Humanity’s Double Error Concerning God

We are all inclined to make one of two common errors in how we think of God. In time we end up making both errors. Even theologians, though steeped in ideas about God, can make these errors.

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The first error is to form ideas about God that set Him far away and off on a different and remote plane from us, thus making him unreachable, unknowable, except by some extra-ordinary means. The second error is to form ideas about God which make Him so much like us and like this world that He (in such a form of ideas) is no longer Himself, but one of us. These errors pop up in unexpected places such as with Idealism, Deism, various kinds of transcendentalism (cf. Barth, Van Til and others) on the one hand or on the other hand, with Immanentisms in so numerous varieties we cannot count them.

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Notice how 16th century theologian and writer Richard Hooker – as described by C. S. Lewis – followed neither error when talking about God or forming theological ideas about God. In English Literature in the Sixteenth-Century C. S. Lewis commenting on Hooker’s style and method of theological formation said the following:

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Every system offers us a model of the universe; Hooker’s model has unsurpassed grace and majesty. from much that I have already said it might be inferred that the unconscious tendency of his mind was to secularise. There could be no deeper mistake.

Few model universes are more filled–one might say, more drenched–with Deity than his. ‘All things that are of God’ (and only sin is not) ‘have God in them and he them in himself likewise’, yet ‘their substance and his wholly differeth’ (V.56.5). God is unspeakably transcendent; but also unspeakably immanent. It is this conviction which enables Hooker, with no anxiety, to resist any inaccurate claim that is made for revelation against reason, Grace against Nature, the spiritual against the secular.

We must not honour even heavenly things with compliments that are not quite true: ‘though it seem an honour, it is an injury’ (II.8.7). All good things, reason as well as revelation, Nature as well as Grace, the commonwealth as well as the Church, are equally, though diversely, ‘of God’.

If nature hath need of grace’, yet also ‘grace hath use of nature’ (III.8.6).

Laws merely human, if they are good, have all been ‘copied out of the tables of that high everlasting law’ which God made, the Law of Nature (I.16.2).

‘The general and perpetual voice of men is as the sentence of God himself’, for it is taught by Nature whose ‘voice is but his instrument’ (I.8.3).