God Hates You: Un-Christian Rhetoric

“George Bush hates the environment.”

“Obama is anti-American.”

“John McCain is a warmonger.”

“Hillary is a control freak.”

“Bill Clinton has no morals.”

“Reagan only cared about the rich.”

These are just a few of the extreme statements that otherwise fairly reasonable people bandy about every day. And of course, none of these statements are the least bit reasonable, just as most exaggerations are not. So I guess there should be no surprise when we encounter exaggerations about God from otherwise reasonable folk ( Well, not all of them are ever that reasonable, now that I think about it ):

“You know,don’t you, that by getting your Catholic husband to attend your Protestant church that you have condemned him to Hell?” (This was said by an in-law to a young wife, overheard by myself at a party.)

“How does it make you feel knowing that your dead atheist friend is in hell?” (This spoken by a local youth group leader to a lesbian teen ager at her friend’s funeral. My daughter’s fiancé was witness to this.)

“Your mother is in one of two places. Either beside our lord or burning forever in the fiery pit of hell for all eternity, where there is never ending pain and only weeping and gnashing of teeth. Since she was not a believer let’s hope she chose Jesus on her death bed.” (A ‘friendly’ comment on hyper-reformed website, which I think is just a tad ironic.)

“I don’t have to ask people what their troubles are. I know what the source of everyone’s trouble is and I also know the only prescription; Jesus Christ”. (Another comment on another fundamentalist website.)

“God hates fags and they will spend eternity paying for their abomination.” (Fred Phelps)

“It’s just as well for her there’s no such thing as divine judgment.” (Christopher Hitchens on Mother Theresa)

This is the way people talk – in extremes. Barry Goldwater once said that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. I’m sure that Stalin would have heartily agreed with him.

I would guess that most, if not all, extremist feel that they have the moral high ground or at least have access to the undisputed truth. And of course they all cannot. My question is; do any of them?

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  1. #1 by Christian Beyer on July 23, 2008 - 8:17 pm

    Well, I think that’s the point of parables – there is no one explanation. Each person comes to each story with their own perspective, their own baggage. just like the people who first heard them. Of course it is possible for us to shed some of this baggage, perhaps with the help of the parable itself and see another element. They’re layered like onions.

    I think that if we don’t allow ourselves to grow we stop seeing new meanings in these stories.

    I think that if the son was selfish or ungrateful that would be a different story, and Jesus told some of them. God does not force us to accept his love and he does not force us to accept salvation.

    I don’t see the squandered inheritance as being analogous to an atoning sacrifice. The gift of love, perhaps. God’s grace.

  2. #2 by deathtotheworld on July 24, 2008 - 10:37 am

    BuddyO –

    the father’s “portion of everything he owned, the sons full inheritance” is the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, God Himself. He is Life, and to be ‘saved’ is to be united to that Life.

    It isn’t correct to approach this parable with a ‘what if this happened’ attitude. God has revealed Himself through this teaching, which is a clear expression of God’s infinite and unquestioning love. It isn’t our job to know more about God than he revealed to us.

    God is uncreated – we are created. We are different. When we get angry or offended, this is because we are fallen. When you are supposed to meet someone at 6, and they show up at 7, and you get angry at the person, and say, you need to make this up to me, that is a result of a fallen human nature.

    To ascribe that fallenness to God, who is uncreated, pre-eternal, infinitely good, without beginning or end, is a grave error.

    You say that people bring their baggage to scriptural interpretation (I would add they bring it to translation as well). This is true. It is a fallen baggage. That’s why the Church doesn’t get it’s doctrines and dogmas from fallen men but from Christ, who gave His teachings to the Apostles, who handed them to their disciples, and so forth. This is why if you examine the teachings of the Seven Ecumenical Councils against heresy, for example, although they of course use scripture in their proofs, they don’t say, well, I think that this verse means this, but someone else may disagree. They say, this faith has been held by the Church since the beginning, and proceed from there.

    That is why it is important to look at what the Early Church consistently believed about the crucifixion. That doesn’t mean that certain people didn’t bring their own baggage and interpret the scriptures incorrectly. What it means is that there has always been, and continues to be, a one, unified body of Christ which holds the same faith that was given to the Apostles.

    If you do not think it is responsible for me to base my understandings of the biblical words of ‘justice’ and ‘mercy’ and ‘sin’ on the understanding of those who wrote them and those who learned at the feet of the Apostles, and those who protected and passed those scriptures down to us since the Church’s beginning, then why do you accept those scriptures in the first place? Do you think that these spiritual giants, who were martyred for holding to correct teaching and practice, who in the face of death refused to renounce Christ’s divinity, were in spiritual darkness, up until the 13th century in the West when the satisfaction theory of atonement was invented?

