Are we supposed to fear God? And if we did, would that be a good thing?
I’ve already tried that out, as over the years my view of God left little separation between him and an evil clown from a Stephen King movie.
In fact, my fear of God began the day I was introduced to him as a kid. I was the depraved sinner who was so bad inside that I had earned an eternity of torment– even though the brain that governs my decision making hadn’t finished developing yet. And not only had I already earned an eternity in the flames of hell– but my “loving” Heavenly Father was prepared to toss me into the lake of fire himself.
Of course, it gets worse. Being tossed into a lake of molten lava wouldn’t even kill me– the punishment the seven-year-old version of me had earned was so severe, that I would actually live forever and ever and ever, being tortured and burned alive in the flames of God’s hell.
Combine that with the fact that the Bible seems to repeatedly describe having “fear” of God as a good thing, I bought into the narrative hook, line, and sinker.
I had deep fear of God and supposedly, that was the “beginning of all wisdom.” However, instead of that fear being the beginning of wisdom it actually marked the day that functionally ended the very thing I was taught I had been created for: to have a relationship with God.
Let’s be honest: How does one have a “relationship” with someone so frightening that they might as well have come out of a Stephen King novel?
I really have no idea how it’s done. I’m not interested in even reading a book or watching a movie where the main character deliberately tortures and hurts people, let alone attempt to have some sort of relationship in real-life with someone like that. Even were one to attempt to have a relationship with someone who is willing to torture and hurt others, I don’t see how it could be a genuine or authentic relationship unless they too, took pleasure in the intentional torment of others.
Growing up I was taught there was good news in this story: Jesus could save me from what his dad wanted to do to me, because he took a violent beating in my place and can now protect me from him. All things considered, I spent years of my life actually believing this good news was pretty good.
Yet, too many years of trying to live within that narrative brought me to a season where I thought my faith had completely collapsed. I *just* couldn’t do it anymore– I’d rather believe in nothing than believe in an all-powerful being who’d dangle me over a fiery pit. More than that, I could no longer pretend that any such being was actually “loving” at all.
I suppose the biggest irony of my spiritual journey as a Christian is this: I was taught that Jesus could save me from a violent, angry God– and in the end, he actually did.
You see, when my faith collapsed I decided to start over and rebuild a Christian faith that was centered upon Jesus.
And when I did?
Well, I came to realize that the only way to describe what God is like is to describe what Jesus is like. Jesus claimed that he and the Father were one, and that when we see what Jesus is like, we’ll see what God is actually like. Even when the Gospel of John begins to introduces us to Jesus, it first reminds us that no one had actually seen God before that moment.
The only way to see what God is like, is to look at what Jesus is like.
It is God who trades up the opportunity to spend his time with the religiously pure, opting instead to recline at the table with messy people like me.
It is God who storms the halls of exclusive religion, who is busy disrupting the peace of those comfortably inside, and who clears a space for the outsiders.
It is God who stands with the condemned, boldly telling the crowd to put their stones down.
It is God who turns to them– turns to us– and says, “Neither do I condemn you.”
It is God who came and who so desperately wanted us to finally see what he is truly like, that he allowed himself to be raised high in the air on a hill outside Jerusalem for all to see.
It is God who refuses to be slandered by humanity in our descriptions of him, as if he’s some Stephen King character we’re supposed to fear.
It is God who exposed the vicious lie that we should fear him in the most dramatic plot-twist of all time– because it was God who refused to retaliate when we mocked him, spat upon him, pierced his body, and left him to die.
One must not miss the irony of the climactic moment when God’s true character was revealed to humanity: instead of inflicting upon us torture and torment, he let us do it to him.
Even in that moment when his blood dripped and his body writhed in agony– a moment that would provoke rage and anger and hate in anyone– he looked upon the faces of those who did it, and forgave them.
Because of this, I stand in awe of God but I no longer stand fearful of him. I have chosen to believe Jesus when he whispers to his disciples and says, “When you see what I am like, that is the moment when you’ll finally see what God is like.”
No, God isn’t like some Stephen King character we’re supposed to fear– he’s gone to great lengths to show us that.
Today, my eyes are finally opened– it’s as if for the first time I see what God is like, because I finally see what Jesus is like.
And seeing what God is really like has led me to have something I’ve never experienced before:
A vibrant faith that is finally Unafraid.
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and it’s amazing how many big name celebrity christian leaders still tout how this natural disaster or a disease is God’s judgement on the sinners, the unjust, the heathen.
It’s scary. It makes me question if they even know Jesus. So many pharisees, so few tax collectors.
I know of only one place in the Bible were Jesus specifically references suffering due to natural disaster, in Luke 13:1-5. He says:
I think this verse has something to say to both sides of this conversation.
On one hand, Jesus specifically says that those who died in a collapsed building were not worse sinners than those who didn’t die, but on the other hand, he uses it as an opportunity to say that all those who survived would befall a similar tragic fate if they didn’t repent.
Would you support a Christian telling people to repent, lest they receive judgement like those who died in the hurricane? If not, why? Isn’t that what Jesus did?
(I have edited my comment). I so agree with you in your rejection of this false visage of the cruel clown god, and that Jesus reveals a radical love, yet I remain uneasy about the deity we can more than glimpse in the pages of the Bible. Is this then men’s projection of their own pathological psychological states onto deity through the millennia, the Bible a kind of cloudy looking glass distorting the image we have of God until Christ reveals Him to us? It’s all bewildering and I hover between my need of the love and mercy and acceptance revealed by the Son of Man, and a sort of wariness of the god that has that cruel face in the picture….
I too struggled with this for some time Scott Harrison. As I consider the more violent images and depictions of God in the Bible (specifically in the Old Testament), I lean on what I have learned from this blog and many other sources as well. That being, when we look closely at literary genre and cultural context, we discover that not everything Israel said about God is in fact true and we also discover that not everything the Old Testament writers said illustrates God´s perfect will.
This idea was a hard onion to bite into for me as I am coming from a fundamentalist evangelical background which believes everything in the Bible is absolutely true word for word, verse for verse.
Some of it may reflect the ancient and medieval world. Many of the ways people speak and relate to God in Jewish and Christian writings are much the same as they would speak as relate to a king or liege lord. Any writings will be filtered by the times they were written. Today with our modern concepts of individual rights, justice and a government responsible to its people, these ancient ideas look pretty awful. And, you know what? That’s good! It means we’ve grown and our society is better.
At least that’s how it looks to me.
It’s called Stockholm Syndrome. It’s what allows people to fall in love with someone they are warned to be fearful of.
There are different types of fear. For example, if I intentionally ignored my parents loving guidance (as they knew what was best for me) I knew I would pay for it after the fact. My punishment from them was being told off and possibly grounded. I was never physically smacked.
Thank you Dr. Corey.
U.S. Evangelicals following a monstrous hell-fire demon god have more in common with ancient pagan Roman gods than with the radical teachings of Jesus.
Well said, otrotierra!
