly insist on replacing God with a poor imitation at more our paltry human scale. We, at our heart of hearts, are the greedy Ape, set to ruin, not steward, the world.

It is equally important, though, to remind our kids that the Genesis accounts always ends with divine hope and promise, a covenant of redemption and election that is undeserved. God has, from the very beginning, planned in love to sacrifice all to conquer all — without betraying who He is, in all His glory. Even as the world unravels, a Messiah is set to come…


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