If God Were a Peripheral God

If anyone knows anything about philosophy it is certain that Frederick Nietzsche’s idea of a “dead god” is either infamous or famous depending on one’s world view. Nietzsche’s dead god did not mean that our God was without life rather it was Nietzsche’s way of presenting the idea that God was not involved in His creation. It is much like the idea of Deism wherein it is believed that God created man and then pulled away from mankind with little to no involvement. This, by extension, would make God a peripheral God, an idea which must be challenged.
The fact of the matter is that God was involved with His creation from the time of the creation. The narrative in Genesis clearly shows that Adam and Eve enjoyed a relationship with God. Relationships are far from peripheral in that there needs to interaction between the parties involved in the relationship. With that God spent time with man until sin caused a breach in the relationship. In spite of the breach God continued to reach out to man to repair a broken relationship. God longed for the communion He once enjoyed with man so that from the time sin entered the camp God put in place a plan to restore that relationship. Peripheral thinking would lend one to believe that a peripheral God would not care about a broken relationship. Thus, if God were a peripheral God there would be no concern for what was lost.
There are many other scriptural examples of God working to restore broken relationships between himself and man. Take for instance the period of time when the Israelites were in bondage to the whims of the Egyptians. The people of God were not allowed to worship Him and desired to be in a place where they could worship without hindrance. God heard the desires of His people and worked diligently to bring His people out from the land of bondage into a state of freedom. With this in mind God chose Moses and gave him specific instructions as to what to do in order to deliver God’s people. It is not certain that a peripheral God would take the time and care to bring His people from a state of bondage into a state of freedom where worship of Him is not only allowed but also encouraged.
The multiple encounters of God in the Old Testament with His people clearly show that our God is not dead. That is to say that God is not separated from those that love Him rather multiple evidences show that God speaks to and works with not only those that love Him but also God reaches out to those who have not chosen to love Him. There is no more evidence of that then the text found in John 3:16-17 which reads:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
The fact of God sending His Son into a sinful world does not speak of One who is peripheral. In fact the converse is true. For instance, if God were a peripheral God there would be no concern for the sinful state of man. There would be no desire to restore the broken relationship. A peripheral God would not put the life of His Son into the hands of those that chose to forsake Him on every hand. Instead God with all His love looked down through the annals of time and saw a wretched people in need of deliverance. If God were a peripheral God salvation would be non-existent and all mankind would be dammed by reason of the first Adam.

Moreover if God were merely peripheral Jesus would not have sacrificed himself on the cross with the result of paving the way for man to accept Him, the one and only source of redemption. If God were a peripheral God the spilled blood of Jesus would be void thereby making His atoning work of none effect. If God were as suggested by Nietzsche the promise made by Jesus to never leave us nor forsake us would be a lie. Further His fulfilled promise to send the Holy Ghost to live in believers would be null. If God were a peripheral God then my life is not worth living. Yet because God is intimately involved in the lives of those that love Him I am awed that God is not a peripheral God.

Deuteronomy: Holiness Through Worship

     When reading through the “second law” that is Deuteronomy it becomes evident that God required that His people be distinctly different than other people. God’s call to holiness was not a mere state of mind rather the call was a call for action. The call of God for holiness meant that His people were to separate themselves from every aspect of life that would pull away from the standard God set down through his servant Moses. God did not want even the stench of other gods on His people so the requirement to serve Him and Him alone was a cry from God to His people to leave paganism, among other heretical teachings, alone for the godless.

     One promise God consistently made to the Israelites was that if they kept His Word the adherents of His Word would enjoy long life. Deuteronomy 6:1-2 clearly shows this with the words, “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.” The commands of God indeed are multifaceted yet extremely simplistic in nature. God’s law requires absolute dedication to Him and that dedication becomes evident through worship. It is the worship of God by His people that separate the people of God from all others.

     Deuteronomy 6:5 reads, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Note that this text is not a suggestion that the people of God love Him rather it is an absolute demand made clear with the words “thou shalt”. There are no choices provide in this context. The children of God are to love God without exception and that love is best shown in worship. While much can be said in respect to the term “worship” one cannot leave out the idea of exceptional devotion by the renunciation of anything that stands against that dedication. It is for this reason that God required the Israelites to have no other gods before Him (Deuteronomy 5:7). God knew that if His people worshipped and served false gods then it would be impossible for them to worship Him with whole hearts.  

     Taken a bit further, if one is dedicated to God by worshipping Him and Him alone the love for Him would become evident. This love means that nothing will become more important to God’s children than that love. Furthermore, this requirement is not simply because God seeks to thrive on the accolades of His subjects rather God sought and continues to seek “an enduring relationship, regularly renewed in successive generations. The covenant into which Israel had entered was not simply the legal acquiescence to a detailed contract, but rather a living relationship that required the loving commitment of both parties.”[1] Because this is a mutual relationship it becomes evident that the dedication God requires of His people He wholly employs to the extent that God gave His Son so that none would have to perish by reason of sin (John 3:16).

     With this worship becomes a way of life. Worship becomes an intricate part of the followers of God to the extent that there is no other mind but to love God. Deuteronomy 13:4 becomes not just words to the former people of God rather the words burn themselves on the hearts of those that truly love God. Those words, “Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him” present the ideal way to worship God. In obeying these simple words one is pulled from the false gods and is found in the arms of the true and living God. This practice of worship sets the stage for holiness.

     Hebrews 12:14 shows holiness as being a prerequisite to seeing God. The holiness discussed in Hebrews is the same holiness God required in Deuteronomy. The juxtaposition of holiness and worship are not accidental in that the two work in conjunction one with the other. One cannot be holy while serving false gods nor can one worship false gods while serving the true and living God. The law dictated absolutely dedication. Grace requires unfailing love. Both lead to worship and holiness which leads to eternal life.   

 


[1] Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard.  An Introduction to the Old Testament. (Grand Rapids, Zondervan 2006), 114