Yep. And also, God’s not a “him” or a “he.” As long as we’re working toward removing all the veneers of oppression and exclusion.
Are you talking about the Christian God, or some other god?
Ben, I’m glad that you escaped from “a violent, angry God.” BUT the question is why are so many millions of other American Christians–unlike you–are avidly now embracing such a horrific god of terrible news??
In fact, many Christian leaders are taking it a step further beyond “sinners in the hands of and angry God;”
they now claim (like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Beza, etc.)
that this God they worship not only sends most humans to hell, this God actually foreordained that most humans be eternally damned before the beginning of creation,
that no human has any choice but every infant is born “sinful” and “guilty” because of Adam,
that God would only force a “limited” number of humans to go to heaven
that all of this eternal torturing would be done all for God’s “glory” and God’s “good pleasure.”:-(
And that this God wills all natural disasters, all diseases, even all murders, rapes, and all suffering and abuse.
This god of theirs is much worse than the most evil Stephen King villain.
Who are the leaders of these movements?
I wonder if we could at least acknowledge that, if Christians believe in such things, they are at least getting it from Jesus and the Bible; it isn’t like they are pulling it out of the air somewhere or inventing it on their own. Given your perspective, I recognize that you think we evangelicals may have completely misunderstood Jesus’ words, have had a wrong focus on things, sure – but these things aren’t coming up out of nowhere:
“But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me.”
“Fear him who, after killing the body, has power to cast into hell, yes, I tell you, fear him.”
“There will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.”
“Bind him hand and feet and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
“Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.”
“Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
I mean, even if I as an evangelical am completely in the wrong for believing all these things literally, I hope we can grant that these things aren’t simply some invention of modern American evangelicalism, as if I am completely at liberty to believe in whatever God I choose, and out of some perverse nature in me, I and the rest of us just decided to invent a God who threatened such terrible things.
In short, millions of other American Christians–like me–avidly embrace such a horrific god of terrible news because, when I read the Bible, and especially the words of Jesus, that sure seems clearly to be there. And I do not believe I am not at liberty to invent a God of my choosing, or select only those parts of the Bible that align with the kind of God I would prefer to believe.
I may be mistaken, sure… When Jesus told people to Fear God who could cast them into hell, maybe he meant something different, and the threats of wrath against people don’t really mean that, and the threats of binding people and casting them into darkness are allegorical and are really good news for them, and the proclamation of being cast into eternal fire is really very good news, too, etc., etc.
But for good or bad, right or wrong, millions of Christians like me believe these things because of Jesus’ odd choice of words in describing all this “good news” that awaits those who are cursed. I wonder if we could agree that far, at least?
Did not God is the author of the joys of the world? Why should we give that status to Lucifer that he is the source for all the joys of the world? We have been brainwashed to believe that people who enjoy the joys of the world are destined to spend their afterlife in hell. This belief is to be jettisoned. I think one can enjoy the joys of the world without violating the Ten Commandments.
“33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.”
Those are the words of Jesus to the Pharisees. Should they fear God?
I bring this up because you seem to be contrasting a childish fear of God with no fear of God, when there’s a much more mature middle ground. There’s healthy fear and there’s unhealthy fear. You seemed to have thrown away both on the basis of the prior. We ought to fear God’s righteous judgement, respecting him as Holy, while also resting in his love and peace that he has graciously offered us. This can be seen in essentially ever parable Jesus told. Many of them end with the unrighteous servant being thrown out, while the righteous person enjoys the blessings of the master. The unrighteous servant’s fear of the master is totally justified. It wouldn’t be right to tell him that he has no reason to fear. He does. On the other hand, the righteous servant has no reason to fear. For him to go around afraid of the master all the time would be unhealthy, and that seems to be the kind of fear you had as a child.
As a side note, the story of the adulterous woman is not original to the Biblical text. It was added as a later interpolation.
John, in defense of your argument, you say, “As a side note, the story of the adulterous woman is not original to the Biblical text. It was added as a later interpolation.”
Well, John after language translations of Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew into other foreign languages, then omissions and additions added to later Bible editions, then the King James version being edited three times, then King James being modified by NKJV, NIV, NLT, ESV, CSB and among others…what makes you think that the book in your hand you now call the Bible is original and not, as ya say, interpolated…
The Bible, in its typical surfeit of clarity containing multiple unambiguous (and completely incompatible) also states, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
So. One wonders.
I was taught early on in my Christian journey that “fear of God” and to be a “God-fearing” person was archaic language for our reverence toward God and our obedience to the teaching in the Bible, esp. the words of Jesus found in the Gospels. For those who are KJV-only believers, it is often difficult to translate 17th century language into 21st century meaning.
Ben, is judgement not a rather scary thing for a human being?
Not nearly as scary as your mother’s and/or father’s judgment when you were their little experimenting child.
Might he say there is no judgement?
More like you’ve created god in your own image with a thirst for revenge….
Their Jesus be like…….
To Daniel Wilcox: It is a very difficult exercise to understand predestination. Why? Because it actually originates outside of time. The results, at the end of time, are also not known right now. It also is the prerogative of God , who knows oodles of things that we do not know. As such all of human understanding of predestination will be terribly skewed and patently inncorrect.
? I wasn’t writing in particular about “predestination” as such. All the years that I was a Christian, 55, during the time I was a Bible teacher, elder, missions worker, youth minister, etc, I strongly did support the theological concept of predestination.
What we Baptists (Anabaptists, Quakers, etc.) strongly opposed was one particular abhorrent form of predestination, that of Augustinian/Reformed/Calvin/Luther/Sproul/Piper/Chandler/Dabney/Beza/Hodge, Synods of Dort/Westminster Confession, etc. deterministic predestination.
“Outside of time,” that’s a rather abstract philosophical concept. What makes you think God exists outside of time? Time seems to be an integral part of his operating procedure. For example. God changes his mind in response to human activity: Jer 18, 26:3, Gen 18, he regrets decisions: Jer 18:7-10, Jonah 3:10, Gen 6:6. Immutability of character (God is Love, for example), does not mean he does not react to human events, or change direction in his unyealding love for us. Classic theodicy is more an outgrowth of Hellenistic philosophy and Enlightenment scholasticism than anything else.
Yes, I know the story well, but I can’t say that I had that kind of feeling. The saying, “Lost in translation” certainly applies to the Bible. I don’t know when I came to believe that “Fear” would be better translated as “Awe”, but I do believe that is a better word to use. Today we emphasize God’s compassionate love and mercy, but Jesus also taught us that the mercy we show to others will be the standard of mercy that we will receive from God. I have met some Christians that cleave to the great mercy of God, but they themselves are merciless.
When you said, “the Bible seems to repeatedly describe having ‘fear’ of God as a good thing” you finally stumbled on the truth.
Why that did not blossom into faith is too bad. Apparently you had a chance that is denied many, many others who don’t know God at all.
Whoever taught you that “I was taught that Jesus could save me from a violent, angry God” teaches the same misinformation as you do.
