Gnon is an NRx reference (obscure because that’s how NRx rolls) to “Nature or Nature’s God.” Specifically this is used in relation to the facts that harshly constrain us from eating our cake and having it too, no matter how much of a temper tantrum we throw. That saying “can’t we all just get along” doesn’t mean our needs will be compatible with the needs of other individuals or other states or even that they will want to get along in the first place. That just because it would make things more “fair”, we still can’t re-write human nature.Gnon is a personification of the power of the universe. The idea of thinking this way is coming from atheists and agnostic, so there isn’t much input from special revelation at work in this concept. This is just based on empirical experience of life as a sceptic. Gnon isn’t assumed to be good, or interested in humans, or even to align particularly well with human ideas of a coherent personality. Having no prima facie requirement of being nice, he is often conceptualized as being sort of mean from the human perspective.
Gnon: I like arms races, and rain my blessings upon them. Pretty much the only reason I’ve put up with the monkeys as long as I have is to use them to play arms races. It’s the only interesting stuff they’ve ever done.
I find there is something about the presentation of Gnon that resonates with me. There’s some insight here that is worthy of being affirmed. But from a Christian perspective there are certain issues. It has been pointed out that Satan has been given certain power in this world, and that those who projecting from their experiences indiscriminately may be confounding their idea of the Almighty with elements of Satan’s handiwork. However I don’t want to be so quick to dismiss this basic intuition of God’s existence.
This is the God of common revelation. This is what can be known of the Almighty without the prophets and apostles bringing special revelation of His grace and redemption. This is the face God turns towards cut off from Him by our own wickedness and corruption. I don’t think God finds our struggles and failures without him exactly funny, as Gnon is sometimes protruded as doing. But His judgment is that it is fitting and proper that, if we reject Him, our end is ruin and destruction. God wants suffering and sorrow done away with if and only if sin is done away with too, not lessened, not put in a corner and ignored, but utterly done away with.
It’s important to acknowledge that those without a relationship with God can have some perception of Him, if a dimmer one than revelation provides. But it is also a different view than those of us enfolded be the cleansing gift of His redeeming love experience in our everyday lives. There are several important thinks to be gained from engaging with and even embracing God-as-seen from an outsider’s perspective.
First is understanding why we do evangelism. I was talking with a liberal Christian about the possibility that, since the patriarchs were saved without knowing the name or story of Jesus Christ, those in remote areas unreached by missionaries might be saved by believe in God and trusting him based on the limited revelation they do have. I was arguing that just because they could didn’t mean they would and so we still needed to send missionaries to invite them to be saved. I realized later that what I was missing was an appreciation that the un-evangelized would be experiencing Gnon., awesome, but also terrifying. When you realize how immiscible God is with un-redeemed humans, you realize how unlikely it is that someone would make a leap of faith to trust God with your life unless someone brings the good news of redemption and forgiveness to them. A few might do it, but not nearly as may as would trust Jesus once they understand the gospel.
It is also helpful, when communicating with unbelievers in our own culture, to understand that unless there has been a special intervention of the Holy Spirit, the only personal experience non-believers will have had of God will look like Gnon to them. For those like me who grow up as believers from a young age, our lived experience having God respond to us with concern and gentleness is so normal and expected that it takes a deliberate effort to imagine what it is like to experience God as His enemy.Being aware of Gnon can also help our own spiritual growth. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. You can’t develop towards a full understanding of God without an appreciation of how unbending He is towards sin and evil. An awareness of Gnon as how God can look to those not reconciled by the blood of the lamb can guard us against ignoring an important part of God’s character. Satan is the father of lies and he can use anything that is not true as an opening wedge. One lie he will use is that this world is already adequately reconciled to Him and that we can becomfortable and accepting of everything about it. Instead we need to remember that the kingdoms and powers of this world are under his wrath, that our current bodies are still those we inherited as part of a condemned world and still carry that taint until they are changed in the twinkling of an eye.
One way this can be seen is in understanding the continuity between the old and new testaments. I’ve heard from a number of sources the impression that the God of the Old Testament is wrathful and the God of the New Testament is loving. I confess that my first reaction to this is to think “You didn’t actually really the book did you? Because that sounds like the result of just reading the cliff notes.” But more charitably I must confess that the Bible is complex and subtle saga and it can be hard to hold the whole thing in your head for some people. And if whole sections down to one simple take away it can look like there are contrasting themes. Bringing an awareness of Gnon affects in the world today can help bridge that gap and make it easier to understand the coherence of God’s justices and His mercy.
So I would argue that Christians in the Reactosphere need to embrace Gnon. Not accepting uncritically every characteristic or action attributed to him as reflecting God, but seeing in Gnon accurate insights into the God we worship. We should be willing to use Gnon as a common ground for discussions that increase the understanding of other and of ourselves.