How did God become such a monster?

I recently talked to a girl who is 19 years old. She went to a Church that starred her down because has several piercings in her face. The pastor told this girl that she couldn’t celebrate and worship passionately during the sermon because God didn’t appreciate their false worship. In the sermon the pastor began talking about how many of the problems of the world could be narrowed down to the homosexuals, Hispanics and Blacks of the world. The congregation was in emphatic agreement with the pastor. During the sermon, the Pastor even used the Bible to support how God was in agreement with him.

I’ve got a question, How did God become such a monster?

When Jesus makes a simple but profound statement that when we see Jesus, we see the Father I have to use him as my foundation of my relationship, my theology, my hope and my faith. When I see Jesus I don’t see a man who hates the Homosexuals, the Hispanics or the Blacks. I see a man who says that he makes his rain fall on the good and the bad, his sun shine on the just and the unjust. How can we hate Homosexuals, Hispanics or Blacks when Jesus pours his favor on the bad and the unjust.

This is my struggle with taking certainty in our interpretations of scripture. Because sometimes God in the Old Testament seems to do some pretty awful things. He wipes out communities and sinners alike, but, Jesus says to bless these people? How does that make sense? It seems like for some that they have an image of God that seems to delight in the torture of sinners. Even in the Old Testament, it seems like God waits until the absolute last moment to pour out his wrath. He allows a search to happen for any righteous person to be found. He tells Jonah that he is going to destroy Nineveh and then after they change, he pulls back.

There are prominent scholars in Church history like Gregory of Nyssa and Thomas Aquinas who said they would delight in the torment of those in hell while they rested in heaven. How did we get to Jesus Christ who showed compassion on all, which in Greek meant to have his stomach torn open, a pain he felt deep into his bowels, to laughing and celebrating those in hell? It seems like we want to make God out of who we are, and, for some of us that is angry, pissed off and vengeful. Rather than Jesus Christ who suffered in love on the cross so all could be saved (even though only some accept).

How did a God who told Abraham that he was going to be blessed so he could bless the world become such a monster?

How did a God who sent his own son to show the world his love and grace, only to suffer on their behalf become such a monster?

How could a God do terrible and catastrophic things on behalf of the sins of the homosexuals, blacks and hispanics but really insert your enemy here? How does that God look like Jesus who died in love on Calvary and rose to show us that our life of sin and pain doesn’t have to consume us?

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14 thoughts on “How did God become such a monster?

  1. 21centkid says:

    I think it comes down to how much of the Bible do we want? Does God have a reason to pour out His wrath on people? In Christ are we to engage with non-Christians differently as opposed to the Old Testament?

    Even more provocative is this:

    Is homosexuality deserving of God’s wrath? If we put aside our personal feelings and take the layout of the Bible, did the authors of the Bible see homosexuality as a sin?

    It seems that both sides of the issue come from a reason of certainty, which one is most consistent with the beliefs (as far as we can tell) from the authors of the Bible?

    If God authoritatively and clearly told us homosexuality is a sin, would we accept it? On the same hand, if God told us authoritatively and clearly that homosexuality is *not* a sin, would those who believe it is accept that?

    Seeing Christ as our supreme example, he reached out his hand to all sinners, no matter their gender or sexual preference, the real question is where we go from there. He did mention sin being so grave that it would be better for us to lose limbs than live in that sin.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Great response 21centkid,
      One cannot denote the terrible effect that sin has on our life. Sin is the disease of our existence, of our world. It is the loss of our peace.

      What would you tell to my 19 year old friend?
      What do you tell to the homosexuals, blacks and hispanics that leave God because of this message?

  2. 21centkid says:

    I would first tell them to evaluate every message they hear about Jesus, Christianity and Christians by the primary source, the Bible. It’s pretty easy to show them that racial charges hold no water against them, and I would encourage them to wrestle with what the exegetes say about homosexuality in the Bible. Ultimately it comes down to authority, if the Bible says something we don’t believe (or don’t want to believe) and then we see that Jesus believed it, what shall we do? Leave Jesus or edit him? Ultimately no matter what side we fall on Jesus has something offensive about us that we must wrestle with.

    • David Bunce says:

      I think your comments about authority are interesting. Whilst I am a good evangelical protestant who believes in the authority of the Scriptures, I think things like homosexuality are rarely as simple as either side often wants to admit.