When you said, “when my faith collapsed I decided to start over and rebuild a Christian faith that was centered upon Jesus,” notice the I in your statement. That is the root of your problem. You have elevated yourself above God deciding what is right and what is wrong just like Adam and Eve; but you can’t see that. The evidence of that is what you write in these blogs. It is all your personal opinion cloaked in your “Jesus” theory that comes from the bible; a book you do not respect outside of the verses you choose to accept. Notice that for all your studies, translations, articles and blogs, it is your decisions that you promote.
You also said, “Because of this, I stand in awe of God but I no longer stand fearful of him.” This statement assumes you are on the same team with God looking at the rest of us poor Christians who are not as enlightened as you. Who told you that?
Last you said, ” Today, my eyes are finally opened– it’s as if for the first time I see what God is like, because I finally see what Jesus is like.” God says differently in many, many places; but wait, you don’t believe in those parts of the bible. Really?
Wow, Bob. I think you missed the point that Dr. Corey was making. There is a huge difference between a terrifying fear of God and a reverential respect or awe of a merciful, loving Father. The first imprisons the soul in religious performance that can never please the Father’s heart and the later is the revelation of our Father’s unconditional love. I implore you to meditate upon John 1:17-18, Christ as the perfect representation of Father God. Moses had a glimpse, the Prophets, David, Psalmists, all had partial glimpses. but Jesus is the full, complete revelation of our Father. Jesus called our Father, Abba = “Daddy”, it’s a “Love” thing. Blessings and Peace be upon you as God’s Love fills you.
Bob, name me those many, many places, please.
If God is not some kind of an evil clown, why does he act like one in the Bible?
Give me an example, please.
The only way to see what God is like, is to look at what Jesus is like.
The same Jesus who said, “I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him”?
Why did Jesus say this if Jesus is only about love?
That excerpt, as you present it, has a much different significance when Luke 12 is taken in context. The same would be for Matthew 10 from which an excerpt was taken out of context earlier.
What is your point, cmdr?
Let’s play the little “game” Brian Zahnd plays in “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God.”
“Did God tell Abraham to sacrifice his son? You say yes? But hastily add that God didn’t actually require Abraham to go through with it—it was just a test of faith. All right.
Next question: Did God command Joshua, King Saul and the Israelites to kill children as part of the ethnic cleansing of Canaan?
Is that a hesitant yes I hear, like walking in untied shoes?
My next question is simple and straightforward: Does God change?
I sense your confident answer of no to this question. A cornerstone of Christian theology has always been that God is immutable—that is, God doesn’t mutate from one kind of being into another kind of being…
Next question (brace yourself): Since God doesn’t change, and since you’ve already acknowledged in times past God has sanctioned the killing of children as part of a genocidal program of conquest, is it possible that God would require you to kill children?…
Last question: If God told you to kill children, would you do so?
I know, I know! Calm down of course, you answer without hesitation that under no circumstances would you participate in the genocidal slaughter of children. (At least I hope that’s how you answer!)
Yet, in answering with an unequivocal no to the question of whether you would kill children, are you claiming a moral superiority to the God depicted in parts of the Old Testament? After all, the Bible says God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the inhabitants of the land during their conquest of Canaan, including children…right? Yet (hopefully) you find the very suggestion of participation in genocide morally repugnant. So what’s going on here? Is genocide something God used to command but now God has reformed his ways? We already agreed that God doesn’t change, God doesn’t mutate. So if God used to sanction genocide, and God doesn’t change…well you see the problem. You’ve been painted into a corner.
So where do we go from here? Our options are limited. We really only have three possible courses.
1. We can question the morality of God. Perhaps God is, at times, monstrous.
2. We can question the immutability of God. Maybe God does change over time.
3. We can question how we read Scripture. Could it be that we need to learn to read the Bible in a different way?” (Pp. 24-26)
The problem historically for the church, both Catholic and Protestant, is that they believed God does, indeed order the killing of infidels, children, witches, American Indians, Anabaptists, Catholics, Mormons, Protestants, Jews…the list goes on and on. We can thank Augustine and his flat understanding of Scripture for a great deal of the deadly actions perpetrated in the name of God.
This is a far cry from the Jesus who requires us to love our enemies if we wish to be sons and daughters of our father in heaven (Matt 5:43-48). Why would he require us to love our enemies if the Father himself cannot? There is a cognitive dissonance present when we declare God does sometimes order genocide, that the wanton murder of children is not always immoral.
We need to understand that the human understanding of who God is evolves over time within Scripture and that it is Jesus, as the true Word of God that determines our understanding of God and Scripture.
“This is the theme of John’s majestic gospel as he asserts over and over that it is Jesus who finally and fully reveals to humanity what God is really like. The incarnation is the ultimate act of divine self-disclosure. It’s Jesus, not the Bible, that is the perfect revelation of God.” (Ibid. pp.28-29)
… and we are not ever left orphans when we accept to be filled with the Spirit of truth. All previously unknown and surprising facts (revelations) are made known to us, daughters and sons of the Father, by the Holy Spirit we are immersed in as we can bear. The Advocate enables us to boldly speak the word of God to all receptive others, without the Bible.
I’m looking forward to “Unafraid” for the reasons stated in this post. I can never understand how a loving being could torture anyone, let alone most people, for a minute, let alone forever. That’s not love, by any definition. I’ve got my order in with B&N!
The Evangelical god be like these people…..
Parents accused of torturing 13 kids dreamed of reality show
Interesting how that horrifies most people yet when it’s attributed to god it’s like that’s just the way god is, because god is good.
To the writer of this article,
You do not understand the holiness of God.
When you make the fatal mistake of divesting God of Holiness and believe only in His love, you end up with license to sin (which offends God/Jesus)
When you make the fatal mistake of divesting God of love and believe only in His holiness, you end up with license for all kinds of atrocities (which offends God/Jesus).
God and Jesus are one and both Holy and loving simultaneously (among other things) from eternity past to eternity future. To separate God (Holy) from Jesus (Love) does violence to the character of God.
Explains why you also do violence to the scriptures and downgrade the fear of God while elevating the love of God at the expense of the holiness of God.
Explains why you do not understand how God/Jesus act historically and currently, emphasizing sometimes holiness and at other times love (but never one without the other).
Progressive Christians should really call themselves by another name. They are neither progressive nor Christian. You believe only in the love of Christ and have diced him up into “another Jesus”
which He himself warned us about.
Brad, thanks for the comment on Marcionism. It brings up a problem the early church faced. The Heavenly Father that Jesus introduces us to in the Gospels, and indeed, the character of Jesus himself is dramatically different to the OT accounts of Yahweh and the warrior-god image presented in the Canaanite genocide. While Jesus told us to love our enemies if we wanted to be children of the Father, the OT belief was that God protected his obedient children by DESTROYING their enemies. Quite a difference.
