When I was a deist, the God I believed in didn’t do miracles, bring people back from the dead, or inspire people to write things down. Because of my view of God, I just couldn’t buy what Christians believed. The Christian worldview doesn’t make sense unless God is personal, powerful, fair, and good.
I realize people who will read these articles will hold a wide variety of perspectives. My desire is to share a few ideas concisely. The topic of how Christians view and don’t view God, like other topics I write about, deserves far more explanation than these short articles will give. Think of the following as just a taste of some food for thought.
God is Not a Dude
It’s true most of the Bible’s language about God is masculine, but there’s feminine language as well. Men and women are both described as being created in the image of God. Personal pronouns (he, she) are prefered over a neutral pronoun (it), because God is personal. Gender characteristics and language were used to most effectively communicate God’s qualities to a specific culture. The many nations and people described in the Bible were cultures where power, protection, leadership, and authority were male characteristics and tenderness, wisdom, helpfulness, and compassion were female characteristics; all of which are used to describe God. This matches the physiological and social tendencies we observe between males and females in most cultures.
It’s important to realize that what was written in the Bible wasn’t written by an ancient patriarchal culture – a culture broken and guilty of sexism and injustice. What was written in the Bible was written to and about a patriarchal culture. Understanding human language can only happen in the context of human culture. (Read the article Why I Don’t Hate the Bible Anymore to learn more about this.) If ancient Jews had read today’s edition of the New York Times, they would have thought we were wackos. Without an understanding of our culture, they would point to most news article and say, “What is this madness?”
A Distorted View of God
Our views of God flow out of our finite perceptions and understanding. It’s our natural desire to want to understand things, but God is someone who’s beyond understanding. Sure, we can grasp and appreciate some qualities of God, but other qualities are impossible for our limited, finite minds to grasp. Since our understanding is limited, it’s natural to view God as limited. Our attempts to understand and control God creates confusion, distance, and distrust of God. God becomes an angry old man, an apathetic clockmaker, or an awkward mess of abstract ideas.
Only a perception of God with room for mystery can fill us with excitement and endless possibilities. An unlimited and infinite view of God allows God to be a trusted guide, a loving friend, the presence of peace through life’s storms, and the only one who fully understands everything when we feel confused and lost.
How Can a Good God Allow So Much Evil?
I’ll be honest: I probably don’t have a satisfying answer. I do have some interesting questions: Does most evil come from human beings? Does there need to be some evil so we can have free will to choose evil and not be good robots? Do you think any amount of evil would be too much evil? Why isn’t there more evil in the world? Why is there so much good? Wouldn’t the world be a lot worse if God didn’t keep evil so low?
The point is, as humans, how can we make this kind of judgment? If a supreme being exists, can we sling philosophical stones at God while we lack firm knowledge about the nature of good, evil, the universe, and the story we find ourselves in? It’s like a dog criticizing its owner for washing off fleas. Though the dog doesn’t understand the reason for an uncomfortable flea bath, the bath is very good for the dog. We may not like how things are, but could our knowledge and perspective be too limited to make such judgments?
Understanding the God of the Bible
If you want to move beyond the traditional conceptual qualities of God (all-powerful, all-knowing, and such) and get to know what God is like, read the four books in the Bible about Jesus (I recommend starting with John). In them, you can read about the divine life of Jesus and learn how God relates to people, loves people, confronts evil, and more. To learn more about Jesus, read Jesus Wasn’t a Nice Guy.
Explore Your Perspective:
- What’s your mental image of the Christian God and what God is like to you?
- What ancient or cultural views of the Christian God do you find most confusing and uncomfortable?
- Do you have a view of God which seeks to understand God completely, or do you give God room to be mysterious?