I won't try to explain God away anymore

Opinion

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HELEN MILDENHALL - ONE VIEW

Dean, in your most recent response to me, you asked about sharing with me what you have learned from people who live in other countries. I would be happy to read about what they've taught you.

You also asked: "Would you or anybody else make up a God who comes to us in the form of a suffering servant, an itinerant rabbi who was nailed to a Roman cross for the sins of the world? Would you invent a risen Christ who turned traitorous disciples into trustworthy witnesses with Good News to spread, down through the centuries, even to us in our time?"

I think you were implying the answer is "No." However, I can't categorically say that no one would make up a God like that. People are creative, and the stories they make up are sometimes strange, unusual, moving and beautiful.

My own feelings about this story are deep and very mixed. I see beauty in the sacrificial love and humility in it. On the other hand, it's very hard for me to accept that the only way God could rescue humanity would be to require the bloodshed and brutality of the cross. That part drives me to wonder: Is this really the best story that ever could be told, or is it only the best story anyone could tell 2,000 years ago? Which would mean it's long overdue for an update, since people have learned many things in the last 2,000 years. I apologize if that sounds very irreverent. I don't know how to stop asking these questions without giving up a part of what it means to me to be human.

You continued: "The gods we invent have a way of always favoring our side, looking like us, dumbed down to our well-pampered illusions, and then finally walking out on us when the chips are down. Against these gods, the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a stumbling block, an affront to all human pride and the death of our astonishing capacity for airy unbelief and gross ingratitude."

I don't know how to respond except to say when we read the Old Testament, we must come away with two rather different impressions of the God portrayed there. When I read it, I do see a God who favors the side of the authors. Weren't the Jews God's chosen people, whom he aided in battle against other nations (except when he was so upset with them he refused to help as a punishment to them)? When God sees the golden calf and tells Moses he's going to destroy all the Jews because of it, doesn't God look rather like us--at least those of us who lose our temper?

Sometime in the last few years I decided that if I read a Bible passage and God sounds mean, or proud, or vindictive, I'm not going to try to explain that away any more. Maybe that was a bad, or evil, or foolish decision--but for me it seemed the only way to keep myself anchored in reality. If I habitually practice explaining things in the Bible away, what's to stop me doing that with the rest of life? I don't want to go there. And if Jesus is indeed the truth, surely it's not possible he would want me to go there either.

 

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