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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Perspectives on the Nature of God - Which of these Five Views Matches Yours?

Each of us holds a different image of God. There are as many perspectives on the nature of God as there are people, but these views tend to cluster into several groupings which are instructive to examine. However much any of us may choose to argue, or to fight and kill, for our point of view, the nature of God is an unanswerable question. Perhaps there is a specific answer, that we will never learn - in this lifetime. Perhaps the nature of God is so complex and multifaceted that each view of God describes an aspect of the complex whole. Or perhaps the nature of God is actually defined by our beliefs.

Which of these five views matches yours?

1. God the Wrathful: This is a God in whom the human characteristics vengeance, anger, and pride are magnified to superhuman proportions. God the Wrathful is a thinking feeling being who is almost always depicted as male. God the Wrathful holds humans in contempt. This relationship of God and human is demonstrated in the passages, "All men are sinners," "He will suffer vengeance seven times over," and "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

2. God the Judgmental: This view of God is dominated by the existence and supreme importance of absolute right and wrong. God the Judgmental is a being, usually male, who is lawmaker, judge, and jury to humanity. Have you been naughty or have you been nice? If you have been good, you get magnificent gifts after you have died - if not before. But if you don't follow the rules of God the Judgmental, you get a lump of coal in your stocking, you suffer the torments of everlasting Hell. God the Judgmental is characterized by the passages, "May the Lord look upon you and judge you," "Allah has cursed them on account of their unbelief," and "The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness."

3. God Who? This perspective on the nature of God discounts the existence of anything that cannot be seen or touched. In this view, God is either known not to exist, or is doubted to exist. We live in a world of physical reality where the dreams and conscious actions of humans compete with the random happenings of an indifferent natural world. This view of God is shown in the anonymous quote, "Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies," and the Ernest Hemingway quote, "All thinking men are atheists."

4. God the Compassionate: This God is a kindly superhuman, either male or female, who is benevolent as well as being omnipotent - a God who loves humans, who offers many gifts and few, if any, lumps of coal. Those who believe in God the compassionate are often troubled by the apparent contradiction between the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent God and the prevalence of violence and suffering in this world. The possibility of a compassionate afterlife is, to some, a possible escape from this dilemma. God the Compassionate is characterized by the passages, "God, who gives generously to all without finding fault," and "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

5. God the Universal Spirit: This God is of a completely different character than any of the preceding. God the Universal Spirit is not a being, and is neither male nor female. This is a God beyond any human or superhuman qualities, a God without form, substance, personality, emotions, or demands. God the Universal Spirit does not anger, lose patience, or seek revenge. It does not reward some human behaviors and punish others. God the Universal Spirit does not have an independent existence - it resides in every person, in every grain of sand. Each of us is filled with the God Spirit, and simultaneously each of us is a tiny part of the God Spirit itself. The nature of God the Universal Spirit can be glimpsed in the Ernest Holmes quote, "The manifest universe is the body of God ... all people are incarnations of the One Spirit." and the Mohandas Gandhi quote, "God has no religion."

You have probably rejected four of these five views of God as being absolutely wrong, and even been uncomfortable with the wording of the view with which you most closely align. In doing so, you have rejected the sincere beliefs of the vast majority of humanity. Is promoting your preferred characterization of God more important than compassion and acceptance of diversity? Apparently most people think it is. Charles M. Schulz had his Peanuts character Linus (the little kid who always carries a blanket) say, "All right, so you believe in Santa Claus and I'll believe in the Great Pumpkin. The way I see it, it doesn't matter what you believe, just so you're sincere." Perhaps great wisdom comes from little mouths.

3 comments:

  1. To believe in God the "Father" helps us with disappointments. A Father always wants to help his children. A good Father, that is. To understand that God created men and women in His
    image, meaning Human, regardless of Sex, leaves us to believe that God is a He, that is if one reads and refers to the Bible. If we believe God is good all the time, then good times or bad have their place in our Life's. Its our perception of what we can learn from Life, positive or negative that allows God to help us go through Life meaningful and joyful. He gave us free will, the greatest gift to menkind after
    the gift of Love.

    ReplyDelete
  2. When did it become settled that everyone's private concept of God (or a god, or no god or gods) is just as valid as any other? As far as any Christian is concerned (and I mean "Christian" by the New Testament standard), the one, true and living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ... the God of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures known as the Holy Bible ... has revealed everything about Himself that He wants us human beings to know.

    I, speaking as one of the afore-mentioned Christians, have no interest whatsoever in any of the 5 speculations about any of the so-called "gods" as described in this article. Does this make me close minded? Absolutely! What about all the other religions of the world? And what about all the other belief systems of each and every person, other than Christians? My answer is, So what about them?

    I don't bother them. I don't hate or persecute anyone if they believe differently from me. I can discuss this issue with anyone ... no matter what they believe or don't believe. But I AM a Christian, and I believe in the God of The Bible. I believe in the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ and ALL that the New Testament and the entirety of the Bible says about Him.

    For me, Jesus Christ IS The Way, The Truth and The Life, and no one can come to right standing with God but through Him. If anyone believes differently, they will get no argument from me ... unless they wish to start one.

    C.L.(Chuck)Troupe
    Author, Christian Minister, and
    Preacher of The Gospel of Christ

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you very much for your comment Chuck.

    I appreciate that you see Christianity as the only valid religion, and your form of Christianity as the only valid form of Christianity, but I am curious how you reconcile the contradictions within the Bible, and how you choose which of the contradictory passages is "The Way, The Truth." ... and that's before even considering how the books of the "modern" Bible were selected in the 4th century to support one of the many competing forms of "Christianity" that were practiced in the centuries immediately after Jesus' death.

    ReplyDelete

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