Orthodoxy is Heretical

{Disclaimer the image contained in this post may be disturbing, it is intended to be…}

First of all I need to say, mostly for my own benefit that this post, and all posts for that matter, are more dynamic than static. In essence I am thinking aloud and inviting you (whoever you may be) to join me in thinking things through…

I made this image a couple of years ago, I am not claiming to be a designer of any merit for such a claim would only be lunacy, obviously. I made it to help me think through my thoughts on God. Or more aptly what we often make God into. There is a quote out there (I forget by whom) that goes something like this, "God rid me of God." I think at the heart of this quote, as with the title of this post and the image to the left, is that often our thoughts on God, are the very things that keep us from God.

A friend of mine recently introduced me to some thoughts shared by an Irishman by the name of Peter Rollins, who is a part of a community in Ireland called Ikon. I liked him instantly because for one he is Irish, and he likes Guinness, as all godly people do. Anyway the idea is simple, and profound, as most simple things are. It is that orthodoxy is heretical, which I think was the original title of Peter’s book  How not to Speak of God". The idea is, that when we say this is how we ought to think about God, or that this is who God is (definitively), we have at that moment made God not God, and have in a sense created our own image of God. Remember it is always important to be aware that we are made in God's image and not the other way around, although we are very fond of doing the later.

I think this is at the heart of that ol' commandment of Ancient Jewish Scripture: "You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make to yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."

I have always thought of this commandment as applying to not worshipping other gods and it does. Only until recently have I thought that this commandment could apply to people trying to express God definitively within the framework of their own understanding. That is to say that the moment we say, look here at this statue, this is what God is like, we have made another god. When we try to nail God down and define God, God stops being God. Perhaps that is why God issues this commandment, maybe it’s a way of saying I am beyond anything you can think of, and the moment you limit me to any created thing, at that moment you have made for yourselves a god that is not me.

So then how are we to think of God. I think a part of the secret can be found in the relationship God had with ancient Israel. They were not a people who carried a message to the world; they were the message to the world. They were chosen, not just for the sake of choseness and the eventual establishment of a country club, and drinks with little umbrellas in them, but rather they were chosen as a way of example and invitation. Namely that they would exemplify to the whole world what a relationship with God is like and in this way reveal what God is like, and in this way issue an invitation. They showed people what God is like through their relationship to God, as people who embodied His way (not that they always did this, but neither do we, so let's not play with rocks) rather than showing people what God is like with statues and empire, it was done in a relationship.

Relationship is not static it is dynamic. I remember one of the first road trips I ever took with my wife. I took her to the beach, (500 miles away) for her birthday. I think we had been married about a year. Though we had been married a year, I remember thinking as we drove, "whoa, who is this person sitting next to me, how well do I really know her?" I realized that getting to know someone is an ongoing process, and that that it is what relationship is. It doesn't work that you get to know someone, say by reading a book about them, and then you go into a relationship. No, relationship helps you discover who a person is, and as we all know, it is an ongoing thing. Even after five years of marriage I can't say that I know my wife completely (although I do know her in a biblical sense) I am still getting to know her. I am learning more about who she is and consequently who I am, and who we are. We are in relationship.

So perhaps that is how it goes with God, that as we change, as our thinking grows, as we relate, we know God more. This never ends, so perhaps saying what God is like, or who He is definitively, is as ridiculous as the image above. No doctrine, no ritual, no image can fully express God; they are all, when they claim to do so completely, heresy.

Now, I think that Jesus is the fullest representation of who God is and what God is like. And this itself says something. Jesus is a person. A person can only be known relationally. It's been 2000 years and it seems that we are still trying to understand and getting to know Jesus. Shouldn't that tells us something?

Maybe it is that what is often rejected about God, or Jesus is not actually God or Jesus, perhaps it is the monstrous image that we have made God or Jesus into.

Something to think about…


  1. #1 by poopemerges on September 21, 2006 - 10:13 am

    “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make to yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

    You rightly identify the fact the in the first commandment GOd tell’s us to not worship other God and in the second he tells us not to make false idols of him…

    However I would suggest that what he is saying is not to have no solid concept of him but rather to make sure that the concpet we have is Biblical. It was common in OT times for people to construct images of their God’s that looked just like them and then try to make the “gods” do what they want. Yahwah on the other hand is self revelatory and is saying “I have revels who I am, only worship me as I have reveled myself…”

    I think you do a lot of good work above, but I would suggesthat because revelation is in this case due the reveal-er, to say that we can not “definitivly” know of God is to assail God and not man. Although there is a sense in our falleness in which we could never know God exhustivly, or perfectly I think we must be careful unless a fluid unknowable God becomes the idol of this generation…

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