Marcion was not the only early church leader to struggle with this discrepancy. Most of the Early Church Fathers did. The Western church from Augustine on basically did not try to reconcile the problem, but let the image of the OT God and the NT God cohabitate, eventually blending them into a somewhat schizophrenic deity.
The problem is not the human propensity towards violence, but the moral problems that arise from a flat reading of scripture. Unfortunately we have a good 1600 years of church precedence of supporting and practicing violence in the name of God. The American Civil War is a great example of what happens when an inerrant, literal reading of the text is used to support immoral behavior: Those defending the Bible end up hurting people. Throughout church history the treatment of Israel’s enemies in the OT has given Christians carte blanche for treating others in the same manner. Modern evangelicalism is merely a continuation of those policies with it’s support of just war, capital punishment, racism and white nationalism.
So the basic problem I see with your understanding of scripture is a hermeneutical issue. You except the violent portrayal of God in the OT uncritically, and if you are like most evangelicals, allow that violent portrayal to interpret God’s actions and character in the NT. Instead of allowing Christ’s teaching on moral behavior to interpret how we understand scripture, most evangelicals interpret scripture through the lens of inerrancy, a well-intentioned doctrine that has had terrible effects throughout history.
Unfortunately the “fix” is not an easy one for American evangelicals. A simple name change, dropping the term “evangelical” as some concerned evangelicals have suggested will not fix the image problem now facing American evangelicals. Evangelicalism is different in other parts of the world than the American variety. I suspect the reason behind this is that Europe is post-christendom…basically the church needed to die before arising out of the ashes as a more authentic Christianity. Evangelicalism is on a death spiral in America, it’s just that evangelical leadership is not willing to face it…too much at stake.
There are post-conservative evangelical attempts to salvage the brand, but I’m not sure they realize the depth of the problem. To achieve an authentic Christianity, Bible idolatry in the form of inerrancy and literal hermeneutics needs to die. Evangelicals need a new, deeper, more cruciform understanding of atonement (drop penal substitionary atonement) and for the love of God, get rid of dispensationalism! The whole “Left Behind,” violent reading of Revelation needs to be buried, as it totally misrepresents the Gospel and God’s design for His creation.
Straight to the point – I could not disagree more.
I will agree it is a hermeneutical issue. I subject any and all ideas to the bible as God’s inspired inerrant Word. You subject the bible to all of man’s ideas.
And the outcome is a denial of simple, easy to understand essential doctrines that the church either stands on or falls apart on.
No fall, no need for penal substitution for atonement, no justice, just “love”. (justice and grace can coexist if penal substitution is true).
You cannot quote Jesus in anything he said in this environment for you are not sure he existed historically.
The bible is not the word of God but contains the word of God. It’s now up to scholars to tell us what the writers of the bible were really trying to say and every subjective opinion is then thrown into the mix creating confusion like I see in progressive christianity. Bible believing Christians become the scorn of all.
Sorry for being so blunt but the atheist makes more sense than one who thinks the bible is written by men. If it is, I want no part of it.
As I said to JD, (who makes more sense with the conclusions he draws), I will politely bow out of this conversation as I know only ridicule awaits.
Yeah because the idea that the Bible is inerrant isn’t the idea of men……..
Seems like someone’s making up their own bs.
“Sorry for being so blunt but the atheist makes more sense than one who thinks the bible is written by men. If it is, I want no part of it.”
What a bizarre comment.
Of course it was written by men.
Brad, indeed, the heart of the gospel is at stake. The question is WHAT gospel is at stake: a magical inerrant “book” or the “WORD” sent from God, Jesus Christ. It is not merely “hermeneutics,” but certain presuppositions about “truth” that most evangelicals apply to scripture that shoehorns God into a being that looks and acts much like we do: vindictive, violent and capricious. At risk is the Heavenly Father that Jesus introduces us to in the Gospel narratives, reinforced by the writers of the Epistles, replaced by the Zeus-like god evangelicals would have us worship.
The basis for the evangelical hermeneutic of scripture is, as you’ve alluded to, Aristotelian logic. The basic premise is that God “wrote” scripture, in the sense that he “spoke” into the writer’s minds the exact wording of what he wanted to reveal to mankind. Since it is believed that God cannot err, simple logic would deduce that (A) if God cannot err, and (B) God wrote scripture, then (C) scripture must be without error.
Unfortunately, that God “wrote” scripture does not seem to be apparent from even a cursory reading of the Bible, nor does it follow by necessity, that because God “inspired” men to write these letters, he would have to “over-ride” their finite abilities to reason, resulting in a “docetic” text that was only appeared to be “human.” In reality, the texts appear to be VERY human (perhaps to throw the ungodly off track?). I understand the very human “need” to have a rock-solid, inerrant foundation, but the reformers looked to the scholastic argument of an infallible text instead of to Christ for that foundation. In essence, modern evangelicalism is not Christ based, but scholastically based.
Certitude is based, not on an unshakeable foundation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but on the shaky grounds of an inerrant Bible, one that does not behave as such. For better or for worse, what the history of the church has given us is a gradual “weaning” away from a Christ based religious experience, which I suppose, seemed too subjective to church leadership, to one based on the propositional statements of a supposedly infallible written Bible. Like Aaron’s golden calf, a concrete Bible is easier for many to relate to than a reliance on the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.
To put it bluntly, Christianity is about a PERSON as God’s final, definitive revelation of himself and not about the Bible. Post-reformation scholasticism’s view of sola scriptura has become way too focused on defense of scripture as an infallible sourcebook of propositional truth. We take our eyes off Christ when this happens and we end up defending our pet theologies of inerrancy, ending up with a legalistic religion devoid of heart.
Additionally, evangelicals have created a false narrative where the Bible is either ALL TRUE or ALL FALSE, an odd requirement that bears no resemblance to any other literature, nor reflects the practical epistemology of day to day truth determination. There is a propensity among evangelicals to see the Bible as not only “containing” propositional truths that by definition must be true, but that these truths add up to ALL of scripture being propositionally true. This where Enns and other progressives part ways with most evangelicals. It is one thing to claim Jesus was infallible or had “…access to supernatural knowledge, such that what he spoke about these things actually corresponds to actual truth – and thus, by definition, they are “inerrant,” and another thing to broaden that to include the biblical writers, whom I suppose we can agree on, were solidly human, not divine.
There are negative consequences as well that derive from the inerrancy mindset. Most obvious is illustrated by the attitude of inerrancy supporters such as yourself. To claim the Bible inerrant, then to develop so-called “Biblical doctrines,” based on what one believes to be Biblical truths, confers inerrancy to the developers of said doctrines. A good example can be found in the evangelical defenses of slavery leading into the American Civil War. It was “simple, easy to understand essential doctrine” of scripture. God allowed slavery, made rules surrounding it, and Paul even sent the runaway slave Onesimus back to his master. Attempts among more progressive-minded Christians for abolition of slavery were meet by scorn by these evangelicals. The plain, literal meaning of the text prevented a more nuanced and thoughtful approach to understanding that slavery was not God’s idea. Unfortunately, evangelicals learned little from the Biblical debate surrounding slavery: the lesson that a flat, literal propositional understanding of scripture often leads to hurting others. Instead evangelicals chose to paint the abolitionist position as an attack against the inerrancy of scripture.
