“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” (Revelation 4:8)

I don’t get holiness. I do get that God is good. I also sort of get what it means that God is righteous. I can at least imagine what his glory is like (though I tend to fizzle at about 300 watts). And on a good day I can juggle omniscience, omnipresence, and omniscience without vapor locking. The Trinity package is still a bit beyond me—but even God seems to have some trouble explaining that one. On the whole, I’d say that I’m pretty hip to the divine ingredients label—that is, except for the holiness thing. I totally do not get holy.

Most of God’s attributes are at least somewhat readable. Sovereignty means he’s the boss of everything, plain and simple. Justice means he’s always fair, even when he’s not. Perfection means that God is—well, perfect, flawless: no missing keys, no broken shoelaces, no zits. Aseity is only a fancy word meaning that God doesn’t need to be plugged into an outlet in order to operate. (He’s the original and still the only genuine perpetual motion Gizmo.) And though the claim that God is love is definitely a wowser, it’s still basically an understandable concept. The reason why the items on the “God is ____” list are at least kind of gettable is because most them are things we lowly humans have some experience with. The main difference between me and God is that whatever nifty thing I’ve got going, God is a ton better at. That seems reasonable. He’s had a lot longer to practice.

Holiness, however, is a whole different ballgame. It’s easy to say that God is holy, but that’s like saying that North Dakota can get cold in the winter. I’m telling you, only those who’ve changed a flat tire without gloves in the dark at 25 below zero in a North Dakota blizzard know cold. And only those who’ve been smacked by holy know holy. A holy God is unlike anything in the universe; he’s fundamentally other than everything else, more other than we can even imagine. In fact, there are four really weird creatures in heaven whose job it is to stand next to God and yell about how not like the rest of us he is. So when God himself declares that he’s holy too—well, you’ve got yourself some serious mojo.

From what I read in the Bible, holiness—at least the cubed variety—generally freaks people out. When God flashes his credentials people throw shoes, kiss dirt, and often turn into blubbering idiots. Granted, this also happens to fans of Rush Limbaugh and Oprah Winfrey, but that’s beside the point. I don’t mean to be crass, but it seems to me that running head-on into Holy³ might be a little like overdosing on colon cleanser: your bowels jell and then collapse in a quivering heap of abject terror—and that’s when God’s being nice.

So, considering the rather disturbing side effects, why in the world would anybody ever want to get whacked by holiness? Well, most folks don’t. Those who’d rather keep their insides inside probably do well to steer clear of burning bushes and dudes with six wings. But for the true God-junkies, a lethal hit of Holy³ is faith’s pièce de résistance, the thermonuclear calling card of the Supreme Not Them. It is the condescending approach of the Unapproachable that affirms the sanctity of being, the flimsiness of death, and the utter incomprehensibility of deity.

We can worship the Holy. We can be transformed by it. But its ground lies forever beyond our grasp. It is the God we shall never be able to make in our own image.


2 Responses

  1. Holy s***!

  2. And then he says things like, “be holy, as I am holy.”

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