A Golden Gate Take on Theology
I’m standing on the icon of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. I am in awe. My rapturous feeling is not just because of the marvel of the thing but what it shows me about God.
To me, it’s a massive steel-and-concrete depiction of Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
This suspension bridge depends on two towers on which hang two 6750-foot cables that suspend the 4200-foot span. Each cable is three feet in diameter and is made of 3/16” wires—27,562 of them. Yes, 27,562 wires tightly are bundled into each cable.
These two big cables rise into the sky—but on a foggy day, which is most of the time here—they’re obscured in the mist. And it seems like a glimpse of heaven from below.
This shows me about how we know God because theology can delve into endless complexities of biblical and systematic theology—like the multitude of wires in each cable.
Some believers can be so complex in thinking about God that they lose sight of the simplicity that Jesus exhibited about God. Other believers can be so simpli-stic in ignorance of complexity that they miss the beauty of ultimate simpli-city that unifies all the complexity.
Like all these wires bundled into one cable, all the complexities of theology can be ultimately bundled into the eminent twentieth-century-theologian Karl Barth’s response, stated at Princeton University, to the question of what was his greatest theological insight. He said, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Really.
Complexity inside simplicity. Any attempt to understand God (what we call theology) is on one hand extremely complex and on the other hand extremely simple—similar to the familiar way that understanding a car engine is complex, but turning it on with a key is simple.
And these complex/simple cables rise into what looks like nothingness. I could have stood there all day and never seen the tops of the supporting towers—as if the whole thing were imagination.
But it’s not imagination to the hundreds of thousands of cars and thousands of pedestrians crossing the bridge each day.
I know the tops of these towers are really there. Because they have to be. If they weren’t, the cables and entire bridge would collapse.
Whenever we suffer and ask why, or wonder about God and try to understand, we ask questions that are like those complex/simple cables rising into obscurity. To a certain height, we can always see and understand, as God makes plain in the Bible or reveals to us through experience. But pressing further, we go beyond what we can see. Questions and answers get obscured in the ultimate otherness and unknowability of God, who is by nature beyond our comprehension.
But just as we know the invisible tops of bridge towers are there—because if they weren’t the whole bridge would fall apart—we also know God is there—because if he weren’t the whole world would fall apart. As Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever…”
“Lord God, may we grow in faith and wisdom to know how simplicity wraps complexity. And may we always trust when it extends beyond what we can see or know. For we indeed walk by faith and not by sight. . . .”
Copyright © 2016 Peter Lundell. Used by permission.