Evangelicalism cannot reform when inerrancy is thus conferred onto all of its systematic theology. As Roger E. Olson has stated it: “…it leads to confusion between the Bible itself (or revelation itself) and a particular interpretation of its message. Many postconservative evangelicals believe this tendency appears in the ways Grudem and other conservative evangelicals view their own theological affirmations; they present them as if they were not interpretations but simply restatements of the content of revelation itself. That leaves no room for disagreement without charges of heresy immediately resulting.” (1)
So, if we don’t have an inerrant text to base our certainty on, what do we have? You need to remember, the NT was not compiled for a couple hundred years. Some books, like James and Revelation were still being criticized in the 16th century. Other church traditions include intertestamental books as well as the Gospel Of Thomas, etc.. The promise of certainty, of truth, came with the Holy Spirit being sent, not an inerrant Bible miraculously appearing.
John 14: He, the Holy Spirit, is the Spirit of Truth. Jesus does not comfort his disciples by promising an inerrant book, nor does he refer to the OT as the source of their comfort or certainty. Realize, these men have been with Jesus for three years. They know his character and his love and loyalty to them. They’ve seen miracles performed and Jesus confound the religious leadership of the day. Yet they are totally unprepared for what us about to transpire. They will scatter and hide after Christ’s crucifixion. It takes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, to turn things around. That is what bears witness to the certainty of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Through the Holy Spirit Christ is revealed to us.
It seems to me, that in much evangelical thinking the work of the Holy Spirit has been sidelined, replaced by a “magical” book. Instead of faith in Christ, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, instead of Christ believers, we have “Bible believers.” To me this smacks of idolatry, worshipping a concept of a series of books, poems, songs and stories about God on the same level as worshipping the Son of God.
I have certainty in Christ, not because I believe the Bible to be inerrant, but because the Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that Christ is the Son of God and we are children of God (Romans 8:16). That may not be enough for you, and you may need some further focal point of certainty, but it is enough for me.
1 Roger E. Olson, Reformed and Always Reforming, p. 161.
Why do some Christians get all bent out of shape when another Christian decides to focus on the love of god? It’s like they get all pissy because they don’t want you to forget that god hates too. And hates alot.
I hesitate to get into this love/hate thing but since you asked I will try and give my perspective.
If I seem to be more hating than loving, then please forgive me.
It has been hard responding to some as I honestly have had a hard time discerning the difference between who is an atheist and who is a progressive Christian and who is a conservative etc. (I would probably answer a little differently to each).
It seems to me that some are atheistic towards the deity described in the OT and yet believe in and focus on the love of Jesus.
That is a foreign concept to me and I struggle with emphasizing the love of God at the expense of the moral codes/laws given in both the OT and NT.
It seems to me that many are advocating loving one another (and i am all for that) but naively believe thats all there is to it.
If we just love like Jesus does, then all the ills in society will just somehow go away. I don’t think it is that simple.
I think that confronting someone sometimes is the most loving thing we can do.
The whole problem of pain and suffering and sin and justice and forgiveness is complex.
I don’t think love simply eclipses hate.
To make matters more complex, love’s opposite is not necessarily hate but fear. Throw that into the mix and it even gets more confusing.
I probably have said to much but hope that helps a little.
We can alway use more love and I will endeavor to speak the truth in love as best i can. (Eph. 4:15).
“Jesus is both a lion and a lamb. Lamb the first time, a lion the second. This accounts for much OT stuff that is yet to be fulfilled. That is also why we cannot jettison the OT God of wrath. Grace now and judgement by God later with Jesus at the lead.”
One of the cardinal doctrines of the dispensationalism that undergirds much of modern evangelicalism (not so much classic fundamentalism like Carl Henry, B. B. Warfield who mistrusted it), is solving the problem of God behaving badly by saying God behaves differently according to whatever dispensation we are talking about. Instead of seeing the Bible as presenting us with an “immature” view of God in the OT, that Jesus “corrects” in the Gospels, the discrepancy is solved by saying God behaved violently in the OT because the Jews were under “The Law.” God is playing nice now because we are under the “time of the Gentiles,” under grace. (Although you will still burn in hell eternally if you die “without Christ”).
The unintended result of trying to neatly compartmentalize God’s interactions with mankind, is that evangelicals tend to understand God’s ontology in terms of the OT rather than through the lens of Jesus. Feeding into this is the fundamentalist search for “end times” clues hidden in scripture, an obsession that began in the late 19th century. The result is a pissed-off God who is just waiting for the fulfillment of the gentile age so that he can give “the wicked” their due.
I am going to switch gears a bit here and instead of concentrating on inerrancy and the epistemological assumptions that lead us astray, will float some ideas past you. Rather than argue about the ontology of the Bible let’s concentrate a moment on the imagery scripture gives us concerning God’s attitude towards mankind. I think we can agree that despite being written over a period of hundreds of years, by a bunch of guys who didn’t know each other, there are definite themes that run through scripture. Is this “inspiration?” I believe so. I happen to prefer the “sufficiency” of scripture rather than inerrancy…but that is not the direction I wish to take the conversation this time.
I mentioned a “magical book” a couple of times in my past post. Bad choice of words. My bad. Progressives have a much higher view of scripture than evangelicals give credit for, but comments like mine don’t help with that perception. I tend to overreact to evangelical attitudes on scripture by overcorrecting. The Bible still is the most challenging and inspiring book I have ever read. And without it I would know very little about the Son of God.
So, moving on, scripture has a number of themes running through it. A major theme is that of love…the love of God towards Israel, the love of God towards sinners and the love of God for his church. As we travel through scripture it becomes very clear that the writers understood that God is the “pursuer” in the love relationship, not Israel…not mankind. Israel is pictured as the unfaithful wife by the prophets, yet God still pursues her. She goes a whoring after other gods, God, as husband brings her back. The longing, and tragedy of this loving nature of the Father is succinctly summed up in Jesus response before his entry into Jerusalem: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37. This describes the heartache of God, the existential problem of the God-mankind love relationship.
The so-called “wrath of God” concept prominent in evangelical teaching is best understood as UNREQUITED LOVE, not the results of a legal transaction gone bad. It is a matter of perception, but makes, I believe, an important distinction. That love never, ever fails. God’s love remains even when we refuse to accept it. It is not that God rejects us, but that we can (and often do) reject him.
This, then takes us into new territory. God pursues an unrepentant Israel and eventually brings her back. He restores her to her former glory. Unrequited love has an eventual happy ending. All of creation groans for, not just justice, but for full restoration. Restoration: reclaiming what was lost or corrupted is yet another theme in scripture. Just how, and to what extent is perhaps a topic for a different discussion.
