Guest / Limited Access /
When God Hits Below the Belt
Alexander Louis Leloir / Wikimedia Commons

I'm not sure how to tell my children that God is dangerous. No doubt, I want them to nestle up to Aslan’s furry mane, safe and warm. But with enough life lived, disappointment felt, and loss endured, they will soon find out that he has teeth—big, sharp ones. He is good, but he is not safe, as C. S. Lewis said. And sometimes snuggling turns into a brawl.

My understanding of the Christian life has been rewired since the spirituality of my youth, which promised that every day with Jesus would grow sweeter than the day before. Yesterday’s sweetness has become today’s bitterness. A dear friend of mine is battling pancreatic cancer in its final stages. He understands that life with God is not always easy, that sometimes we wrestle with him.

The force of these thoughts hit me while reading Marilynne Robinson’s new novel. Lila narrates a heroine who has no misgivings about life’s sweetness. Lila is angular and awkward. She’s new to the faith. Her life was hard and will remain hard because she cannot forget her past. And she’s pursuing something.

Or maybe Lila is becoming aware that she is the one being pursued. Her stolen Bible (yes, stolen) maps her pursuit with unconventional texts like Ezekiel 16—which describes Jerusalem as an adulterous wife—lighting her path. Lila likes to camp in the hard corners of Scripture, which make one thing clear: The Bible knows nothing of saccharine piety. Like my friend, Lila knows that God can be dangerous. That at times we come to blows with him.

A Strange World

Karl Barth delivered a 1917 lecture titled “The Strange New World within the Bible.” The Swiss theologian actually used only the words new world, but ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueGleanings: December 2015
Subscriber Access Only Gleanings: December 2015
Important developments in the church and the world (as they appeared in our December issue).
RecommendedMormons and Christians: So Close, Yet So Far Away
Mormons and Christians: So Close, Yet So Far Away
What should we make of claims that the two faiths are on a path to reconciling?
TrendingOld Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
Old Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
What a culture of death tells us about a culture of life.
Editor's PickHow Science Became a Weapon in the Mommy Wars
How Science Became a Weapon in the Mommy Wars
Peer-reviewed research intensifies parenting debates… and can leave us even more confused.
Christianity Today
When God Hits Below the Belt
hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2015

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.