      The way we approach the Bible is formulated by our life experiences, preconceptions, hopes, fears – if nothing else, these help form the questions which we bring to the text

      This tends to be just as true when we do our hermeneutics as community: we need to be aware of the power games that sometimes get played when we interpret Scripture. Think for instance how we can often turn a blind eye to economic injustice because we are so focussed on sexual morality (or vice versa) – often not through deliberate intent but because this is the dominant story of our flavour of Christianity and our reading of the Bible is to a certain way conditioned by it.

      So when we talk about the authority of the Bible, I don’t think it’s as simple as a “I’m right you’re wrong” type authority. Authority is much more to do with the telos of making us into the sort of people who God would have us be – and that is something that requires us all to be open and vulnerable in our interpretations.

      Finally, we need to be careful not to be exclusive. Whilst the Bible is arguably unclear about some things in sexual morality, it is very clear about the spiritual and moral nature of power and makes it very clear that power through violence (whether physical or the rhetorical violence of creating an oppresive ‘orthodoxy’) is wrong and not the way of the cross.

      • 21centkid says:

        No doubt the issue of sexuality is complex, I wholly agree.

        Our approach to the Bible is certainly defined initially by our worldview and our personal experiences. This is what I would say is the problem. Also, I don’t think it’s rational to be agnostic about what the scriptures *actually* teach because every interpreter comes with their various bias.

        I know I have been guilty of using the Scriptures for my own prideful gain in arguments as opposed to becoming honest with the text. I try to tell myself when approaching a passage to think outside of the box, asking myself maybe it doesn’t mean what I think it means. Then I try to chart out different ideas about the context, find commentaries that contradict each other etc… Ultimately if I believe anything about God and spirituality, I want it to be in accordance with the Bible. If that means I have to abandon a preconceived notion of mine, then so be it. Now, that’s easier said than done, but I think it is a healthy goal.

        Concerning the Bible as our authority, ultimately it’s pretty clear that the Bible presents itself in a “right and wrong” form. And where that form isn’t presented, we can happily argue without having to part ways. The aim we should have is to read the Bible how it’s authors intended to be read.

        I am all for openness and being challenged on my exegesis and interpretation. There is so much that I just don’t know. However we can’t rule out that there is a correct interpretation of the Bible just because there are so many interpretations. I believe that out of God’s love He would not leave us only asking hypothetical questions about this book that could hypothetically be what He has left for us to be a means of grace.

        Also I like what you said about how we miss social justice issues because we’re so glued to some sexuality issue. I see this happening on both sides of Christendom, liberal and conservative.

        Defining exclusivity/inclusivity in matters of Christianity has been an interesting battle to follow. I am a member of the PCA and the church that I go to is very inclusive to me. We are inclusive without compromising the doctrines we believe the Bible teaches. In fact we invite those with the strongest disagreements to attend and be our friends without any strings attached. We want to be challenged and we want to challenge others. The sensitivity around controversial Christian issues is so heavy in some places that people can’t even talk about some issues without blowing up.This is pretty obvious considering even the most conservative of churches offering donuts and coffee in the morning just to get people to have a full belly when they listen.

        I think the Church would do well to have a backbone and stand up (humbly and vulnerably) for what they believe and hear each other out without shouting others out. We should also admit that we all have a form of orthodoxy in our heads that we judge other views by. We should ask questions without having to forfeit our convictions in the process.

        Thank you for the well thought out response David!

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I agree, Jesus is offensive. Which is why Truth offended the Pharisees. (which is why I think we can not always be the super hero when we read ourselves into the Bible).

      How would you go about creating the space to absorb Truth in its fullness rather than leaving Jesus or editing him, as you put it.

      • 21centkid says:

        I like to see that the Truth that offended the Pharisees was the truth that should offend me at the same time. We try to micromanage others to conform to our ways. We offer ourselves as the Gospel as opposed to the Gospel itself, we have blindspots in our thinking that may damage people and we wouldn’t even know it etc… I think the beginning of humility would be for us to realize we are all Pharisees about something. Whether it be about inerrancy or about any other liberal or conservative pet issue we want.

