Have you written on the topic of the fear of God Himself related to horror? … As a teen I read a lot of King’s storytelling, thought some was trash and some powerful. More mysterious and powerful was H.P. Lovecraft of which I read some in undergrad … I believe a great creative mind from a true biblical paradigm could do horror.

We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), yet we’ve rather lost the idea of what it means to have a fear of the Lord. To our modern minds, we have difficulty reconciling the ideas that if Jesus Christ is perfect love, then there is nothing to fear of the Most High (I think I understand the reasoning, if you look at salvation as a “legal transaction, with Christ taking the penalty for our sins onto Himself thus we have no judgment to fear). Or, because of the God is love/love casts out all fear (seeming) dichotomy, that somehow you can’t have faith and fear at the same time. I don’t believe that to be true. In fact, I want to look at the relationship between horror and a fear of the Lord.

At the root of what it means to “do” horror is the idea of fear. Part of the cathartic experience of horror is out exorcizing of some of the things that scare us, that shadow of fear that we live our lives under. Ultimately, horror is about the fear of death and horror is excited by the reality of evil. We fear for our lives and the lives of those we love. We live in fear of good being consumed by evil. Frankly, evil should be feared. Even with the full reality of Christ, we still live with the consequences of evil all around us. A mother killing her children. Religious fanatics blowing up buildings. We seek a context of understanding for that which makes no sense. A lot of what horror attempts to do is make sense of evil. Evil is irrational and uncontrollable; true acts of evil are so irrational that conspiracy theories make sense.

Matt Cardin, in the preface of his horror collection Divinations of the Deep, posits that “the deep”, the primordial chaos, can reveal much about God, ourselves, and the true nature of our reality.

“We encounter the deep, so they say, in the dark mysteries of life: in horror, pain, nightmare, disillusionment, and death, in places where light and reason seem to be absent, or to have only a precarious foothold; at the seams of the universe where sometimes a thread comes unraveled and a ray of darkness shines through, and the light does not overcome it. To seek such glimpses and to ask such questions is always dangerous, however, because we can never know in advance what form the answers will take.”

So it struck me the other day that maybe we’re too quick to sing I Stand in Awe of You in our worship times. We may sing it, but we don’t believe it. For one, we’ve lost our ability to be awed. Secondly, we’ve forgotten that God is a dangerous terror. We want a God we can control and understand. By losing the idea of what it means to have a fear of the Lord, we end up trivializing God. Fear and love are connected because when we lose the fear, we lose love. I’m speaking of a healthy fear, one rooted in how important that object is to us, how much the object of our fear/love means to us as well as how little we can control them; and how much we fear life without them.

Even though fear and love are interlinked in both the Old and New Testament, fear is often overlooked or undermined in much contemporary Christian spirituality. Evangelicals assume that fear is the opposite of love. They rarely consider that fear is the complement of love. Godly fear that complements love is not simply terror or a sense of profound awe. Fear arises from the perceived inability to control an existential object. For example, we fear a lion when no cage exists between the animal and ourselves. Without the bars of a cage, the lion is beyond our control.

We often sense, if not experience, and existential terror. A gnawing emptiness that claws at our souls. A darkness, the deep, that threatens to suck the joy for all aspects of our lives, that can lead to a spiraling sourness to life that makes us want to crawl into bed and never get out. Some philosophers call this a “God-sized hole” that we try to fill with all manner of distraction, from the pursuit of materialism and the trappings of success to family and relationships.

Yet the terror, the ache in our soul, remains.

Even should we turn to God, we sometimes find our spiritual walks dissatisfied, as if somewhere along the path we missed, or lost, something vital. Maybe that sense of “terror” or awe of seeking a relationship with something larger than we can conceive of with our finite minds, something beyond our measure and control. And we need to cling to it, working out our salvation in fear and trembling.

We must maintain and nurture a “delightful terror” and “trembling fascination” toward God. God is the ultimate existentially relevant object over which we have no control. God is absolute in this regard; there is no other reality more existentially relevant to our lives – no reality over which we have less control. For this reason, we must fear God in order to truly love God. We cannot control God, therefore we must fear God.

And live in light of that fear.