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By Mike Edwards

We cannot definitively say what an invisible, inaudible God is like or even prove that God exist. But, millions if not billions are not insane for knowing or at least hoping there is a Creator who can provide worth, perspective, meaning, and hope of life after death. We should not have hidden agendas in relationships. If people want to pursue a relationship with God, they should see in our life something worth asking about. One can argue what if it turns out there isn’t a God. What do we loss striving to be unselfish and trying to be the person we deep down desire to be with the help of our Creator? Many rightly tune out God because of claims made about God. What is God like?

Why does it matter what we think or say God is like? 

Understandings about God shape attitudes toward God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our views of God. The more we respect our earthly or heavenly parent, the closer we are to them. Some are atheists, not because they believe God can’t exist, but because what they imagine a loving God should be like isn’t what God-followers claim. Don’t believe everything you hear! 

We can begin to understand God through our moral intuitions.

If God does exist and desires a relationship, the Bible likely isn’t the only way to know God. Over half the people born into this world never had a Bible or heard of Jesus. Also, we can’t prove if the Israelites wrote more about what they thought God to be like or what God was really like. The possibility for a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated is a Creator communicating through our moral intuitions. We all intuitively know how we “ought” to treat others.

God is claimed to be a mystery sometimes because one’s interpretation of Scriptures suggest God is evil from a human perspective. Don’t we have an inborn intuition that God and human perfect love are the same? Even the Bible assumes we can know what perfect love is, because the Bible tells us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). God’s love surely is the same as perfect human love.

We cannot definitely say what God is like according to the Bible.

It doesn’t matter if you believe the biblical writers/editors didn’t always understood God perfectly, or whether you believe God inspired every word of the Bible. Literature requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and application to personal circumstances. This is why there is disagreement whether one should divorce or not according to the Bible. It depends on their situation. Biblical certainty is an illusion. Laypeople, much less biblical scholars who respect Scriptures as authoritative, disagree what the Bible says about same-sex relationships or gender roles to name only a few critical issues. Something isn’t immoral just because we think the Bible says so.

Can’t we at least say God is like what the New Testament and Jesus says?  

The New Testament still requires interpretation and we don’t always agree, even what Jesus would do. Many theologians rightly question if Old Testament writers always had a complete understanding of God. In OT times it was sacrilegious to not speak of God as being all-powerful and controlling even through violence. This may explain violent warfare actions in God’s name. It is suggested Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, had a more complete understanding of what God is like. We still though have the challenge of interpreting Jesus’ words. Turning the other check is used to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Would Jesus say violence is never desired but may be necessary sometimes? We must be careful declaring the Bible said or Jesus said, especially if such beliefs hinder others from pursuing God on their own. God can explain themselves to individuals.

A God who is a moral hypocrite isn’t worth believing in!  

Believers and unbelievers at least agree an evil god is not worth believing in. Such a statement is nonsensical unless we can distinguish evil from good. As mentioned even those who claim God is sometimes a mystery do so because their interpretation requires an explanation of God from a human, moral perspective. If your view of God seems immoral to another, be gracious enough to let God reveal themselves to others unless others believe like a terrorist. Terrorists can only defend their beliefs because of a supposed inspired Book, which of course their interpretations are correct. Who can argue with a Book supposedly directly from God! We can’t know perfectly what God would do in everything situation but human perfection is our best starting point.

What are some beliefs about God that are common stumbling blocks?

God can’t be a hellish, sadistic torturer. Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies! Such a place may be only imagined because of a Book. It turns out the Bible doesn’t say anything about the traditional understanding of the word Hell. Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna that was translated into the word Hell in some of our Bibles. Gehenna was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem that was filled with garbage and even dead bodies. Fires were set to get rid of the garbage and smell. We don’t translate names of valleys with different name. Gehenna should be translated as Gehenna. Jesus used the word Gehenna symbolically to illustrate spiritual death is as horrific as physical death, not what happens to people in the afterlife.

God can’t be a homophobe. It makes no sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more choose who they love than straights can. Just ask heterosexuals or homosexuals. It can rightly be argued that not even the Bible condemns same-sex relationships. I have written here to please reconsider that the Bible doesn’t condemn gays. Some only condemn gays because they are convinced the Bible does. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. Shouldn’t we be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices? 

Lack of certainty about God does not mean anything goes? How do we decide?  

We don’t have to make laws against murder. Criminals don’t deny their actions are wrong; they deny they committed such a crime. It is almost universally accepted that it is morally wrong to kill someone out of revenge or for selfish reasons. It is universally accepted that it is morally wrong to behead people for their beliefs unless you are a terrorist. Believing the Bible can’t be use to definitively tell us what God is like protects from those claiming their interpretation is definitive while demonizing views to the contrary. 

