The law for God’s nearness and remoteness is as follows: The more the outward externals, the appearances, indicate that God cannot possibly be present here, the closer he is. The opposite is also true: the more the outward externals, the appearances, indicate that God is very near, the farther away he is.
Consider the first case, and think especially of Christ.
Whenever it appeared that this man could not possibly be the Godman, then people even refused to recognize him as a man. But it was then that God’s actuality was most present.
Now consider the law for God’s remoteness (and the history of this is the history of Christendom). It is as follows: Everything that strengthens the appearance of God being present (in the worldly sense) distances God.
At the time when there were no churches and the Christians gathered together in catacombs as refugees and lawbreakers, God was close. Then came the churches, so many churches, such great, splendid churches and to the same degree God was distanced. For God’s nearness is inversely related to externals, and this ascending scale (churches, many churches, splendid churches) is an increase in the sphere of appearance. Before Christianity became a doctrine, when it was only one or two affirmations expressed in one’s life, God was closer. And with every increase and embellishment of doctrine, with every increase of “success,” God was distanced. When there were no clergy and the Christians were all brothers, God was closer than when clergymen, many clergymen, a powerful ecclesiastical order, came into being. For clergymen are an increase in appearance, and God always relates inversely to outward show.
This is how Christendom has step by step become so distant from God. Christianity’s history is one of alienation from God through the gradual strengthening of appearance. Or it might be said Christianity’s history is one of the progressive removal of God – tactfully and politely by building churches and monumental buildings, by a monstrous doctrinal system, with an incalculable host of preachers and professors. Established Christianity is about as far away from God as one can possibly get.
Now if I say this to anyone, I will be surely be told, “True, something must be done, but the problem is that there are too few pastors in proportion to the population. Let’s get a thousand more (Excellent – in order to get farther away from God!), a good many more churches (Excellent, in order to get farther away from God!), and a permanent alliance of pastors and professors to make the doctrine more strictly accurate (Excellent, in order to get farther away from God!).”
No, no, no! If you are really serious about getting God closer, then consign the whole system of established Christianity with its lying gang of preachers and professors, these Christian experts who en masse provide an excellent commentary on every Bible passage, to death and the devil. Seek first God’s kingdom.
The Christian rule for action is simple: Venture to act in accordance with the truth and at the same moment through this action you will collide with the environing world. Your action will be such that you will discover the collisions of the essentially Christian. In no other way can one enter into the situation where faith can come into existence. Venture right into the middle of actuality. Risk – and then God will truly come. But now God sits and watches to see if there is one single person who will venture.
Every single human being is able to venture, and God is willing to become involved with absolutely every human being who ventures. He is infinite love, but he is also majesty. And he is a connoisseur; with his dreadful sharp-sightedness he is able to see whether a person wants to exploit him or is venturing. But where is there one who will actually venture? Oh yes, there are ministers and professors and church workers by the thousands who make a profit, and who are willing to venture a tiny little bit as long as they can count on a proportionate increase in their income. But where is there one person who will actually venture, who trusting in God and in the power of God, will dare relate inversely to appearance – something Christians do not seem to accept, in fact can’t stand.
No, Christendom would rather build great, spacious churches for God, presumably so that he (and we) can really have enough room. But in actuality even the smallest space is too large for God. One single, poor, abandoned, simple person, who trusting in God, will venture, will risk – there God is present and makes him, humanly, or paradoxically speaking, less unhappy. This is what God must do before he is able to be there – to such an extent does God relate negatively to externals. But we prefer to build huge edifices for him, and hundreds, yes, thousands of church professionals are summoned together in an enormous institution, convinced that when such a colossal body is assembled and sits together at an unbelievable cost that God is present, that he is closest there, that his cause is advanced there.
No. God relates inversely to the outward show of externals.