    Of course I do not actually think that you think that, or that you are saying that, but my point is that it makes more sense to trust their unanimous interpretation than that of Anselm, or Acquinas, or Luther, or Calvin.

    The satisfaction theory was promulgated first in the Roman Catholic Church, and then brought to it’s extremes by the reformers, who brought it to America. That theory, whether we like it or not, has dominated western notions of salvation from the Medieval era onwards. Why choose this understanding over the vastly different, kinder, and more biblically accurate understanding of the Early Church?

    Blessings and Peace

  3. #3 by BuddyO on July 24, 2008 - 4:02 pm

    It isn’t correct to approach this parable with a ‘what if this happened’ attitude

    That’s exactly my point…

    I love church history especially the very early church… but remember Jesus wasn’t to thrilled with even the earliest of Christian churches…

    Why choose this understanding over the vastly different, kinder, and more biblically accurate understanding of the Early Church?

    Why choose either… that’s my point. I prefer not to choose any systematic understandings.

  4. #4 by Christian Beyer on July 24, 2008 - 5:02 pm

    Well, I can see both points of view here. I tend to make up my own mind about things, including God, rather than try to make doctrine fit my understanding. I’m with Buddy on systematic theology.

    But if I understand Alex here, the earliest church fathers (I assume prior to Origen?) were not inclined to embrace systematics. Their way of understanding Christ was not burdened by what we have come to faithfully accept as true doctrine.

    I like this;

    God is uncreated – we are created. We are different. When we get angry or offended, this is because we are fallen. When you are supposed to meet someone at 6, and they show up at 7, and you get angry at the person, and say, you need to make this up to me, that is a result of a fallen human nature.

    To ascribe that fallenness to God, who is uncreated, pre-eternal, infinitely good, without beginning or end, is a grave error.

    I’ve thought of this before. God is not egotistical – can he be offended? I’ve heard it said that Christians should never have cause to take offense, wouldn’t that be the case with God? And I think that is exactly what we do here, we assume God, like us, always wants to settle the score. But how could the score ever be settled?

    Some will say that the crucifixion is just that which settled the score for us and God. But Jesus’ sacrificial act seems to say that not only will God not call in his debts but he will give us even more. And I think that this aspect of Jesus’ future sacrifice can be found in the parable of the father and son.

  5. #5 by deathtotheworld on July 24, 2008 - 6:58 pm

    BuddyO and Christain, thanks for the kind dialogue.

    Christian, as to whether or not the Early Church embraced systematic theology, it sort of depends on what you mean. Although they sometimes used science and philosophy to explain the Faith, they certainly did not build their faith upon philosophy and human reason, and believed that to do so can possibly distort the message of salvation. Even though they did have intellectual giants, the true theologians were those who, through the work of the Holy Spirit, became like Christ. An uneducated peasant, who has never learned to read, yet through prayer, and fasting, embraces and is transformed by the Life of God – this is a true theologian.

    That being said, of course, these saintly people become martyrs for the Faith. And the Faith includes dogmas. Is it a burden to know that Jesus is both God and man? Does it close in one’s soul to know that the Father begets the Son and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father? Jesus Himself tells us this in scripture! So if by embracing systematic theology you mean that some bald guys with big brains sat down and rationalized God, then no they did not embrace it. If, however, you mean that they believed in a complete Faith, given to them by the Apostles, then yes they did.

    Btw, your last paragraph is wonderful. I agree %100.

    BuddyO, I am glad to hear that you learn about the Early Church. There is something which I am not sure is being captured in our conversation which has become important, which is that their view of ‘The Church’ is not really something which is shared in Western Christendom.

    The Church is the Body of Christ. So when Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians, God appeared to Him (in a way) and said “Saul, why are you persecuting ME”? We sometime take this Truth to the extreme, saying that Christ IS the Church. Just as with Christ there “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning”(James 1:10), so the Church, being the Body of Christ, does not change. More people can join the Church, visibly and possibly invisibly, but the Body of Christ is the same – in the past, in the present, and even in heaven.

    Secondly, and more directly, the Church, being the body of Christ, has a head, who is Christ. Our head, our leader, does not change, but is the same, now and forever.