(Hope this post makes it)
I regards to your first 2 paragraphs and how the unintended result is an overemphasis on an angry God, I have to admit that is all too often true. We should be better at emphasizing the love of God (but not without the holiness of God). See, I did it again. I will try and bring that balance back into my views. Maybe my concern is that reciprocally, if we emphasize love without at least mentioning there are indeed consequences for rejecting it, we are also failing.
I do like your comments on inspiration/sufficiency and maybe we are closer together than at first glance.
And, in regards to progressives having a higher view of scripture than evangelicals give them credit for, I would again plead guilty. Maybe I have read into some of the comments on this article things not intended and made some false assumptions. (though some are downright nasty)
So, “moving on”, I see in yourself and Ron (even possibly JD) an emphasis on the Son of God and his love for mankind. I admire that.
I will gladly join you in that proclamation though we have differences elsewhere.
No doubt that God pursues unrepentant nations and people (like me) like the hound of heaven (Francis Thompson). For that I am grateful and I am grateful for your reminder also. To what extent is indeed a different discussion.
Peace and love to you sir and your family,
Brad, thanks for replying.
My simple question is this: Why do some Christians fixate on god’s hatred instead of his love?
There are posters here who constantly post ‘god hates the wicked, god hates gays, god hates non-Christians,’ etc. They make your god look like ~and pardon my colorful language~ a total a-hole. It boils down to either believe and worship this god or it will hate you, kill you and send you to hell. Why would I want follow such a deity or religion based upon hatred and fear?
A simple straight forward answer to your first question is that they are zealous (possibly to much so) to defend God’s Holy character (not that He needs defending).
There are examples in the bible where Jesus rebukes his disciples for “calling down fire from heaven” upon some Samaritans. Luke 9:54.
Maybe some need the same rebuke.
Yet, there are examples where people zealous for righteousness, who spoke of sin and God’s judgment, were considered faithful witnesses. John the Baptist is one.
I am not going to lie to you about what I believe. There is a time to hate and a time to love. Discernment required.
We are to learn to hate what God hates and learn to love what God loves.
In the process of learning, sometimes we Christians zig when we should zag and vise versa.
In a nutshell…
God created everything for His own purposes and glory.
His character is undefiled and pure.
He is all knowing, all powerful, all wise and all loving.
He is truth.
He allowed sin to enter his once perfect creation for reasons we can only speculate about. (free will??)
Sin, as defined by God (anything that does not conform to His Holy character) separates us from God.
We have a problem. We are justly separated from God because we willfully sin against him from our hearts. (Our behavior only reflects our hearts condition).
Death is the penalty. No moral code can save us.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive by grace.
He did this by dying for us. Not just as an example but in our place.
I know there are some who hate this idea and equate it with child sacrifice. Pure blasphemy. Jesus willingly, in agreement with our Father God, laid down his life for our sake as planned from eternity past.
Those who recognize the mercy, love and grace of God and repent of their sinful hearts, and place their faith in Jesus are no longer separate from God but united to him. They are redeemed, reconciled and restored to God as children of God in Christ.
I do not deny that the gospel of Jesus is offensive. It offends our pride.
Many will be offended by these statements. Progressives paint Jesus in such a light so as to remove the offense and refuse to equate him with the OT deity.
It is not my intention to offend but to speak the truth and hope some will be reconciled to God through faith in Christ.
And I only do this to point out to you there is a flip side to your statement that god is (made to look like) a total a-(you know what).
He is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, loving, kind and compassionate etc.
So I do not follow a deity based on hatred and fear but of mercy and grace and love, though I cannot deny aspects of hatred (of sin) and fear.
God is extending His same mercy and grace to every person including the wicked and gays (who are no worse than anybody else) and non-Christians, as he did to me, a sinner.
So we believe and so we speak. We are not ashamed of the gospel.
Yes, we are to speak as graciously and lovingly as we can but if we sanitize the gospel of the offensive parts then it is no longer the gospel. If we remove the offense of the gospel it then becomes a sentimental emotional appeal that lacks the power to change anything.
I understand progressives see things very differently.
I understand I am in the minority and will be accused of being a dinosaur from the outdated, ignorant, unintelligent anti-intellectual institutionalized religious past.
I can hear Bones as I write.
Please know, I do not wish to offend you personally.
I am only trying to give you honest answers to your questions with an explanation (possibly far to long winded).
Thanks for taking the time for a reply, Brad. Let me try to tell you how your religion looks from this side of the street.
In the bible it is obvious mankind was created for for only one thing; to worship god for all eternity. There is no other choice in this. Failure to worship god properly often resulted in god killing you in some fashion. The hatred god shows towards humans was quite horrific. It often wiped out entire groups of humans including babes in the womb thus creating the concept of genocide. Ever counted each and every death in the bible at god’s hands? You may want to some day; it’s quite the eye opener.
Later this god uped the ante by mating with a female human to birth Jesus, a god-human hybrid. This complicated things further. Now you have to worship god AND its demi-god son. By this point god seems to no longer bother killing humans outright but waits til they die and damns them to hell for all eternity for failing to properly worship both itself and Jesus.
You say there is something called free will. That humans are free to do whatever they want to. But really does it truly exist? When your choices are believe or burn is there really any free will here? Worship a deity you don’t believe in or go to hell. Are those really choices? Or are they death threats?
No. In the bible humans are no more than cattle or pets, specifically designed to do one thing and one thing only, to worship god. Failure to worship god and it’s hybrid son will result in death and Hell. There is no choice in this.
That makes the god in the bible more of a petty tyrant or a megalomaniac, one that demands worship or it will punish its pets with death and damnation.
That’s the hatred I’m talking about. God hates the wicked. The wicked being basically anybody that doesn’t bow down and worship it. Does it matter if you’re decent human being in any other culture for if you don’t worship this god you will go to hell.
That is hatred. It cannot be translated into love no matter how it’s spun. The whole ‘god so lived the world that it sent his only begotten son’ is bogus. How could a god love its creation only to discard them if the failed to worship it? How can you love something that will rather kill you if you choose another path?
Its simple: you cant.
Therefore this isn’t a relgion at all, much less one of love. It is a hostage situation.
It is terrorism.
Sorry if that offends but that’s the way I see it. I cannot love a deity that has killed millions for simply being of another religion. I cannot worship a deity that hates people that won’t worship it. Being a decent human being means nothing to your deity if you’re not worshipping it or its son. It’s petty, it’s megalomanical, it’s insane.
I do have one more question for you Brad. You said you are to hate what your god hates.
So Brad, who do you hate? Gays? Non-Christians?
Lol…God created me to punish me for eternity….
Wow, thanks….what a wonderful merciful god….
Any more good news, Brad.
“It seems to me that some are athiestic towards the deity described in the OT ”
You mean like Jesus…..
“I think that confronting someone sometimes is the most loving thing we can do.”
Must be why you’re running away from me, hey Brad?
