“What if I am in trouble?”
This is the question I thought to myself this morning when I received a call from an unrecognizable number and an ambiguous message. I had no reason to think that I was in trouble, but for some reason, I saw it as a possible explanation for the unexpected call. I thought maybe there was some mistake for some paper work nonsense.
It was a dreadful feeling. I could not go back to sleep. I had to find out what the call was about. It turned out that the call had nothing to do with me “being in trouble.” Instead, it was a call about an excellent opportunity, but that’s beside the point.
Thinking back on that momentary dread, I realized that there’s a connection between the capriciousness of my situation, humility, and the dread that I felt. Fearing God has always been an odd concept for me, but connecting the dots of capriciousness, humility, and dread may make the concept more understandable (and palatable) for me.
When I thought I was in trouble, I recognized that there was little I could do change my situation. Powerlessness. That is a scary thought. It is also humbling. How could it be anything other than that? Dread/fear enters the scene when I realized that your fate is not in my hands.
BUT, fear only seems to make sense if I suspect that the overall consequences of my imaginary infraction will not be in my best interest. If I posit the God of orthodoxy, then there’s no reason for me to think this way. Perhaps fear of God is something that can only be learned via theophany, assuming that it is something that is supposed to be learned at all. “God is love.” and “Perfect love drives out all fear,” so why suppose that this is an attitude we are supposed to cultivate towards God?
Even if this is a desirable attitude, how am I to go about cultivating it? I do not typically buy the whole “cosmic cleanup” eschatological theory. This, it seems, is the scene that is supposed to instill fear. Perhaps John had it all wrong when he was talking about God being love and love driving out all fear. Jesus, after all, seems to make direct appeals to our fears about final judgment, which is odd.
Indeed, there really seems to be a tension between Love and Fear as they apply to divine attributes. Perhaps it is the same conflict that Crossan points out in his book. If this is the same conflict, then I know how to resolve it.