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Posts Tagged ‘Mystery’

By Mike Edwards

Biblical interpreters will often play the mystery card when their interpretations suggest God’s morals are not the same as human morals. They understand some explanation is required when their views of God are incompatible with most people’s idea of a loving God. Since they believe God gives us our mind and conscience, some rationalization is needed. It is possible our interpretation is wrong, or we can’t know if biblical authors always understood God perfectly.

Even the Bible doesn’t declare God a mystery.

The only place we might get the notion that a relational Creator is mysterious is from a Book. We can’t have the intelligence and knowledge of a God who can be in all places at all time. We may not be able to comprehend all plausible moral reasons why suffering and a good God can co-exist. That doesn’t make God a mystery. Isaiah 55:8-9 is the most common passage to justify that God sometimes is a mystery: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…” This passage isn’t suggesting we cannot understand God. God exhorts us to forsake our wicked ways and thoughts (v.7) and turn to God’s higher, righteous ways and thoughts (vs. 8-9).

If God is mysterious, why does the Bible ask us to be like God?  

Jesus, who represented God here on earth, assumed we could easily understand God: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). We may not always know what perfect love entails, but knowing the difference from evil and good isn’t rocket science. Even if you don’t read the Bible, one would assume a good God would exhort us to hate evil. If God is evil sometimes humanly speaking, are we supposed to hate God?

Why would a relational God claim to be mysterious?  

By declaring God ways are mysterious at times, how can we have a relationship with a God we can’t understand with the brain God supposedly gave us? When a human or spiritual parent declares “don’t try to understand me fully,” this implies we can’t have a genuine relationship. Claiming God is a mystery doesn’t invite investigation by those who may be seeking God for the first time. We aren’t really doing God a favor by declaring God a mystery because we can’t explain our theology.

God’s will for our life isn’t even a mystery.

God respects freedom too much to predetermine our future. We are free to dream and pursue the desires of our heart. Choose the wisest path based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations. A loving parent doesn’t control their child’s future profession. Loving parents want their children to pursue their passions with the gifts they possess. God’s moral ways are clearly not mysterious or hidden. What is God’s moral will? Do all the good we can, in all the places we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can.

 

 

 

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By Mike Edwards

I admit choosing a provocative title. I could have said God is like the perfect human being. What is my point? I am not suggesting any human being is God or that an invisible, inaudible God is human. I am simply trying to find a way to write and encourage discussion of what God is like. We can’t claim to know exactly what God is like, but what ideas may be closer to the truth? 

It matters what we think God is like.

Our understandings about God shape our attitudes toward God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our views of God. The more you respect your earthly parents, the closer you 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.

We can’t be positive what God is really like of course.  

I can’t even prove God really exist. I just think that 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 need a way to talk about what God is really like. It is often claimed we know what God is like – just read the Bible!

The Bible cannot be the definitive way of knowing what God is like.

The Bible is ancient literature that requires interpretation. Laypeople, much less biblical scholars who respect Scriptures as authoritative, don’t agree what the same passages mean. Some claim the Bible condemns homosexuality; other deny such claims. How do we decide which interpretation may be the best interpretation of God’s true nature? The majority born never had a Bible so a Creator may have thought of others ways to communicate what they are really like. 

Doesn’t God communicate through our moral intuitions?

A universal, inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated could suggest how a Creator communicates what is good. When we read ancient literature such as the Bible and two plausible interpretations exist, we can’t avoid using our moral brains.  We are trying to determine what a perfect, loving God is like. An immoral God isn’t worth believing in. 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 what we imagine perfect human love is like.

Even those who play the mystery card assume perfect godly and human morality are the same.

Many claim God is a mystery sometimes because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. Such interpreters are using their moral intuitions and assuming God and human love are the same. It is certain that we don’t always know what perfect love is, but the mystery card short circuits discussions about God’s true character.

Doesn’t the Newer Testament through the eyes of Jesus give us the correct view of God?

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 literature requiring interpretation. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Would Jesus agree violence is never desired but may be necessary sometimes? We can never claim certainty “because the Bible or Jesus says so.”

Lack of certainty about God does not mean anything goes?  

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. Claiming 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.

God is like the perfect human being!

We can’t know what God is exactly like but 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? We must question not rationalize such interpretations. 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

Thomas Oord’s book GOD CAN’T is for those who have suffered and have trouble understanding why a supposedly good, all-powerful God did nothing. Maybe you have just questioned why such a God allows so much evil in this world or at least doesn’t intervene more. We know God doesn’t cause evil but why doesn’t a loving God, if truly powerful, at least stop certain evils? Oord offers the best solution I have read so far.

A God who can prevent evil but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child being physically or sexually abused. Are you dissatisfied with conventional answers such as: “It’s all part of God’s plan;” “God wants to make you stronger;” “God’s ways are not our ways;” “You didn’t have enough faith;” “Everything happens for a reason.” (P. 11) If evil is some grand scheme God can control, why then does the Bible says God hates evil so much?

Thankfully, GOD CAN’T doesn’t appeal to “God is a mystery” as an explanation. How we are supposed to know and love like God if God is mysterious? We are told to be perfect like God, but how can we know what this means if we can’t know what perfect love is.  God’s love surely is like perfect human love. Oord offers rational answers to the biggest questions of our lives.

Some say God doesn’t cause evil, but allows it, to bring about a greater good. Oord reminds us greater good doesn’t always come about. A surgeon may have to break open your chest to save your life, but what purpose is served from rape, torture, betrayal, murder, deception, corruption, incest, and genocide as if part of some good plan? From this twisted perspective, evil is good! (P.14)

Thomas Oord offers an alternative to the idea that God either causes or allows evil for some grand purpose. God can’t is actually in the Bible. God can’t lie (Titus 1:2), God can’t be tempted (Jm. 1:13), etc. (P.25) It is also logical that a good God can’t be unloving, God can’t change the past, God can’t deny freedom, God can’t be truly loving if controlling. See also Oord’s Book – THE UNCONTROLLING LOVE OF GOD.

GOD CAN’T suggests that God can’t prevent evil singlehandedly (Chapter 1). The book concludes that God needs our cooperation in intervening in evil (Chapter 5). Believing God can’t prevent evil moves us past thinking God causes or allows pain, tragedy, and abuse. We shouldn’t blame God for the evil God can’t prevent. If you accept this you can move on to believing God feels our pain (Chapter 2), God works to heal (Chapter 3), and God squeezes every bit of good from bad (Chapter 4).

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_8?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=god+cant+oord&sprefix=God+cant%2Caps%2C183&crid=1QGZX4WJB8XWR&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Agod+cant+oord&ajr=0

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