Right on Brad. Many modern so called christians misread the scriptures, then they focus on one part of God to the exclusion of all other attributes that make up God. This is pure emotionalism. A bad way to understand scripture. They think that puny humans can understand the totality of God, and can judge Him. They are just fools and have no wisdom .
They really come across as little children.
Actually we study it and read it honestly.
Unlike people like you who twist each book in the Bible to make it conform with your own ideology.
Bones. I think that your assessment of my “ideology” as you put it may be a bit premature. I have not mentioned anything related to ideology in my post. However reading history or philosophy or theology honestly is very good.
I think we get the point. Your hatred of liberals gave it away.
They impose a postmodern interpretation on the bible that allows them to make scripture say what they want, and tell God what should be, and them call it christian.
That is why so many are so confused.
Bones is a perfect example of the confused. We are supposed to love as Jesus loves yet only hatred is evident.
I guess he has taken the title of the authors new book “Unafraid” and used it to justify being unafraid to hate.
Or was the hate already there and given license to vent?
Either way, the contradiction is obvious. Maybe he wants to narrow down the justification to hate to biblical Christians only??
You impose a dishonest deceitful fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.
Just like the Pharisees.
And no surprise that you are a judgemental prick like them.
I can see why you’re so scared of your god…he curses women with pain….wants to kill every person ever born unless they bow down to him…..he seeks to torture people worse than a million hitlers….
And like Brad, your god seeks to hurt and kill people.
You two idiots are made for each other.
I see that you have been taking it on the chin from “Bones” and others. Good for you.
I decided to block him out and do not read his comments. I understand his position and respect that so the invective is only repetition. Funny how he spews hatred after accusing us of believing in a hateful God.
Having said that, the logic of the Atheist sometimes makes more sense than progressive christianty.
The best lie is the one that is closest to the truth without being the truth.
Lol…..still hiding from Bones, Brad……
Your god hates us so much it wants to torture us…..you claim yourself that god cursed women with pain from childbirth,,,,you lie about science…and don’t have the balls to face those who expose your lies and deceit.
And your lies are all over this thread.
Bones, what saddens me is they absolutely have no idea how they portray their deity as a complete monster. They can’t see the that fear, hatred and death is the main ingredient of their religion. How when one tries to point that out they clap their hands over their ears call you Satan spawn. It’s all very illogical, unhealthy and sad.
Any chance any mods can piss this dms troll off?
Yeah, I blocked him some time ago. Not worth listening to. Nothing constructive to add.
I blocked that piece of fecal matter.
Doubtful……. A few years ago yes.
The HolySpirit had everything to do with that 🙂
Piss off, troll.
Okay, merkin 🙂
Church is boring.
And the Fundiegelicals and the “Progressives” are still going after each other, hammer and tongs.
Many progressives simply don’t go to church.
Stephen Fry (who’s being investigated for blasphemy in Ireland) – “If there is a god what sort of god is it? A monster…” Q. “Do you think you’re going to get in? Answer: No. And I wouldn’t want to….and I wouldn’t want to get in on his terms…..”
But Benjamin, the Bible clearly says …
Ha ha ha ha
One of the best statements about salvation and God’s character I have seen was here: http://unfundamentalists.com/2015/01/eliminating-evangelical-double-speak-about-salvation/
To quote the most relevant bit:
“The basic problem, as I see it, lies in how evangelical Christians like Warren understand Christian salvation.
What if, instead of the way they view it now, evangelical Christians thought of salvation in terms of “healing” and “wholeness” and “liberation”—as salvation is, in fact, primarily depicted in the Gospels?
What if evangelical Christians thought of salvation as the reclaiming of original blessings, rather than as forgiveness for original sin?
What if salvation was experienced as a process of growth in love, rather than as a reward for believing a particular doctrine about Jesus?
Then Christians like Warren might actually experience the extravagance of a divine grace that reaches every person, not just those who conform to their own belief systems.
Then Christians like Warren would realize that they have already been forgiven, and have always been loved with an eternal love. Instead of worrying about believing the right things (and getting other people to believe the right things) in order to secure forgiveness and go to heaven, they could revel in a radical, unconditional forgiveness already theirs, accept their friends of other faiths as truly their sisters and brothers, and spend the rest of their days talking about how good God is, instead of how punitive.”
Ok. So yesterday I received a notification from Disqus that I’d received a response here on my “Let’s play a little game” comment below. Sorry for lengthy post. Apparently the responder had second thoughts and deleted it, as I looked for it in vain. Since he deleted it, I will refrain from posting his name, but having checked his profile, can assure you it represents his character well. I will, however post it and my response, as it represents everything wrong with the classic evangelical justification for a violent God:
“LOL “God has sanctioned the killing of children as part of a genocidal program of conquest”. What bunk. I sure hope you haven’t been unleashed upon unsuspecting innocents as some kind of “teacher.” The Canaanites worshiped Molech and incinerated children in perverted acts of worship which God considered to be a profanity (Lev 18:21) and which were absolutely detestable to Him, which He emphasized in the strongest terms (Jer 32:35). During the 4 centuries of Israel in Egypt, this brazen infanticide continued unabated, while the sins of these wicked people piled up along with the ashes of the incinerated children. Talk about depraved. What God did was to use Israel to exercise His righteous judgement on a people who lost any right to mercy a long time ago. While these passages may offend some, it’s probably best to understand that had these depraved people lived and continued to reproduce and pass on their utterly worthless and indefensible religious practices, Satan’s control over this world would be nearly absolute. And if life was even still possible on the planet (which is far from certain), it would be literally a hell-on-earth with wickedness everywhere.
Come to think of it, God has destroyed every civilization that I know of that practiced this type of obscene murderous depravity. Incas called child sacrifice “Qhapaq hucha” and the Aztecs of course were destroyed by the Conquistadores. Speaking of Cortez and his ragtag band, instead of bemoaning about a coffee named “Conquistador” as Brian Walsh does (“Truth is Stranger”, 1995), we ought to be happy that God stepped in and destroyed these so-called “civilizations” (which were anything but civilized) before their toxic influence spread.
The Mayan ritual was particularly obscene. One source notes “slaves, criminals, bastards, orphans and children made up the bulk of the sacrificial victims. Children were desired because of their innocence, and they would sometimes be abducted or purchased from neighboring cities. The purchase price was paid in red beans.” Red beans, that’s nice. I’ll remember that next time I order red bean ice cream after eating sushi (hopefully not the same beans). Apparently “the victim was led to the summit of the pyramid and laid over a stone altar. Then with his arms and legs firmly held by the chacs, the nacom cut open the chest and tore out his heart…. Next, the heart was handed to the high priest, and the body was thrown down the temple stairs…. Other methods of sacrifice included drowning, beating, mutilation, and arrow sacrifices. In the arrow sacrifice the victim was painted blue, and tied to a stake while dancers took turns trying to pierce the victims heart.” Thankfully, this cruel inhumanity ended with their “civilization”, and fortunately their ideas didn’t gain too much traction. So I’m not going to cry over a few thousand depraved souls whose offspring would have, by today, ensured a world filled to the brim with pure evil and the most heinous wickedness, had they lived. BTW perhaps this postmodern culture should stop fetishizing these civilizations, as they were nothing to admire. They prove the postmodern lie that all cultures are equal.”
