Dyck: Stop Mistaking a Tiger for a Pussy-cat

Tiger_review_07182014Drew Nathan Dyck [1]. 2014. Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Economists, who work in the world on worldly matters, often chide at the anti-intellectual attitude that often limits objective problem solving.  This is not a new problem.  Writing in 1936 in the middle of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes famously wrote:   Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist [2].  This same anti-intellectualism, of course, also shows up in the church as an overt bias against ideas that sound vaguely like theology.

In his book, Yawning at Tigers, Drew Nathan Dyck observes:

…we need to be reminded of God’s love … [but] Rarely do we hear about God’ mystery and majesty, let alone whisper a word about his wrath (3).

Furthermore, he observes:

The truth is that God is radically different from us, in degree and kind.  He is ontologically dissimilar, wholly other, dangerous, alien, holy, and wild (5).

The problem here is inherently theological.  We are comfortable with God’s love, an attribute of an immanent God, but profoundly uncomfortable with a Holy God, an attribute of a transcendent God. Dyck’s point is that an infatuation with God’s love has led to neglect of His other attributes.

As Christians, we confess that God is both immanent (near us as in the Holy Spirit and like us as in Jesus Christ) and transcendent (above us and removed from us as in God the Father).  Dyck (99) cites the Prophet Jeremiah:

Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away?  Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:23-24 ESV)

The problem that faces the church is that in refusing to debate theology, perhaps due to an obsession with our own emotions, we may inadvertently adopt theologies that we would not choose, if we spent more time thinking about it.

In Dyck’s case, he worries that a domesticated God (totally immanent) lacks the power required to deal with life’s challenges.  Power is an attribute of transcendence.  If God is no longer almighty (holy, sovereign), then He is also no longer interesting—kids need not attend church.  He’s safe but irrelevant.  Dyck (6) observes:  We ask God to keep us safe, not realizing that it is from him we most need protecting [3].

A teddy bear god is of no use in a world populated with tigers—clearly, much more could be said.

Yawning at Tigers covers a lot of ground in 12 chapters:

  1. Divine Invasion;
  2. Beyond the Shallows;
  3. The God Worth Worshipping;
  4. A Vision of Holiness;
  5. Dangerous Living;
  6. God Incognito;
  7. Loving a Lion;
  8. Tenacity and Tenderness;
  9. Intimate Beginnings;
  10. Face-to-Face:
  11. Jesus in the Shadows; and
  12. The Fragrance of Eternity (viii).

These chapters are bracketed by an introduction (The Greatest Adventure) and a follow up discussion guide.  Dyck is well read and has traveled widely during his career.  This makes his narrative writing style both interesting and accessible; a masters in theology makes his writing engaging. He is currently the managing editor of the Leadership Journal [4] and author of Generation Ex—Christians:  Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith…and How to Bring them Back [5].

[1] www.DrewDyck.com.

[2] A fuller reference is:  “… the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back …”John Maynard Keynes. 1936. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. (383–84).

[3] Or as the Bible says:  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31 ESV)

[4] The Leadership Journal is associated with Christianity Today (www.christianitytoday.com/le).

[5] www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/evangelism/youngadultsleavingfaith.html



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