Christian theology in a Sudanese context. Theology is to be considered and experienced.
How do we rightly think about God without breaking the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below”. Exodus 20:4. We even think in ‘forms’ as we picture things in the imaginations of our minds. Wrong thinking could lead us into accidental idolatry!
Firstly, we should think about the statements which the Bible makes about God, together with His activities which it describes. We must always use these to check against our own observations. God is the God Who speaks. What He says is written in the Bible for us to read and learn. The Bible gives us several clear models to think about when it describes God as a shepherd (Psalm 23), as a parent (Matthew 7:7-11), as light (1 John 1:5), and God as a rock (Psalm 18:1-3). The Bible also likens God to a lion, to hovering birds (Isaiah 31:4,5), and to shady protection from the heat of the sun (Psalm 91:1). Many roadside trees in Khartoum city shade seated tea sellers and drinkers. They give respite from the fierce midday sunshine. Seeing this happening every day can remind us to take daily moments of spiritual rest and refreshment. We do this by specifically turning to share our days’ events with God.
Secondly, we should think about God by using the things He does that we can see. He is the mighty Creator of the wonders of our natural world. They show us something of how great He is. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands … there is no speech or language where their voice is not heard”. Psalm 19:1-3. It is the very nature of God, or essence of God, we are seeking to understand. “God is Spirit,” John 4:24. A spirit is invisible. God cannot be seen; certainly not in the way that someone could see their friend when they get on the bus and go to sit next to them. Yet God is real. We don’t pretend there is God. He is genuinely here with us. The heat of Khartoum was sometimes made more comfortable for me by a gently blowing wind. I couldn’t see the wind, but I definitely felt it. I would know the wind was there as I saw thrown away plastic bags blowing high across the sky. The fine dust carried on the wind was dumped on to the ground everywhere indoors and outside, especially during haboobs! The wind was without doubt real. I only ever saw the things the wind did. I felt what the wind caused to happen. I lived with all the results of it blowing around without ever actually seeing the wind itself. So it is with God.
Thirdly, we can always think of Jesus Christ: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness”. Philippians 2:6,7. God the Son existed before becoming the baby Jesus. His first eternal form, (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 1:1-2), took on to itself the form of a human being. He did not stop being at all what He was before, but He also became what He was not before. As the God-Man, Jesus was fully God and fully Man. The fact that we can read in the gospels about Jesus will help us think about His divine self. Jesus shows God perfectly because He is one with God essentially. When Jesus shows us God, He shows us Himself. Meditating on the life of Jesus helps us understand His human activity and points us to Who He really was, the Son of God. To know what God is like, read the story of Jesus, (John 14:9). Fourthly, we can borrow the experiences other people have had, to think about God for ourselves. I have never been to the Nuba Mountains. The closest I came was on a visit to El Obied via Kosti. My travelling friend, Pastor Nagi Konagi, originally came from near Heiban. He told me that the hills I could see in the far distance from the bus travelling along the main road, were just the small beginnings of the Nuba Mountains. I have met many people from the Nuba. I have seen pictures of the mountains, of village huts, of people hunting, of people farming and even wrestling. I have seen and heard enough evidence to convince me that the Nuba Mountains really do exist, even though I have never actually been there.
The experiences of many different people can also help us to think rightly about God. Theological writings are basically collections of people’s experiences and understandings gathered over many years. I find these four ways helpful in trying to think correctly about God.
Thinking it through.
(a). Describe some of the ways you personally think about God.
(b). For each of these ways you have mentioned, decide
did you learn it from the Bible?
from nature? or
from another person?
(c). Why is the Bible the most important resource (but not the only way) for thinking about