Saturday, April 8, 2017

Invisible God-connection

In our desire to make the existence of God real for our children we may also consider how vital it is to make God real for ourselves and our adult friends. The author of the fourth gospel and the epistles of John made clear statements: “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18; I John 4:12). There is no exception, except in the experience of Jesus Christ himself. The God of Judeo-Christian Scripture is an invisible Deity who made His voice audible on several occasions in both Old and New Testament times. Our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, however, cannot be visually seen. The Creator of all things cloaks Himself in invisibility. 

Modern humanity highly depends on visual imagery. God’s invisibility is testimony to the truth that God’s reality exists on a loftier plane. We must investigate the dimensions of that plane. Jesus Christ is the only One who has seen the Father. John records the words of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity: “…not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God: he has seen the Father.” Jesus Christ identifies himself as “He who is from God.” 

The writer of Hebrews states the Old Testament sacrifices and offerings are not as desirable as the physical body of Christ offered as a sacrifice for the sins of man: As the second person of the Trinity, Christ proclaimed, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me (Hebrews 10:5 ESV). Scriptural Divinity is not always invisible, therefore! God the Father is always invisible but Christ the Son became physically visible. Our children may begin to understand the theological depth that God became man in the person of Christ in order to redeem humanity. For many young children, this may be the limit of their comprehension of God until they become older.

As we investigate the importance of God’s invisibility, let us consider the restricted conception of reality if we focus primarily on the importance of visual reality. People could offer God’s invisibility as an excuse to disbelieve in His existence. The humorous cliché “seeing is believing” does not imply its converse. If we understand the physical basis of light and human vision we may grasp the concomitant scientific truth that the energy information transported by the electromagnetic spectrum perceived by the eye consists of only a minuscule fraction of electromagnetic reality. Visible light consists of far less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum. Many other types of electromagnetic energy testify to the wonders of the invisible universe. Scientists sometimes use the catch-phrase “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” to inspire a lively search for new scientific evidence.

We recall personal experiences with our grandchildren concerning invisible forces. The examples exemplify two of the four fundamental forces of the universe—gravity and electromagnetism. When our grandchildren visited frequently during their pre-school years, our driveway provided the challenge of sprinting or riding down a curving, sloped hill aided mightily by the force of gravity. Grandpa suppressed his fear that the youngsters would seriously injure themselves, tumbling headlong—notwithstanding our warning to, “Watch out, gravity will get you!” Perhaps the children did not fully understand the invisible force of gravity which pulled them relentlessly down the hill, or even the “pull” which quickly returned them to earth after their vertical jumps. Gravity’s invisible force aided in one case and impeded in another.

A small world globe, powered by magnetism, levitates on my office desk. The grandchildren have become aware of the forces holding the globe suspended in air. Magnetic forces may be beyond the reach of early childhood explanation as are the attractive and repulsive forces affecting the small magnetic disc sets we use to post grandchildren’s art on our refrigerator. But they are not beyond the reach of childhood wonder.

A hand-held radio is capable of receiving several dozen local stations by turning a tuning dial slightly to receive different invisible electromagnetic frequencies. The receiver converts the signals to audible sound, also invisible. In our great-grandparents’ youthful days such phenomena would be hailed as “miraculous.” In the 21st century our grandchildren may be inured to the wonders of the invisible. Technological wonders accessed by rapid deployment of finger and thumb-taps may have caused us to lose awareness of the Creator of the coherent physical laws by which the latest modern devices function. Our children might substitute a form of “worship” of modern devices for genuine worship of the Author and Creator of all things. At worst, the dire warning of Romans 1:25 may be considered: Historically, many people “worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” Helping our children understand the reality of God is a challenging and awesome privilege.

The above incidents provide examples of the reality the invisible forces. Scientists investigate further in order to understand the causes, effects, and significance of invisible forces on our lives. No one could deny the reality of gravity or the many manifestations of electromagnetism. Science enables us to discover causes and effects of those forces but in no sense do they provide proof for the existence of God. Rather they are analogies suggesting the need for additional investigation. We are connected to the invisible God because we are created In His Image. As God’s children we manifest some of the traits (the effects) of being in His image (the cause). Deeper questions about the reality of God as a Spirit may remain unanswered until our young children are older. References to our Father in Heaven, however, are always appropriate.     

One worshipful traditional hymn by Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908), “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” expresses the depth of beauty and mystery in our understanding of the invisible God. The hymn was inspired by I Tim. 1:17: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be glory and honor for ever and ever. Amen” (ESV). It is a moving, traditional Welsh hymn-tune with potential for deep reflection by worshipers. The Verse 1 text: Immortal, invisible, God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes. Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious—Thy great name we praise.”