I had also heard a lot about Francis Chan, who is doing this series. Last week my team and I sat down together and watched it. Ok, three of us laid on big beanbags, but we still watched it.
Like the Noomas, the production values of this dvd are high. It is encouraging that a Christian group strives for quality.
Chan starts in on fearing God from a place he and I share; modern American Christianity has domesticated God. Our God tends to be nice, loving, and warm. What, then, of the scriptural understanding of fearing God?
These days, in many churches, Chan asserts (and he is right), the fear of God is defined in terms of proper awe or respect. God loves us too much to want is to actually be afraid, the argument goes.
Chan challenges this notion, most effectively by telling Isaiah’s story (chapter 6) of his vision of standing in the throneroom of God.
Isaiah rightly (and we should too, rightly) fear the awesome power and might of God. As soon as Isaiah expresses fear and his own unworthiness, though, God tells him to fear not and sends a seraph to cleanse him.
After this is where Chan loses me, though, because he says “God wants us to fear Him.”
If God wants us to fear Him, why are His angels always beginning their earthly visits with “fear not!”?
Here’s my take, Francis, do with it what you will: I don’t believe God wants us to fear Him. I do believe that if or when we get close enough to the God of the Bible to get even a snippet, a bit, or a glimpse of God’s reality, our natural, human reaction is fear. Not just awe and respect fear, but real live “am I going to live through this” fear.
But this is more honest appraisal of God’s awe-someness than it is what God wants or intends. If God wanted us to fear, I don’t think “fear not” would occur so regularly with God’s presence.
So, perhaps we could reach a compromise? If you haven’t feared God, you haven’t really encountered God. If you have encountered God, you have felt the fear. You have then also heard God say, or an angel say, “fear not!”