Back in the 19th century, Rudolf Otto described the Holy One that we encounter as: “mysterium, tremendum et fascinans.” “Mysterium” captures the indescribable nature of the Holy. “Tremendum” …we get our word tremble from this; and in the presence of the Holy we tremble because the Holy is so far beyond our abilities to cope with. And yet we are “facinans,” fascinated to the point where we long to return over and over again into the presence of the Holy. Sadly, the image of God that has been created for us by religion can’t possibly contain all that the Holy IS.
In his book “Insurrection” Peter Rollins insists that, for a multitude of reasons we are all too willing to settle for what Bonheoffer called the God of Religion. For Bonheoffer, the Church approached God as a “deus ex machina.” God was merely an idea clumsily dropped into our world in order to fulfill a task. God was introduced into the world on our terms in order to resolve a problem rather than expressing a lived reality. The result is a God who simply justifies our beliefs and helps us sleep comfortable at night. God is brought into the picture only when we face a problem of some kind that doesn’t lend itself to solution by other means. This “deus ex machina” falls far short of the God we meet in the Thin Places of our lives; those places or events in which we encounter the Divine. Only by letting go of the god we have created for ourselves can we begin to describe the encounter with the ONE who IS.