Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are other things awesome besides God?

I tend to describe a lot of things as "awesome."  The law of cosines is awesome.  My family is awesome.  This Charizard made of pipe cleaners I found on the internet is awesome:

To clarify, I found the image on the internet. Not the pipe cleaners. Image source.

I've heard people say that "awesome" is a word originally used to describe God (don't know if that's true or not, but whatever) or it should be specifically reserved for God.  Don't say other things are awesome because that takes away from the meaning of "God is awesome."

Totally disagree.  Because if "God is awesome" is the only context in which we heard the word "awesome", we wouldn't have any idea what it even meant.

We already HAVE a word like that.  Holy.  What is the definition of "holy"?  The standard Christian answer for this is "set apart."  Well what does that mean?  I guess "set apart" as in "special."  Not "set apart" as in "the bags of dog poop have been set apart from the other trash so they don't stink up the trash can."

God is "set apart"?  What does that mean?  Err wait, does the "set apart" definition only apply to a context like "God wants his people to be holy", and not "God is holy"?

Okay Perfectnumber, you don't like the "set apart" definition, so how do you define "holy"?

Well, it's like... God is bigger than anything else, orders of magnitude more powerful... something like that...?

Or, it's like, God is perfect, he never does anything wrong, although, how do you really define right and wrong when you're talking about God... er... he's pure (what does that mean?  homogeneous?), he can't tolerate sin, he can't look at sin... he's going to someday bring justice for everyone... is that what "holy" means?

Or maybe, for me it kind of has this majestic feel to it, like God is the king of everything, sovereign over everything, complete authority, no worries- is that what "holy" means?

I really don't know what "holy" means.

But I know what "awesome" means!  I know how excited I get when I find some really cool computer game, or when I learn some interesting fact about an obscure animal, or write code to do some silly math thing, or how much I appreciate my awesome friends when they help me out with something- and God is like that!  God is the inventor of all things awesome.  He made science!  So cool!  I wish I could make science!

So I fully support the use of the term "awesome" to describe things traditionally thought of as unrelated to God (though, they're not really- as I just said, God invented everything awesome).

Agree/disagree?  Anyone out there have a better definition of "holy"?  Are there other words like that, that we only use to talk about God, so no one really gets what they mean?  (I'm looking at you, "hallowed"...)


  1. To me holy basically means divine, or important in a religious way... and when something is holy, it is something that you treat with respect and tread lightly around. When I think about holy ground (e.g. a church) or holy scriptures, they are not necessarily awe-inspiring or majestic, but they are something you treat with respect even if you don't necessarily believe in that religion. It's generally morally wrong to disrespect something sacred even if you don't necessarily follow that religion.

    Incidentally, "[God] made science" is a pretty interesting statement to me. (Apologies if you already have a blog post about this.) It's not controversial to say that God already knows all about the scientific method, and created all the things we are now investigating. But would you say God directly/deliberately caused humans to develop science? Did He cause us to discover all the things we did find? I'd personally say that the science is all ours - a work of human intelligence and effort to discover and understand what was already out there. God's responsible for creating all of the laws and interactions in the first place, but it was by our science (aided a few divine hints, of course) that we could uncover so many of those things, understand them, and see how cool they were. I'm definitely interested to see what you think about this. The beauty of a blog like this is that we can discuss these things rationally even when we disagree on the details :)

  2. I'm used to hearing "set apart" = "holy" too! But your post made me go look it up, and I found a more fleshed out definition:

    "God's holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor."

    --Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem

    By this definition for anything to be holy, it must a) be separated from sin and b) be devoted to seeking God's honor. Grudem goes on to list examples from both testaments that highlight one or both of these two aspects of holiness, like the tabernacle, the sabbath, the priesthood (Aaron and his descendents), etc.

  3. I like the part about "devoted to seeking God's honor." That definitely explains a lot more than the usual "set apart". But I still have a hard time getting a feel for what it means, because it only applies to religious-related things.

  4. Yeah when I say "God made science" I am referring to the realities that exist in the physical world- the laws of physics, how biological systems work, etc- I don't mean "science" as in "the study of all that stuff". You could debate what God's role is in human discovery of all the interesting stuff in the world. I definitely believe God gave people the ability to think and reason and we're supposed to use that to investigate the world and "do science."

    That's an important distinction to make, so thanks for pointing it out. :)