Unfortunately, Christians often claims certain morals are universal because of their personal beliefs based on a Book. To divorce or not is not a universal law to impose upon others. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue. Consensual relationships, straight or gay, are not violating anyone’s personal rights. It doesn’t matter if you think gay or straight relationships aren’t natural. You either aren’t gay or straight.

Some relationships, such as pedophilic relationships, are obviously not consensual. There are always exceptions to general guidelines. The Bible isn’t a rule Book or question and answer Book. We may have to kill to protect another life. Let’s have a respectful discussion rather than shut down discussion by claiming we speak for God because of our understanding of a Book. Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. Uncertainty allows different opinions to stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but to new understandings and creative solutions.

How we ought to treat others is how a good God treats others. 

Common moral, loving sense is not the enemy. Don’t let your interpretation of a Book override the golden rule with others of different gender, color, or sexuality. Terrorists or extremists justify immoral treatment of other by hiding behind a supposedly infallible Book. A Book questioned if entirely inspired by God seems to lead to more open discussions. You can hardly every going wrong treated others like you wish to be treated were you in their shoes. Actions of love are always more important than any beliefs you may have.

Don’t let your understanding of God turns people away from God?

Terrorists’ view of God can’t be right. It is almost a universal belief that God respects freedom if such freedom does not endanger the lives of others. Forced love is an oxymoron. Others are convinced God condemns gay love, women leading men, etc. only because of their interpretation of a Book. Well, not all who respect the Bible agree with that interpretation. Do not speak for God when your interpretation is debatable. Let people decide on their own what God is like. God can handle their own business. 

What do you imagine God is really like?

You may be right! Listen to your moral inner voice. We just seem to know what is moral or immoral in most situations. Be guided by love in treating others like you want to be. We can imagine what God is like by discussing what human perfection is. Those who argue humans are created in the image of God usually accept that God created us to know and hate evil. If God sometimes is evil according to one’s interpretation of the Bible, should we hate God sometimes? A God who seeks a relationship is surely more understandable than mysterious.

Don’t we get closer to understanding what Godly love is by accepting that loving others like we want to be loved is the same as how God loves us and others?

 

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By Mike Edwards

We can’t know exactly what an invisible God is like, but God’s visible presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. Uncoerced, freely chosen devotions more likely lead to lasting convictions. We can’t just say God is like what the Bible says, because we disagree what the Bible reveals about God. So, how can we know what God is like?

The Bible does frequently compare God to a loving human parent. Intuition suggest a loving Creator would want us to follow their example just as do our human parents.  How can we be like God if we don’t know what God is like? Analogies aren’t perfect but the best way to imagine what an invisible, perfect God is like – no one thinks an imperfect God is worth believing in – is to consider what a perfect human parent is like.

God couldn’t possibly be an angry, egomaniac lover.

A loving human parent directs their anger not toward their child but at actions that can harm their child and others. Gloomy uncertainty of a parent’s favor doesn’t cause us to be less self-centered or more loving. Loving parents don’t demand respect or glory but wish for a relationship based on mutual respect. God’s or a parent’s continual encouragement and mercy lead to a deeper bond that can transform us into the kind of person we all desire to be.

God couldn’t possibly be a homophobe.

It makes no sense to me why God would condemn gays when they can no more choose who they have feelings for than straights can. Just ask heterosexuals or homosexuals. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. Any loving parent is surely guided by how they should treat others if they had the same non-choices.

God couldn’t possibly be a hell monger.

Hell seems to be an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. Our traditional understanding of Hell is not an appropriate translation of the Greek word Gehenna (the name of a real valley near Jerusalem) in the New Testament. Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies much less their children. Are we better lovers than God?

God couldn’t possibly be a sexist.

It is suggested the Bible endorses men to have authority over women, but the Bible can just as well be interpreted to encourage roles according to gifts not gender. Men in authority over women has led to so my atrocities women face at the hands of men. Women don’t need male leadership; women need men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29). Jesus said being first is last so maybe men should always defer to women.  Isn’t mutual equality the safest, most loving way for men and women to interact?

God couldn’t possibly be dogmatic about what religion we choose.  

Suggesting a loving God insists one can only come to God by believing in Jesus is to ignore the realities of our world. The majority of people that have been born into world never had a Bible to know of Jesus. The vast majority of people choose or rebel against the religion where they are born, whether be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. Wouldn’t a loving Parent, earthly or heavenly, no matter where born simply seek to help all be their best for self-interests and the interests of others?

What do you imagine God is really like?

You may be right! Listen to your moral inner voice since we just seem to know what is moral or immoral in most situations. Most suspect One claiming to be God must lead by example and encourage we love others by treating them like we want to be treated. I am absolutely convinced that God’s love is the love we deep down desire to show others consistently. God’s love is perfect parental love that we have always desired from our parents. We may not agree always what a perfect parent would do, but a loving parent surely isn’t egotistical, a fear-monger, a homophobe, a sexist, or bias against one’s religion!

 

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