How Have You Shaped God?

News from the art world: An Italian Artist Auctioned Off an ‘Invisible Sculpture’ for $18,300. It’s Made Literally of Nothing.

Seriously!? Yep. Last month, 67-yr old Salvatore Gaurau auctioned off an “immaterial sculpture”—in other words, it didn’t exist! The artist named it Sono, which means “I am.” He claims that the sculpture finds its form in its own nothingness. “The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has weight…it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us.”

Francis Schaeffer (Christian pastor and apologist in the late 1960’s-80’s) would have had a heyday with this one. Schaeffer believed that when man (humanity) becomes the center of his own thinking, he will lose touch with himself and will actually view life irrationally and to his own detriment and the detriment of culture. Secular Humanism birthed post-modernism with it moral relativism, lack of objective reality, and ultimate meaninglessness. And quite honestly, such a perspective adds very little to life and culture and it is my feeling that is why very little of interest is taking place in the art world right now, except for the artist giving expression to whatever s/he wants and calling it something when it is nothing. It reminds me of a line from Alice in Wonderland where the queen asks Alice to look at something and to tell what she saw. Alice said, “I see nothing.” The queen responded, “What wonderful eyesight; to be able to see nothing and at a distance too!”

I could go on and on about such solipsism (your own self/reality is what only matters) that allows people to choose any lifestyle they want and even determine their own gender on the basis of how they feel rather than on any objective truth. But I want to come back around to my main point of application and that is to us as Christians. When the artist, Gaurau, was questioned on the legitimacy of “immaterial” artwork, he responded “after all, don’t we shape a God we’ve never seen?”

Good question. Haven’t we all done that? “God would never allow this to happen”; “God will always protect his own from bad things”; “God will always answer prayer for healing”; “God would never have mercy on someone like that”; and so on…. We may never have articulated these thoughts, but they arise from how we have shaped an unseen God in our minds. This is why many people have given up the faith, because God didn’t act according to how they have shaped him. As I struggle with pancreatic cancer, there is such temptation to do this and to live with disappointment and anger when God doesn’t respond “appropriately.”

The only solution that I have learned is to let the God I have never seen shape me. And the only way that happens is to continue to read the Scripture, which is the only way to come to know the being and character of God and not be left to my own imagination. Day after day, as I read the bible I run across things I do not like about God and would like to change. But as I keep reading over an over again, God’s character is more fully revealed and I see how gracious, merciful, and patient he is with a rebellious people. And this is just in the Old Testament. When I come to the Gospels I see how he undresses himself in Jesus and stops at nothing to redeem the sinner. I can honestly say that my heart breaks and my eyes fill with tears to see God’s love and mercy for me. And though I suffer from a terminal illness, he will never forsake me. And though every day I wonder what will happen next, I can trust him. I have not been able to respond like this because of some super-spirituality on my part, but because God has broken down my false images of him through his Word and is changing me into his own image. I am learning not to be a God-shaper, but a God-shaped man.

One final observation: it is interesting that the Italian artist, Gaurau, only accepted real money for his “sculpture” and not “immaterial” dollars. I guess you just can’t survive on nothing.

Forgive the typos you may find. It’s a little more difficult for me to write as my disease progresses. Sounds like an excuse, but I’ll keep trying.