Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Where We Draw the Line

Whether or not you think Anselm's argument works to prove the existence of God is kind of beside the point. The real thing I learned from him is how to talk when I'm talking about God. If God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived, then I should use only the best words to describe him.

I remember several years ago talking to my friend Ross Thompson. He was born in Scotland, raised in Australia, lived his teenage years in Africa, then moved to Arkansas for college. He's got the coolest accent you can imagine! Anyway, he was talking about the odd way Americans throw words around. We use the biggest words we can think of to describe ordinary things.

"That ice cream is awesome!" (Even though ice cream is really good).

"Last night's Braves game was incredible!" (It was pretty cool, though).

Eventually, these words lose their meaning. How can we use the same word to describe dessert and Deity? Let's face it, I love ice cream as much as anyone (except my wife Jill), but ice cream is never really awesome. The One who created cows and taste buds -- he's awesome.

Maybe this sounds picky, but the trivialization of God begins when we use words like "incredible" to describe things that are, in fact, credible, while we use words to describe the most amazing Being in the universe which reduce him to something just a little bit bigger than us.

But that's not the biggest implication of Anselm's statement. The most earth-shattering implication in Anselm's statement is that it forces us to re-think where we've drawn our line of distinction. Where we draw the line is the most fundamental point of the Christian worldview. This is like the top button on your shirt. Get this wrong and nothing else will line up correctly.

There are primarily only two kinds of reality in the world: God (in a class by himself) and everything else.

Unfortunately, most Christians think that rather than drawing a horizontal line separating God from his creation we should draw a vertical line separating the physical, material world from the spiritual, immaterial world.

This kind of thinking isn't just wrong, it's downright dangerous. It's led to a lot of confusion and legalistic nonsense. It's the vertical line that makes us think that going to church is more pleasing to God than mowing the lawn or that reading our Bible feeds our spiritual life more than watching the sunset while holding hands with a loved one. As if there are "spiritual" activities and then there's everything else.

Let me say this clearly: There is no such thing as a "spiritual" life; there is just life. God isn't interested in being the Lord of your spiritual life; he's interested in your whole life.