“…I saw also the Lord…high and lifted up, and His train filled the Temple.”
When you’ve seen God from the perspective of Isaiah in the year King Uzziah died, you realize that God is high and lifted up far above the confines of the temple. And while His train may fill the temple, his presence, essence, and greatness can never, by it, be contained.
When your view of God is so much bigger than traditional religion allows, it becomes difficult to permit yourself to be restricted by the confines and constraints that it places on you. I look at the world around me and at the small portion of the universe that we are aware of and I see a fundamental truth: the Creator of all this must be greater than even the Scriptures can capture. Words are simply incapable of conveying His magnificence, power, and greatness.
When I view religion today, I do not see this greatness. When I view churches, I no longer see them through the eyes of innocence. I’m incapable of seeing the image that most churches wish to portray; I see the reality. I see businesses that are to a greater or lesser degree executing marketing plans to bring in more traffic. I see the complex interrelationships that often dissolve into pettiness and gossip. I see either the pastor who is worn down because of his sincerity to serve God or the craftiness of a pastor who understands “the game.”
What’s worse, I often see people who, in their fear of the unknown, attempt to control our perspective of God by limiting what the Creator can be, can do, and the means by which those things are accomplished. I see limitations. And in a universe that is arguably limitless, how can one allow themselves to be constrained by a religion that is caged by the fears of men?
My time seeking God in the ministry is the exact reason I can no longer seek Him through traditional religion. What I found out about God through studying His Word was that He, by the very Biblical definition of Him, must be greater than what the Bible could ever tell us. Words are simply too meager to capture his grandeur. And once I realized this, my view of God was magnified beyond the confines of a church. I saw Him high and lifted up!
I’m Not Alone
This is why I giggle whenever I hear murmurs of, “Ben has lost his way.” I haven’t lost my way. I simply have seen Christ so much more clearly. In many ways, my personal struggle with religion versus my unwavering faith is a microcosm of what is happening in America. Religion is losing. Americans are no longer being bound to religious institutions. And because we have conflated religion with faith for centuries, we automatically think that the decline in religion equates to a decline in faith. This isn’t necessarily the case. Many of us have severed our dependency on religion so that our relationship with God could flourish.
What we have seen historically with religion is the institutionalization of God. He’s been caged in the zoo of religious hierarchy. The only side of Him that we have been allowed to explore is that which can be controlled and capitalized on by religiously ambitious men.
Because of this, not only has religion been unable to answer the great questions of our time, religion has not even been allowed to explore them in meaningful ways beyond “god.” When we don’t understand something, we say, “That’s just how God wants it.” This is no longer acceptable in a world of constant discovery where we can answer many questions that the men who were inspired to pen the Bible were unaware even existed.
The Future of Faith in America
Faith is being liberated from religion. That is the future of Christianity in America. In fact, I believe this is the future of Christianity, period. America offers a level of liberty and autonomy that has allowed us to explore God beyond the controls of a state religion under the threat of persecution. Because of this freedom, we have been able to experience God in a way that causes so many believers to reject the formality and constrictions of religious institutions.
Some people view this as a threat to Christianity. I see this as the beginning of a new era in Christianity where the faith of the fearless isn’t weakened by new discoveries in science or changes in societal norms; it is strengthened. Perhaps religious institutions will catch up and adapt. Time will tell.
When I in Awesome Wonder…
Nevertheless, when you “consider the heavens” to be the actual “handiwork” of God and how systemic and measurable his creation is, something in you changes. You not only realize how magnificent He must be, you also realize that He’s not a mystical, magical wizard but a methodical and systemic architect. And that realization forces you to prostrate yourself in humility and lament like David: What is man that thou art mindful of him?
When your vantage point of God starts there, religion and church can become more than disappointments; they can become an impediment to the fullness of our faith.
Perhaps in the future this paradigm will give way to a faith that sees how great our God must really be. And when we see Him in this way, we will realize that so much of what we call religion is nothing more than pettiness to this magnificent creator.