Saturday, August 13, 2016

God is Displeased/Angry with Us (1st in a series "If You Think . . .)


God with a Scowl

          “God” is the most dangerous word in any language. Dangerous because we invest it with so much of our search for significance and security. Dangerous because it can become whatever we rely on as our “ultimate concern” (Paul Tillich). Dangerous because we will do anything for whatever we deem “God.” And “believers” have and continue to do horrendous things in the name of their “God.”

          Now all of us are “believers.” There’s something or someone that’s the bottom line for us and helps us make sense of our world and respond to the issues we face in life. I am only concerned here with the Christian deity, though. That that “God” has a major PR problem at present is no secret to anyone.

          Part of this PR problem comes from the miserable track record of his people representing in the world, including

-the Crusades (11th – 15th centuries),

-the Inquisition (began in 12th century),

-John Calvin’s role in burning the heretic Servetus at the stake in the 16th century,

-the church’s support of slavery and oppression of women for centuries in North America,

among others.

          Another part is God’s connection with violence and war, particularly Holy War, in the Old Testament.  A recent critic, Richard Dawkins, describes the God he finds in the Old Testament this way (in over-heated rhetoric to be sure):

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (The God Delusion)


            Can this be the God and Father of Jesus Christ? From Marcion in the 2nd century to the so-called New Atheists in our time, some have answered “No!” and rejected the Old Testament God in favor of the Father of Jesus, or rejected the deities of both testaments altogether.


          In our time, a variant has arisen under the influence of feminist thought. God is thought to be a divine “child abuser” for requiring the death of his son Jesus to atone for the sin of his people. God the Father is ill-disposed to us because of our sin, is eager to punish us. Jesus, however, loves us and suffers the mortal wrath of the Father against sin for us. His wrath spent on Jesus, the Father can now love us. This way of thinking pits God the Father against the Son, working at cross purposes (pun intended) with one another.


          All of this has factored in to a negative portrait of God in the minds of many people. And in their hearts. This God is not a lovable deity! If his hair-trigger temper brought judgments of all kinds on his people Israel for their missteps, what assurance do we have that God will not also break out in anger against the church or the individual Christian for ours? Must we grovel and desperately attempt to placate this God to keep on his good side? Again, many seem to think so. This “God with a Scowl” is far, far too often the deity presented as the one found in the Christian faith. And it cuts the heart out of that faith!


God as Triune, Love, and Jesus


          Space forbids responding to these charges in any detail. Only the last one will claim our attention here. The Bible claims that God is love (1 Jn.4:16). Not just that he loves but that love is what God is. All God intends and does comes out of love. Christian faith contends that God is triune, that is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all at the same time. Mind-boggling, I know. We can’t figure ought how God could be like this. And because we can’t God has told us in the Bible. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, three-in-one, one-in-three, is an eternal community giving, receiving, and returning love one to another. United in love, they work in concert and never at cross purposes with each other. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, in love, determined to save us wayward creatures from the many hells we have fallen into. The Father’s love planned our salvation, the Son carried that love out in history, and the Spirit draws us into that love.


          The triune God, then, this eternal fellowship of love, assures us that God is not, will not be, and never has been against us. Hurt? Disappointed? Grieved? Moved to discipline his wayward children? Even to exercise “tough love”? Yes. But that’s just the nature of love isn’t it? God’s aim in discipline, and even in “tough love,” is ultimately restorative. But is God angry, vengeful, vindictive, eager to dispense retributive punishment? Is he against us needing to be placated or convinced to be well-disposed to us? No! He is not now and never has been the “God with a Scowl.”


          Finally, and most importantly, the most distinctive claim Christianity makes about God is that he is just like Jesus! This Jesus-likeness of God means that we do not have to guess or speculate what God thinks about us or has done for us – we have only to look at Jesus to know. If we harbor un-Jesus-like thoughts or ideas about God, we can let them go. There is nothing in God that is other than what we see in Jesus of Nazareth. It finally is all about Jesus. And that means God is all about love!


          God’s nature as triune, as love, and as one of us in Jesus of Nazareth give the lie to the claim that God is angry at and ill-disposed toward us. From all eternity God has been passionately in love with us (see Ephesians 1 if you have any doubt). And for all eternity he will be in love with us (see Ephesians 2:7 on this).


          That’s why if you think God is angry at you, you need to look more closely at Jesus and read your Bible more carefully.






           


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