I am reading ‘Simply God’ by Peter Sanlon at the moment. As a writer, Sanlon is clear and straightforward, and I’ve already enjoyed the way he so fluidly makes the transition from day-to-day experience and the theology he is encouraging us to engage with, showing from the start how what we believe about the doctrines he is presenting do intersect with our lives, and will inescapably shape our practice, whether we realise it or not!
However, this blog post is not a review! Aside from my lack of qualification to comment on someone of Peter Sanlon’s knowledge and experience, not to mention his evident skill as an author, I’ve only just reached the end of chapter one, so it’s a bit presumptuous to pass judgement on the book just yet! What I’m hoping as I write this post (and others) is to keep track of my thoughts and questions as they arise from reading the book, and to record the things I’m learning and want to reflect more on. If you’ve not read the book, this might turn into a very boring series of posts for you – my apologies. But you could always get hold of a copy for yourself and read and learn along with me! If you have already read it, please let me know what you think – especially if you have thoughts or answers to add to my questions!
Sanlon’s stated aim in ‘Simply God’ is to help us ‘think and speak more faithfully about God’¹ by guiding us through the classical theological tradtion.
Chapter One – Engaging with God
This chapter establishes the grounds on which we engage with God- or rather, the grounds on which we don’t engage with God. A big theme of the chapter is the ‘Creator-creature distinction’ which is spoken about from the start as something that we first of all neglect to acknowledge because of our understandable preoccupation with the effect of sin on our relationship with the Living God (where ‘we’ is presumably Western evangelical Christians), and secondly is presented as a fundamental obstacle to knowledge of and communication with God.
What has struck me from this chapter is the helpful corrective to the assumption that we can derive knowledge of God from ourselves, or somehow ‘figure God out’ with our own reason and intellect. I quickly fall into the trap that Sanlon identifies, and simplify the deeply rich and complex revelation God gives us in Scripture, on the basis of my own assumptions and framework of understanding. Sanlon confidently bursts that bubble of human arrogance, though I do wonder if he could’ve gone further – my mistake and sin in thinking about God is not just that I reduce him to my level, thinking he is the same as, or perhaps slightly more powerful than, me,² but that I willfully misrepresent him, refuse the knowledge of himself that he shares with me and attribute the worst results and aspects of my sinful nature to Him, rather than seeing them in myself for what they are. But perhaps Sanlon is right – deeper than this problem is the troublesome fact that I’m created, not the Creator…
What I’m left wondering about are the following questions:
- What are we made for? Is there an inherent problem in our creatureliness? What is the nature of our ‘otherness’ to God? How does this affect how we relate/do not relate to Him?
- What does it mean to ‘know’? How does knowledge occur? Through relationship, or is this not necessary?
Any thoughts (or challenges to my slightly cheeky comments!) very welcome!