Dear wanna be Christian, usually I’d respond with “your thin Jesus mask is slipping,” but since you didn’t even bother to put it on, I’ll forgo that. Besides dripping with hatred and a disturbing relish for gruesome details, this disgusting display of sadism doesn’t pass the WWJD hermeneutic. The main problem with your assessment is twofold: God is IMMUTABLE (Malachi 3:6, Psalms 102:27, Hebrews 13:8,) and Jesus said we are to LOVE OUR ENEMIES (Matthew 5:43-48).
Since Jesus said we are to love our enemies as God loved us first “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) and that Jesus is said to reflect God’s character (John 4:9, Col. 1:19, etc.), you have presented us with a God that has either changed his mind on child killing, or has an entirely different character from the Son. What you HAVE presented is a God that was used by the Nazis as an excuse for killing millions of Jews, Whites massacring thousands of Native Americans, including women and children, the Church burning heretics at the stake and the Spanish Inquisition.
This viewpoint of yours was adopted by the church as soon as it experienced the heady rush of power when declared the official religion of Rome. Instead of the pacifism of the early church, as soon as they were no longer persecuted, the church became the persecutee. With all the power and coercive might of the Roman military machine behind them, the church became unchristlike rather than reflecting Christ’s use of non-violence towards enemies.
This Janus faced god you worship reflects YOUR fallen violent tendencies, NOT God’s. It also shows us your idolatry: you worship a book above God. You have created a graven image in your own likeness in placing a wooden, literal understanding of Scripture above the teachings of Christ.
The problem with the cult that we call Calvinism, is that it’s view of the total depravity of man, and limited atonement creates a monstrous god who can and does murder infants. The enthusiastic acceptance of the OT views of a warrior God who slaughters Israel’s enemies, fueled the broken treaties, and subjugation of American Natives as God’s “Manifest Destiny” for Whites in the New World. It also provides White Christians with Carte Blanche to do just about any morally depraved thing in the name of God.
This unresolved and conflicting view of the OT warrior God explains a great deal about the current state of White evangelicalism; their love affair with the “Second Amendment,” the rancid racism that has dogged the SBC, homophobia , mysogeny towards women and xenophobic attitudes towards other cultures.
You have shown a total lack of understanding what mercy is. How can “who lost any right to mercy a long time ago,” reflect mercy if mercy is somehow “earned” or “lost?” It would not be mercy then. It is telling that you conveniently catalogue the atrocities of non-Christian cultures but turn a blind eye to the atrocities and barbarism of White Imperialism and of the church historically. What hypocrisy! And you “LOL” me! How absolutely disgusting!
The Scriptures tell us we must fear God, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in terror of him. “The fear of the Lord,” which is “the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10) is a healthy, life-transforming respect for his authority. Hell is real, though references to flames are figurative. The agony of hell is being separated from God eternally, which is contingent on a choice all of us have to make. The sense of guilt, shame and terrible loss (since God extends his invitation to each of us to join him for eternity) are what make hell what it is. It is believed that there is an age of accountability, though Scripture makes no reference to it. But at a certain point each person (no matter his cultural milieu, upbringing or whether s/he has heard the gospel) has a conscience. Acting against that inner voice (which is the fingerprint of God inside each of us) will bring about judgment unless we repent at some point in our lives. Judgment and hell are very real, and we’re not doing people any favors by giving them false comfort. The good news is that we all have a choice, and Christ has taken our punishment, if we will only receive Him.
Well, I can at least partially agree with you. Although hell and eternity are not found in the original languages, separation form God, sitting outside when the coming age comes is mentioned in scripture. I don’t know about age of accountability, I tend to think our moral compass is based on our being created in God’s image, and the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us, but yes, there are consequences for wickedness, not in the Calvinistic sense (which renders the term wicked meaningless), but in the general sense of living wickedly. I would disagree as to Christ taking our “punishment” as a primary understanding of atonement, as we killed Christ, not God. God does not delight in our sacrifices, remember? He desires mercy from us, which is exactly what we did not show Jesus. I feel your definition of the fear of the Lord as a healthy respect for is spot on, but is tarnished by your dependency on eternal punishment as a fitting response from a loving Heavely Father to our rebellion. Calvin’s understanding that Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all but effective for only a few solves one problem but presents a myriad of new ones. When Jesus said on the cross, “Father forgive them,” did he? Or was it a rhetorical question?
And all this discussion while 9 million children around the world every year don’t live to their fifth birthday along with all the other tragedies daily in the world. And Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, primitive tribes etc are all going to “burn in hell forever” because they have never heard of Christ? And Matthew 27;52 where holy people have already been raised from the dead?
Don’t you know? God is a Republican and doesn’t care about children once they’re born. Only making sure that abortion doesn’t happen. And the way it works with hell, (so-called), is that anyone who doesn’t believe the same way the person speaking or typing believes is being sent to hell. It’s so puffed up and self-righteous that it’s laughable. Don’t believe the same way I do? You’re burning in hell. That, as Bones said, is the “good news.”
And what about other religions and their truths? Or is Christianity the be all and end all of the universe. So many thousands of gods over the eons of human history, but only those who have lived since Christ can be saved? So many creation stories from different cultures, gilgamesh etc. where is the truth? And Mohammed flying to heaven on a winged horse and splitting the moon, are we just as naive?
Can someone from the progressive side of the tent please explain how they understand Matthew 10:28? If Jesus is God, and if God is unequivocally love, how could
Jesus say such a thing? I cannot wrap my head around this one. Sorry.
Bones … I got your explanation, but quite honestly I couldn´t follow the context you offered up. Thanks anyway.
To fear God is the beginning of wisdom. Too simple to be true? Yup, perfect love casts out fear. But growing into perfect love isn’t necessarily as simple as narrating our own personal journey through theological perversions of biblical truths. I do appreciate your personal experience of God loving and accepting you as a faithful follower of His, reborn by the Spirit and adopted into his loving family. Knowing God as the judge of we unholy and sinful creatures is not an idea you can critique through the lens of distorted personal experience. We all need to go beyond our perverted perspectives into a whole other relational context that may not be easily described. Your story is helpful, however.
Sorry, I haven’t shared your experience of being indoctrinated into false interpretations of biblical revelation of who God is and what He intends to do so I can’t easily comprehend what seem to be your rather either/or antithetical conclusions. I trust that you are implicitly calling others to come see what Jesus has revealed to those whom he has given eyes to see; but I would rather that you made that necessary faith-relationship a more central part of how others might come to see God as loving savior, however nonetheless as still the judge to be feared if one is not living by faith in Christ.
This is a good blog post.