I believe it was D.A. Carson who once said, “Damn all false dichotomies to hell!” This is especially true when related to God. Some of the world’s worst heresies and most damning theologies are the product of false dichotomies. Even well-meaning Christians practically see an irreconcilable dichotomy between Yahweh in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament. One alarming false dichotomy is the one adored by many Millenials. It is the false dichotomy between God’s holiness and God’s love.
Many Millenials, Christian or otherwise, want a God of love, but not a God of holiness. In fact, many cannot even see how God can be both holy and love. This, I believe, is the primary reason for Christian complacency in the comfortable West.
In Yawning at Tigers, Drew Dyck, managing editor of Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal, has approached this false dichotomy between divine holiness and divine love by piercing the heart of American Christianity. Readers will leave both convicted and comforted as they encounter a fierce God on the prowl for his glory, who is closer than expected.
The title perfectly depicts the nature of the book. Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying, presents God as a roaring tiger full of dangerous holiness and fierce love. However, Dyck writes that in our attempts to domesticate God, we totally miss him.
Theologically, Yawning at Tigers is a book about two paradoxical attributes of God. Dyck examines both God’s transcendence (his “otherness”) and his immanence (his “closeness”). “God is dangerous, yes, but loving. He’s above and beyond our physical world, yet mysteriously present within it…We worship a God transcendent and immanent, other and intimate, high and lifted up yet closer than our own breath” (11).
The book is divided into two major sections, which deal with each attribute respectively. Correctly, I believe, the author begins with God’s transcendence. In the first six chapters, Dyck shows us just how different God is from us. God’s holiness is expounded. In this section, the reader will feel a conviction similar to that of reading David Platt’s Radical. Statements like this will rock most contemporary evangelicals to the core:
“I believe that no matter how much we invest, from stained glass to strobe lights, without an appreciation of God’s holiness, our worship is fated to be superficial and, at best, momentarily moving” (47).
Dyck continuously calls out our attempts to tame the holy God Isaiah encountered in Isaiah 6. Instead of changing God to fit our mold, Dyck calls for reverent awe in the face of a holy God as the only proper response to God. In short, the first half of the book presents us with a God who is strange. Dyck argues that only when we see God as utterly far from us can we fully appreciate his nearness.
“Once we have marveled at his magnitude and mystery, we are able to achieve the deep intimacy that grows out of a true appreciation for who God is…Only when we’ve been awestruck by his majesty can we be overwhelmed by his love” (39).
In part two, titled “Divine Embrace,” Dyck moves from God’s otherness to his intimacy. He uses the basis of God’s holiness to discuss God’s love. Not only do Christians attempt to tame God by blaspheming his holiness, but we also have a tendency to belittle his love. While we misunderstand his holiness by developing irreverent analogies and phrases to speak of God, we misunderstand his love by not believing it enough. Dyck goes so far as to say that there is “one big question at the heart of life” and it is “are you going to believe that God loves you?” (143). Going from the incarnation to the daily presence of Christ with his people, Dyck describes what God’s love looks like. His chapter on love that suffers is poignant and packed with a moving extended illustration. Dyck calls our tendency to tame God’s love “dangerous.” He writes, “We take the infinite, divine love described in Scripture and place limits on it…We project our own faltering brand of affections heavenward and assume God’s love is as flawed as ours” (106).
Yawning at Tigers is a timely book that should wake Christians once again to the dramatic reality that the God they serve is not an idol on a shelf, but a consuming fire of holiness and love. I found his discussion of God’s transcendence and immanence to be refreshing and balanced. A great summation of the basis of this argument is found on page 130: “This doesn’t mean the New Testament is solely about God’s intimacy. Nor does the Old Testament speak strictly about God’s transcendence. The entire Bible speaks of both. All through Scripture we are reminded that God is both great and near.”
Drew Dyck is a very talented writer and this book is filled with helpful and captivating supportive illustrations and stories that give readers a picture of his arguments. This book, while addressing complacency in the American church, is saturated with Scripture and his vibrant stories never take precedent over the biblical basis of each chapter.
By way of criticism, and this may be mere preference, I found his discussion of God’s immanence to be weak and maybe erroneous at times. In fact, there were a couple of chapters (or portions of chapters) that the book could have survived without. I believe Dyck goes too far at times in his discussion of immanence. For example, Dyck quotes Mama Maggie (a modern-day Mother Teresa) as saying “When I touch a poor child, I touch Jesus Christ. When I listen to a poor child, I’m listening to God’s heart beating for all humanity” (160). This and the story of an inner-city ministry in Los Angeles, I believe, takes the immanence of God a bit too far. Nevertheless, these are but minor blemishes on an otherwise helpful book.
In the end, Yawning at Tigers is both convicting and comforting. You will find yourself raising your hands in praise one minute and then bowing your head in repentance the next. In an “entertain-me-now” American church culture, Yawning at Tigers is a wakeup call to those who try to understand God as love without also realizing him as a holy fire. It deeply challenged me and I left the book with a renewed vision of God’s holiness and love, his otherness and nearness.
Dyck reminds and warns Christians attempting to tame God by ignoring his greatness, “We can do nothing to confine his power or reduce his majesty” (171). So, instead of trying to tame God, Dyck calls you to stop trying and instead “learn to see his burning eyes amid the forests of your life” (172).
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.