Naked, ashamed, and afraid, Adam and Eve hid from the presence of God and mankind has been hiding ever since. But the solution to our modern day dilemma is not the answer that has been posed by modern popular theology.
Modern popular theology has focused on the love of God to the exclusion of other attributes of God, such as justice and holiness. Not only have we been narrow in our focus, but we have also attempted to "bring God down to our level" so that we might better understand him and relate to him. We have essentially recreated God in our own image. Fifty years ago, A.W. Tozer commented on the God of modern popular theology when he said: "The God of contemporary Christianity is only slightly superior to the gods of Greece and Rome, if indeed He is not actually inferior to them in that He is weak and helpless while they at least had power."
Having found ourselves naked and hiding from the presence of God, we have sought to coax ourselves back into experiencing the presence of God by convincing ourselves that there is nothing to be afraid of. We neutered the God of the Universe and made Jesus our "homeboy." But deep down inside, we don't believe our own lie.
One of the most haunting verses of Scripture is where the writer of Hebrews states that "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Additionally, we are told at least seven times in Scripture that it is wise to fear the Lord. Psalm 111:10 is probably the most well-known of these which states that "The fear to the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The problem is that we don't want a God that we fear. We want a god that makes us feel comfortable, which is why we've all been taught that "fear" in these verses really just means respect or reverence. I remember being told that as a kid in Sunday school and wondering why the Bible didn't just say reverence or respect if that's what it really meant! When this word is used in the context worship, it certainly does carry with it the idea of reverence. But the word for "fear" in Psalm 111:10 is the same word that means "abject terror" in Exodus 20:20, Deuteronomy 2:25, Psalm 55:5, and Ezekiel 30:13!
We have lost the vision of the greatness of God, and perhaps don't wish to regain it, because a God who is ultimately powerful, transcendently holy, and entirely sovereign is a being who is necessarily terrifying even though he is good. In Jeremiah 5:22, God declared that his greatness should inspire fear and trembling:
Should you not fear me?" declares the LORD.
"Should you not tremble in my presence?
I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
I know that I could easily be accused of doing the same thing that I have blamed others for doing: focusing on one attribute of God to the exclusion of others. Indeed, we must be careful not to become unbalanced. But given the current outlook of popular theology, I can't help but think we could use a healthy dose of terror.