Thursday, May 23, 2013

Biblical Christianity in African Perspective - O'Donovan

Chapter 4- The God We Cannot Understand

This is the first time, I feel, that O'Donovan actually begins to wrestle with Biblical Christianity in terms of an African perspective, even if only superficially.  Again, he asks five questions.

A.  What can we learn about God from African traditional religions and from nature?
"Someone has observed that there is probably no native-born African who is not a ware of the existence of God...(but) how accurate is the traditional African idea of God?" (41)  O'Donovan lists a few traditional beliefs.

  • the creator and sustainer of life
  • the exalted one - seems to be removed and separate and must be approached through intermediaries
  • the all powerful one
  • the all-knowing one
  • the final judge
  • the all-present one

Biblical Christianity can agree with most of these, once qualified, but therein lies the problem.  The manner in which this Deity is approached in different traditional socio-religious and cultural systems determines whether the God being approached is the Biblical God or not.  For instance, for Christians there is only one mediator between God and Man and that is the Man Christ Jesus...there are not multiple mediators such as ancestors, spirits, or the local witch-doctors.  Also, the character of God is often misrepresented.  Creation itself, while witnessing to the reality of a supreme being, does not reveal the fullness of His character and therefore religions based on observation alone are limited at best and totally misguided at worst.

B.  What additional revelation about God is given to us in the Bible?
Basically, the Bible fills in the "gaps" left by limited human observation and reasoning.

C.  How can one God be three Persons?
Let's talk about kittens, shall we?  Seriously, arguments about the Trinity have been going on for centuries.  O'Donovan lists the biblical texts for the doctrine and two images used to illustrate the doctrine, namely water (liquid, ice, and steam) and an egg (shell, yolk, and albumin).

One he does not mention is humanity itself - we are at least two in one if not three in one. But then, all illustrations are limited and one simply has to accept the doctrine by faith and a good dose of Deuteronomy 29:29.

D.  What happened when God became a human being?
The incarnation.  God took on the form of one of His creatures...100% God and yet also 100% Man.  Again O'Donovan lists biblical texts to answer his question.

My addition:  Personally, I think it is easier to explain why Jesus took on the form of a Man.  Adam blew it and He came to reverse that catastrophic blunder by paying the penalty for sin as a sinless Man for sinful Man. Only a Man could pay Man's penalty, but as all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, God had to pay the penalty He had imposed Himself - but He needed to take on the form of Man to do that.

E.  How can God be present everywhere at the same time?
I'll wrap this up quickly - if God is God, He is bigger than anything in the universe - He both fills it and transcends it.  So, He's everywhere...

Something to think about:  If God could be fully comprehend by Man, would He still be God?

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