Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The offense of the Personal God

Okay, so we live in the western world...and we have ideas about how a God should behave. We have ideas of propriety, sanity, organization, clarity, intelligence. It's mostly a class issue, or a control issue. We can trust a God who is vastly intelligent, full of foresight, and above emotion.

So here we are reading about David's census of the people and God gets peeved about it. So he gives David a choice of 3 days of pestilence, 3 months of war, 3 years of famine. Something like that. David chooses the pestilence cause it's short. But on the first day, wow! So David cries out to God...God repents and cuts the punishment short.

Okay, we have a God who sets out to punish then sees the horror and cuts it short? A God who is outside of time but comes inside it and allows the actions of the people within time to affect Him? A God who rejoices and dances over those who love Him? A God who weeps over His people and earnestly desires His love? A God who is jealous?

And this is not just pretty metaphorical stuff. He really is jealous, gets hurt, etc.

Ah, what to do with this? What does one do with a God who leaps with joy when He's happy? I suspect the Aristotlean logic stuff has affected how respectably we think our God should behave. Folks at other times allowed God's their passions and personalities and didn't think emotion belittled a God. But we so worship reason and the sane westernized model of proper CEO behavior that we don't allow emotion in a personal God.

But isn't that what a personal theistic God implies? A relationship with a being with a personality? And what are we to do with the personality of a God who made all these flowers because he loves beauty? And even creates flowers in places no human eyes can see...because it's his pleasure? A God who loves rocky terrain so much that He probably has made Heaven look a lot like earth? A God who created tons of tastes for our tastebuds? A God who seems to love cuddling cause he pretty much makes all the mammals of the earth cuddle their young and each other? What are we to do with this personal God who went so far as to do some theater stuff and "stretched out his hand to a people" to show his love? Ah, those open arms of our Lord! Or a God who -- after the devil has been chained for 1000 years-- releases said devil so God can see who really loves Him?

This is why we have a God who hates the lukewarm -- the Lukewarm are not hot or cold to anything...and God is anything but a machine. As Archbishop Tutu once said, "God is biased." God loves justice and mercy. He hates injustice, he hates divorce, he hates to see the rights of the poor, foreign, and fatherless trampled on.

A segue for the moment: I think some people think of demons as "putting a bad thought into someone's head." It's as if the demons themselves aren't really overcome with their sins...but just are using these emotions. For instance, it might be possible that demons of racism aren't just putting racist thoughts into people....they might really be downright racist. They might, for instance, hate Black people for a reason...maybe because we look like God's original human creation, Adam.

When I saw the angel near my bed, he was so loving and so sweet and so giddy with joy. It was utterly weird. At that time I suspected angels were holy and I defined holiness as a kind of distant yet good thing. But this angel was brimming over with joy to an almost flaky extent. He looked at me as if to say, "I know everything about you. Yes, you! And I love you, love you, love you anyway!" I always used to wonder why I was not allowed to see his face in a kind of human way but was instead shown all his features as a line drawing of light. But I think I understand now. I have such a temptation to love beauty -- the creature more than the Creator-- that if I had actually seen his face in the normal way I probably would've developed a crush on him. Yet, in some strange way, he shows up -- as all the great Bible princes in the Bible show up-- in my novels. But God spared me from worshiping of angels in this case.

Anyway, the upshot is that in the west, we are taught that emotionality is a bad thing. Supposedly it makes us do irrational things. But emotionality is only bad if the emotions come from an unpure heart. Just as reasoning from an evil heart leads is unfair, so emotions from a heart that is good, holy, pure, and loving can only lead to good. A personal God can have a favorite nation if He wants...not because those in that nation are any better than those in other nations but because God has chosen to love them.

It is quite possible that the world is based on emotions...and emotions are not so bad at all. Joy rules the world. Sure, another God could have made us -- a theistic God we modern westerners could respect. But we have what we have...or rather...we have WHO we have. This is the personality of the God of the universe. We have to live with it. Is He so bad?

How I love Jesus because He first loved me!


J. M. Butler said...

Really good article. You are absolutely right that we tend to not like emotionality, but I think that it is a very good quality. It's hard to imagine and deal with a God who really does have a personality and emotions, but at the same time, I wouldn't deal with any other. thanks so much for sharing!

Carole McDonnell said...

Thanks, Jessica.

So true... and Modern Christianity is so Aristotlean in the way it approaches the heart, visions, passion in its proper cold kinda way.

It squelches.


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