God Is Not Chewy
There are many things that God is not. And chewy is one of them.
No, I’m not referring to this well-beloved Star Wars character.
Although that’s true; God is definitely not Chewbacca.
It may seem silly, but I whole-heartedly affirm that God is not chewy.
By saying that God is not chewy I am doing what’s called apophatic theology. This is the type of theology that expresses what God is not, rather than expressing what God is. Or, since the ontology implicit in the previous sentence is more amenable to Western theology—whereas it is the Orthodox who champion this method of theology—we might prefer to say that apophatic theology expresses what is not true about God rather than asserting what is true about God. For instance, apophatic statements about God that most Christians generally affirm are such denials as, God is Uncreated, Unchanging, and Infinite. This way of doing theology communicates the mystery of God and keeps us humans from ever assuming that we can put God in a box.
So how do I know that God is not chewy? The same way that I know anything about God—through his revelation. Cataphatic theology—the sort of theology that does affirm things that are true about God—enables us to say precisely, from revelation, why God is not chewy. The reason is obviously because God is Spirit (John 4.24) and thus the immanent Trinity (God in himself) is not chewy (let’s leave the incarnation alone for now).
Now, I do not entertain this idea of God and chewiness for giggles. I am not interested in the possibility of theomastication or, in proper apophatic manner, denying it. Rather, I am concerned to make one point clear: whatever we affirm or deny about God must come from his revelation. We are not playing Build-A-Bear with theology and we don’t have the luxury of making things up as we go along. If there’s something we don’t like, we cannot change it.
We must worship God for who he is, not for who we want him to be. And this brings me to the heart of this post: The PCUSA, most of you will have heard, recently decided to omit the contemporary hymn, “In Christ Alone” (written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend) from its hymnal, due to its lyrics about God’s wrath being satisfied on the cross of Christ. You can read about it here. The committee wanted to change the line, “the wrath of God was satisfied,” into, “the love of God was magnified,” but the writers of the song would not approve. The issue the committee claims they have with the hymn is not God’s wrath, per se, but the cross as a display of it. This news is not really new. In ways both big and small contemporary Christians find ways to undermine God’s wrath. Bifurcating God’s wrath from the cross raises the question of whether God is truly wrathful against sin, which makes one wonder why he’s wrathful at all. . .
A. W. Tozer wrote in the introduction to his Knowledge of the Holy that idolatry was fundamentally about entertaining any thought about God that is unworthy of him. Tozer had in mind what we might call cataphatic idolatry; I believe the denial of God’s wrath is the apophatic sort.
God is not chewy, and for many, he’s not palatable either.