A Golden Gate Take on Theology

golden-gate-bridgeI’m standing on the icon of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. I am in awe–not just because of the marvel of the thing but what it shows me about God.

This suspension bridge depends on two towers on which hang two 6750-foot cables that suspend the 4200-foot span. Each cable is three feet in diameter and is made of 3/16” wires—27,562 of them. Yes, 27,562 wires tightly are bundled into each cable.

These two big cables rise into the sky—but on a foggy day, which is most of the time here—they’re obscured in the mist. And it seems like a glimpse of heaven from below.

This shows me about how we know God because theology can delve into endless complexities of biblical and systematic theology—like the multitude of wires in each cable.

But like all these wires bundled into one cable, all the complexities of theology can be ultimately bundled into the eminent twentieth-century-theologian Karl Barth’s greatest theological insight, stated at Princeton University: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Really.

Complexity inside simplicity. Any attempt to understand God (what we call theology) is on one hand extremely complex and on the other hand extremely simple.

And these complex/simple cables rise into what looks like nothingness. I could have stood there all day and never seen the tops of the supporting towers—as if the whole thing were imagination.

But it’s not imagination to the hundreds of thousands of cars and thousands of pedestrians crossing the bridge each day.

I know the tops of these towers are really there. Because they have to be. If they weren’t, the cables and entire bridge would collapse.

Whenever we suffer and ask why, or wonder about God and try to understand, we ask questions that are like those complex/simple cables rising into obscurity. To a certain height, we can always see and understand, as God makes plain in the Bible or reveals to us. But pressing further, we go beyond what we can see. Questions and answers get obscured in the ultimate otherness and unknowability of God, who is by nature beyond our comprehension.

But just as we know the invisible tops of bridge towers are there—because if they weren’t the whole bridge would fall apart—we also know God is there—because if he weren’t the whole world would fall apart. As Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever…”