        I think the first way to create such a space would be for ourselves to have a heart for the people of opposite views as opposed to hatred. We should not evaluate whether we agree with people or not based on anything outside of their own arguments they present. I think we should let emotion creep in without targeting people but rather targeting their arguments. We should have a robust view and defense of what we see as truth with the backdrop of “we are going to listen and not falsely representing each other’s beliefs”. We shouldn’t be afraid of certainty, but we should have openness to being challenged on what we do have a certain belief about.

        At the end of the day, you could put the best of scholars head to head, and should they not blatantly shy away from one another, most likely the person you disagree with going into it you will disagree with when you leave. Formation of beliefs (hopefully) takes a good bit of time. Since our disagreements are already worn on our sleeves I think a safe space should be present to just let it fly (respectfully, emotionally, humbly and sincerely).

        As far as the context being absorbing truth without abandoning Jesus or editing Jesus should come with a comparative exegesis of the Bible and rigorous defense of those exegesis. This is why I’m a fan of expository preaching/teaching. My church practices this and as we go through a book of the Bible line by line we are forced to deal with the text and don’t have the convenience of skipping over it. This is what I would see as the most honest attempt at trying to learn and glorify Christ as He is and not as we want Him to be.

        P.S.

        Are either of you going to be at the Wild Goose Festival?

  3. Mike Friesen says:

    David I would consider myself an Evangelical with a emphasis on Anabaptist and Pentecostal values. I don’t think I could remain that without a belief on the authority of the scriptures or without it being divinely inspired. Both things I hold to tightly, as I hope all Evangelicals would. My goal is more so, to interpret the God through the lens of Jesus, which causes us to struggle and wrestle with some of the OT passages more. Because, clearly through Jesus we see someone who is non-violent and we see God use violence. Also, my guess is Jesus would never endorse polygamy but God seems to allow it.

    My hope is that we can interpret God in the light of Jesus. Rather than defining Jesus through the O.T law which is why John 14:7-9 are so important.

    I would be interested in hearing about how you would help others move to a non-violent hermeneutics beyond right/wrong.

  4. Haha! Its pretty bizarre that homosexuals are put into a category with blacks and Hispanics. As if homosexuality where a race or being of African decent where a sin issue addressed biblically 🙂

    I would tell your 19 your old friend that Jesus cares for her deeply and doesn’t appreciate that pastor’s general douche’bagery.

    I’d encourage you to check out “Toward Old Testament Ethics” by Walter Kaizer. I hear Greg Boyd is working up an interesting read called “God of war” about some of these tough issues as well.

    Gods Peace
    +walker

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Thanks Walker, I’m a huge boyd fan. I think God of War is out, I’m pretty sure its his spiritual warfare book. Are you thinking of his long time work “Jesus vs Jehovah” where he tries to reconcile the peace of Jesus vs the violence of Jehovah?

  5. ChrisP says:

    “How can we hate Homosexuals, Hispanics or Blacks when Jesus pours his favor on the bad and the unjust.”

    Of course, you didn’t mean to put it this way, but this statement rubs me the wrong way. It would seem as if you are saying this it is “bad and unjust” to simply be homosexual, Hispanic or Black. Since Jesus pours his favor on the bad and the unjust….aka the people groups that you mentioned.

    Just pointing out a (hopefully) slip in logical flow.

    Thanks.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      agreed Chris. Thank you.

    • CGray says:

      Chris P, I was about to make the same comment. Mike I am a firm believer in the Love principle rather than the condemnation that has become today’s church. But, being Black, I took offense to this comment as well. When I read it, I was quite confused by your placing Blacks and Hispanics as a category of bad and unjust. I think the big mistake many make is assuming that because crime is prevalent among African-Americans, then it must be something inherent in Black people to be this way. This is called an ecological fallacy in which we make judgements about an entire group of people based on the actions of some. Yes there are Blacks and Hispanics who commit crime, but it is not indicative of ethnicity as it is indicative of a socio-economic position in society. I come from a country where Black people are the majority and I can guarantee you that we do not measure crime statistics by race as it is done in the US. We measure crime statistics on factors such as income, education etc. There is nothing about skin color that influences behavior.

      I also want to believe that you didn’t mean your comment the way that it was interpreted by myself and Chris P. And my jaw is still hanging open by the minister who said this in a sermon.

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