Oprah recently interviewed Diane Nyad, the 64yr old who completed a 53 hour solo swim from Cuba to Florida. In the interview Nyad said that even though she was an atheist she could still, "Stand at the beach's edge … and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved." In response Oprah said, "Well, then I don't call you an atheist. I think if you believe in the awe and wonder and the mystery, then that is what God is … It's not a bearded guy in the sky."
Oprah's comment was fascinating on multiple levels—not the least of which was her ability to offend both believers and atheists at the same time. Folks went crazy—including atheists who demanded that Oprah apologize for demeaning Nyad's non-belief in God. But setting that aside, notice how she defines God. If you believe in awe and wonder and mystery—that is God, she says. That's sort of like saying if you are ever afraid then you must believe in the boogie man.
Oprah's comments represent just how sloppy and squishy our understanding of God has become. Yes, God and his creation do provoke feeling in us of awe and wonder—Paul says as much in Romans 1. But can we know anything more about who God is, beyond nebulous emotions we may experience from time to time?
This morning we are starting a new series on the doctrine of God. Who is this God we worship and follow? What do we believe about him, and what has he revealed to us about himself? And, this is important, what is different about the Christian belief about God compared to other faiths?
A.W. Tozer once observed that, "What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." How could ...
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Skye Jethani is the executive editor of Leadership Journal, an ordained pastor, and the author of numerous books. He co-hosts the weekly Phil Vischer Podcast and speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and colleges. He makes his home with his wife and three children in Wheaton, Illinois.