Wednesday, September 9, 2015

God’s Method of Revealing Himself to Mankind is Simple so All Men May Know Him©

I inherited a small book from my grandfather Bachman, which over the years I have felt numerous promptings to read, but have not followed. This morning I finally picked it up. It was apparently a gift to him from someone, perhaps a missionary companion, from where he served for three months in the Swiss-German mission.  He was there from 1909 to 1912, and the inscription is dated 3 June 1912. The book? Ah, it is The Pocket Ruskin. According to Wikipedia  “John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist.” As a collector of great quotations I have encountered his name frequently, so I have been curious about him for a long time.  

I did not start at the beginning. I turned toward the back to the section on “Man and His God.” The very first article taught me something important about Ruskin. I found him to be not only a deep and clear thinker, but also a religiously inclined man. I want to reproduce for you an excerpt about how God reveals himself to mankind which I think will touch you as it did me. The quotation is preceded by an explanation that mankind may be misled by misinterpreting some scripture which would lead one to believe God is so transcendent and removed that we end up with the “dim and distant suspicion of an inactive God, inhabiting inconceivable places, and fading into the multitudinous formalisms of the laws of Nature.” If I read him correctly, this misconception leads to looking upon God as little more than Nature and her laws–the Deistic deity who wound up the Universe and without any interest in mankind, lets it run down. Ruskin has something important to say in reference to this erroneous view. He would teach us that God, transcendent as he is, nevertheless, has made it possible for all his children to know of him.
All errors of this kind–and in the present day we are in constant and grievous danger of falling into them–arise from the originally mistaken idea that man can, ‘by searching, find out God–find out the Almighty to perfection’; that is to say, by help of courses of reasoning and accumulation of science, apprehend the nature of the Deity in a more exalted and more accurate manner than in a state of comparative ignorance; whereas it is clearly necessary, from the beginning to the end of time, that God’s way of revealing Himself to His creatures should be a simple way, which all those creatures may understand. Whether taught or untaught, whether of mean capacity or enlarged, it is necessary that the communion with their Creator should be possible to all; and the admission to such communion must be rested, not on their having a knowledge of astronomy, but on their having a human soul. In order to render this communion possible, the Deity has stooped from His throne, and has not only, in the person of the Son, taken upon Him the veil of our human flesh, but, in the person of the Father, taken upon Him the veil of our human thoughts, and permitted us, by His own spoken authority, to conceive Him simply and clearly as a loving Father and Friend; a being to be walked with and reasoned with; to be moved by our entreaties, angered by our rebellion, alienated by our coldness, pleased by our love, and glorified by our labour; and, finally, to be beheld in immediate and active presence in all the powers and changes of creation. This conception of God, which is in the child’s, is evidently the only one which can be universal, and therefore the only one which for us can be true. The moment that, in our pride of heart, we refuse to accept the condescension of the Almighty, and desire Him, instead of stooping to hold our hands, to rise up before us into His glory–we hoping that by standing on a grain of dust or two of human knowledge higher than our fellows, we may behold the Creator as He rises–God takes us at our word; He rises, into His own invisible and inconceivable majesty; He goes forth upon the ways which are not our ways, and retires into the thoughts which are not our thoughts; and we are left alone. And presently we say in our vain hearts ‘There is no God’.
Let's think together again, soon.

Source:  John Ruskin, in Rose Gardner, ed., The Pocket Ruskin, (London: George Routledge & Sons, n.d.), pp. 278-279, emphasis in the original.


  1. This is great! This is wonderfully written. It causes me to think about how often in the scriptures we are invited to ask, seek, knock, and draw near to God as He will draw near to us. Thank you.

    1. Yes, and it gave me a renewed and deepened appreciation for the concept of God being our "Father" and of Christ being the manifestation of God the Father, in the flesh.

  2. A God that is relatable, approachable, and kind.