I don’t know why such a phrase as ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is so accessible in my mind. It’s not a phrase I think I’ve ever used in conversation nor do I recall ever having given it a run through my thoughts before. But, it’s in there…somehow. For that, I suppose I give it some credit for its sticking and staying power.
That phrase came to the surface as I’ve been reading and considering some of A W Tozer’s thoughts in his book ‘The Knowledge of the Holy’. I am barely into it a few chapters yet I am thankful for the way he draws my attention to rightly consider God. The simple and seemingly fundamental question ‘who is God?’…’what is He like?’ does not strike me as having much of a sense of wonder and curious awe as it ought (primarily) in the church and clearly, as demonstrated in the writings of Tozer. His words catch my attention and give thread and placement to many thoughts that have been floating about as I read the scriptures.
His prayers; I truly enjoy the start of a chapter as Tozer begins each with a prayer. Amen. If any of us is going to speak of Almighty God or speak for…as in ‘the very words of God’, let it begin, continue, and end with faithful prayer. Ineffable. This word he uses in his prayer at the beginning of the chapter ‘Something True About God’ is so foreign yet vaguely familiar; it is one we ought to take care to understand and to rightly adjust our posture anytime we would think about God.
More will come as I read this book I’m sure. But, back to the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt’? I think this idea has caught like a burr as I am seeking to know ‘what is God like’. I’m a church kid…I grew up in the church culture and especially the past two decades where the theme of ‘intimacy with Abba Father’ and ‘friends of God’ has been highly promoted and valued. I’m not against either of those two truths…rightly understood (and certainly rightly preached and taught in the context of scripture). But there seems to be a rub here because these themes (as promoted) have not brought me, and I dare say too many others, to rejoice or revere God for who He is.
Is it possible in the effort to bring God into our context we have lost true context? Has the emphasis of the past several decades simply resulted in a ‘familiarizing’ of God to a culture (and church culture) that doesn’t have a clue as to the ineffable glory of Almighty God? Do we seek an ‘unknown god’ that will make much of us (to use the language of John Piper) rather than seek the One and Only True God who is the only one worthy to be made much of?
Does familiarity breed contempt? Is it time to ask…again…’who is God…what is He like’? Perhaps the culture and the church are asking. Are we giving a truthful answer?