Christian Theology in a Thumbnail: God (2)
Moses once asked God his name, so he could go and do what God told him to do (Exodus 3:14). God’s answer has puzzled us ever since. The best translation seems to be something like “I will be who I will be.” Nothing here about the classical attributes of God – all those “omnis” – omniscience, omnipotence, and so on. Not that they are necessarily wrong but here, in the one place where God divulges his name to us, it is Yahweh (or something close to that) – “I will be who I will be.” Our God is dynamic, on the move, keeping promises to his people and his world, setting right his wayward creation, exercising judgment and mercy, healing, guiding, disciplining, providing.
And we know this about God by following him. Yahweh is as Yahweh does. But we can’t know what he does till the end, when we can see his full body of work. To freeze one snapshot of God in action (one creed or confession, one historical action, e.g. Exodus), and absolutize it as what we know of God is to say that Yahweh will be who he once was. Tradition tries to captures the dynamic identity of Yahweh, for who Yahweh was is also ingredient to who he will be. But tradition serves the present and future following of Yahweh into his surprising and unimaginable future wherein “he will be who he will be.”
Jesus captures this dynamic understanding of God well. When asked to “Show us the Father?” by his disciples, Jesus startlingly answers, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father!” Again, knowledge of God is about following this man, Jesus of Nazareth. And unless we follow him to the end, we will never know God fully. In fact, Jesus is God’s presence in human history. He is God’s self-revelation, the action of God in our midst. To know God is to follow this Jesus into his future as the Son of God/Son of Man who sits at the Father’s right hand.
And here’s the point: Yahweh will be who Jesus will be! That’s the scandalous, breathtaking claim of Christian faith. We aren’t interested in how “godlike” Jesus was (as if we already know who or what “God” is and can fit Jesus into that mold). Rather, what is crucial is not this but how Jesus-like God is! On this claim the Christian faith stands or falls.