    Christ promised His followers that regarding the Church, “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Mathew 16:18). It is by virtue of God’s action in the Church, not by the work of men, that the Church is kept free from error.

    I raise this point because I feel that ‘dogma’ and ‘systematic theology’ receive their negative connotation in part because of a different, more human understandings of what the Church as they developed in the West (first starting with a Church whose unity depends on a visible allegiance to one bishop of a particular see, going then to Anglicanism, and to the reformers)

    I also raise it because I do not see how the Church can truly be the unified body of Christ if 1) we are not united to Apostles and their followers in faith, and 2) we are our own source of dogma – meaning ultimately that we are united to those who happen to incidentally share the same dogmas as us.

    What do you think?

    Blessings, and Peace

  6. #6 by Christian Beyer on July 25, 2008 - 9:09 am

    We are discussing this another thread right now. My comment here pretty much answers your question:

    https://sharpiron.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/ten-answers-church-relevancy/#comment-5350

  7. #7 by deathtotheworld on July 25, 2008 - 10:51 am

    I like your comment.

    I would say you are right of course, that the Body of Christ cannot by united solely by doctrine, but perhaps for a different reason.

    Dogma, as I see it, is only part of the Faith (note that we have for some time here been talking about the dogma of redemption, and while maybe we don’t all agree here on the issue, it does seem that we do believe that redemption means something, and that there is a true and untrue way of describing it.)

    The Church is the Body of Christ. Who did Christ say He is? The Truth, the Way, and the Life. Therefore when we talk about unity, we must be united in the whole person. Dogmas (such as, for example, the incarnation) are tied in to the Way and the Life, just as earlier Christians also referred to the Christian Life and Way to defend right belief. Athanasius, for example, who is credited with being really the defender of the Faith against Arianism (the belief that Jesus is a created being, not God), based his defense largely on the Eucharist and its relevance.

    Orthodoxy has a double meaning. Ortho – in Greek – means right, or correct. But Doxa can mean two things: belief, on the one hand, and glory, or worship, on the other. So the word means right worship and right belief.

    Right worship of course doesn’t refer just to strict guidelines in liturgy. It is how we connect to God on a daily basis and pray. So, for example, the Early Church taught that when we pray to Jesus, that we should never try to make an image of Him in our heads, since God is pure spirit. These are things that effect our connection to God, and our walk with Him.

    So I would argue that it isn’t dogma in itself that has a negative impact on the body of Christ (unless it is incorrect dogma, of course, such as the total depravity dogma) – it is when dogma becomes cold, isolated, systematic, if you like, and separate from the person of Jesus Christ that it becomes ruinous. At that point, you are following intellectual facts or ideas, not a person. And then, you aren’t left with the Body of Christ, but the Body of Dogma.

    I would point out though in response to your comment that you shouldn’t despair – remember, Jesus said that “the gates of Hades will not prevail” against the Body of Christ. From my perspective, unity is given to us by God. While we can take action to cut off those things which threatens the health of the Church, remember that Christ cannot be divided.

    Blessings – this has been probably the most interesting, and definitely the longest blog discussion I’ve had.

    Alex

  8. #8 by Christian Beyer on July 25, 2008 - 11:06 am

    it is when dogma becomes cold, isolated, systematic, if you like, and separate from the person of Jesus Christ that it becomes ruinous. At that point, you are following intellectual facts or ideas, not a person. And then, you aren’t left with the Body of Christ, but the Body of Dogma.

    Good point. And I think that is what happens when the church is dogmatic about it’s doctrines – when it tells people that in order to belong they must believe in certain doctrines or in lieu of that, take it on ‘faith’. Telling someone that they must believe Jesus is an uncreated being or that the Godhead consists of three persons is as effective as telling a depressed person to just ‘be happy’. The church may certainly hold these doctrines dear but they must not expect an overnight ‘conversion’ experience from the individual.

    And this must be one reason why Jesus’ most effective teachings are his parables and the example of his life and death. Those long diatribes that we find primarily in John and later in the epistles tend to create doctrines. The understanding one gets from his parables – that “Ah ha!” – helps to instill belief.

    Thanks Alex. Your participation is not only welcome, it has greatly encouraged the discussion.

  9. #9 by BuddyO on July 25, 2008 - 11:07 am

    Guys,
    While I appreciate the time and thought you put into your responses, I’m going to bow out. This is the sort of discussion I once would have relished, but now I am consciously trying to avoid.

  10. #10 by Christian Beyer on July 25, 2008 - 11:09 am

    Why?

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