May 30, 2009

The Nature of God

Remember the father who had a bunch of kids, some of whom he called his favorites, the others he ignored? Do you recall how he permitted his favorite children to steal from the others and sometimes do worse? Remember the rules he established for them (the two most important that they never speak ill of him and always hold him in the highest esteem)? You might also recall how he tested his children with a variety of torments in order to prove their worthiness. Once he even did it on a bet. While he demanded unquestioning loyalty, the father’s answer to disobedience was utter destruction of his children, a consequence he exacted more than once.

Who was this awful father?

He was the God of the Old Testament, of course, who gave his chosen people—Abraham’s posterity—a Promised Land for which they were required to kill and displace others to obtain. It was the same God who commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a test of faith—the same God who, just to make a point, went into cahoots with the devil to torment Job. It was the same father who flooded the earth and leveled Sodom and Gomorrah as responses to disobedience—the same father who relished the fear and trembling of his children as they approached him in prayer.

Why would anyone worship such a being, much less call him perfect? I would burn in hell rather than do so (not that I believe in any such consequence). In fact, I would first honor the mythological Zeus or Apollo, whom the Greeks acknowledged as imperfect and therefore not the best of role models. That amount of insight allowed them to recognize capricious behavior when they saw it. But to call moral any being who would demand the violence and destruction recorded in the Old Testament, is to embrace a worldview that chooses war over peace, punishment over forgiveness, and levitical nitpicking over love and compassion.

Fortunately there’s an option to believing in such a being. The alternative is to see God the way Christ described Him. How is that, you ask? Christ’s description of the Father is clear from the very treatise that establishes His higher law, the Sermon on the Mount. If I were banished to a proverbial desert island and only allowed to take a few hundred words of literature with me, it would be chapters 5 through 7 in Matthew. They describe, in my opinion, the most important ideas ever articulated. Not only is it a summary of what God wants from us, but it is a description of His very nature.

Christ’s guidelines for the higher law are, as I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, the following:

  • Don’t just refrain from murder, bridle your anger
  • Go beyond abstaining from adultery, control your lust
  • Don’t stop at honoring contracts, let your word be your bond
  • Do more than seek justice, forgive
  • Love more than those close to you, love everyone

You might ask what this has to do with the nature of God. Jesus closes His comments about the higher law by saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” In this way, Christ implies that His gospel circumscribes the kind of perfection God honors and practices. I can’t imagine our Heavenly Father so angry that He would flood the earth and kill all, but eight, of His children. Furthermore, to believe the account—and to concurrently assume that God is a perfect moral being—is to think such acts are acceptable. It isn’t too far a leap from that viewpoint to believe God wanted us to invade Iraq because of the boorish behavior of its leader. In that way, a Judeo-Christian ethic that is premised upon a vengeful and jealous version of godliness is dangerous and can lead to thug-like acts of its believers.

But is that what Christ would have wanted? Let me know what you think.


Matt's brain said...

This reminds me of what Lewis Black said, which went something like this:

Old testament God is a prick. I guess the birth of his son made him calm down and gave him some perspective or something.

Anonymous said...

Some people, gnostics (not agnostics) believe in a really interesting set of beliefs.

They say that there are at least more than 2 gods. The old testament god was supposedly imperfect and evil, but he was the son of another god, who's other son was Jesus.

I suggest research on Wikipedia. I found it really interesting, i think it may certainly appeal to you.

I personally believe that since death isn't the end of existence, then it can't truly be called a bad thing. I mean, if that was the case, then we might as well say that our ceasing to exist in a pre-existence and arriving at Earth as born children was also some kind of "death", but no one ever thinks of that death-like act as evil.

Since we are all doomed to pass away, then God has the right to make our lives on Earth a little or a lot shorter than other people's lives. But the complaints that humans make always are done when those lives are cut short due to pain and sufferings. In reality, people that day in a natural cause at age 50 are undergoing an act as non-evil as a man shot to death at age 50. Death is not evil.

Unauthorized acts are considered evil by God. A perfect example is to not keep the Sabbath holy, or to fornicate. We only have the authority to have sexual relations inside of marriage according to God, and similarly, we lack the authority to not keep the Sabbath holy.

Now you say that God is evil while Jesus is super-kind and good. Well, Jesus actually got visited by Elijah and Moses, he also claimed he was the fulfillment of lots of prophecies from the Old Testament, and he preached God's laws by overthrowing tables and whipping men when he saw them dealing with works in the middle of a synagogue on a Sabbath.

See, Jesus can see through the bodies of men and into their thoughts. So can God. So Jesus could see that the pharisees and others who tried to do wrong were doing it for the same reason that Lucifer promised a way to get all beings back to Heaven...all for the glory, the pharisees simply wanted power. God can also see the same, but since we never walked with God like we did with Jesus, we can't have the same direct, physical relationship. Instead, God left little guidelines for his people to follow, such as punishing rule-breakers, etc. And when it came to people who died in the flood, in Sodom & Gomorrha, and in the lands of Canaan, he did it because he too could read the hearts of those men, and he knew they were evil.

Now, if you believe that God and Jesus are real, then explain why do good people die in disasters.

Even if Jesus and God are actually perfect beings, SOMEONE is allowing good people to die. If Jesus said the truth, then that someone is actually omnibenevolent, yet he allows for the righteous to die.

That's why i already accept that death isn't bad, and that if i ever get murdered, i will never blame it on God for cutting my life short in a tragic way, because i know that if he had chosen a non-tragic way, most people wouldn't be mad.

People are selfish. They want perfect lives. It proves that we like life, that we like our earthly commodities, to the point that we call all that pleases us "good", and all that doesn't "bad". That isn't what either Jesus or God preached.

You might as well regard Jesus as a simple philosopher who lied about a lot of things like saying he was holy, and become a hedonist. If you believe that Jesus was right however, you can't believe God is evil, or otherwise you would produce a paradoxical belief.

Unless you wish to take the alternative, Gnosticism, which i already recommended above.