Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ben Franklin and Bette Midler, Soul Mates in Another Life? Boxed God Conclusion

Here's why:
Ben Franklin once wrote that he could not imagine that a "Supremely Perfect" God cares a whit for "such an inconsiderable Nothing as Man."*

A late Twentieth Century pop culture icon, Bette Midler, lamented the world's woes in a hit single, From A Distance in which the refrain is, "God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us from a distance."

The "Distant God" view* is nothing new or old. It is a common response by some to the question of whether or not God is there for humanity. To acknowledge His existence based on the wonder of creation, then intellectually push Him afar--way off into heaven--but allowing that He quietly watches our shenanigans on earth is a convenience for the fallen nature. We can comfort ourselves with sentimental songs and endlessly debate the strife of mankind, while not needing to take personal responsibility for individual sin. We may, in this view, appear both loving and law-abiding in song and quips, while our hearts play fast and loose with all prurient interests and the greed of life.

True enough, directions to "heaven" cannot be found with MapQuest and is thus imagined to be an unimaginable distance away. Hence, the Lord of Earth on the throne there may be conceptualized as distant. However, such a view alone, though technically holding some truth, undermines the fullness of viewing God as He has described Himself in His scriptural revelations:

John 17: 20-21 I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Hebrews 13:5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU..."
Jesus Christ is only distant within the perspective of the believer who lives life not in the spirit but identifying with the fallen nature and desires to be attached to earthly wealth.

I like what my second eldest son wrote as a comment three or so posts back, "I think many people limit their view of God to being 'outside' their box...if you let God in your little box, and do what you can with your knowledge and (the)means God has given you, then He can take your action in your own little world and do enormous things outside your box you didn't know were possible."

My conclusions:

Since God is not distant from me but rather awesomely close in the reality of His in-dwelling Presence, I may submit fully to His authority through the righteousness of Christ; thus, I experience His deep love and express His authority through an authentic loving of others. I am comforted that this life and its injustice shall pass, and the government of Earth will rest upon the Truth and Purity of Jesus one day. In all things in the mean time, I know His Kingdom has come to Earth in my heart and share in the fruit of that wonderful state with and among my brethren fellow believers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Boxed God, Part III

The four views of God identified by Bader and Froese help us understand the many divisions within Christianity. The labeling of the views is necessary for communication, but individuals rarely recognize the limits created by identification as a believer in God as Authority or God as Benevolent. Rather we tend to identify ourselves as "Christian" first then some cultural extension labeled through association with a historical denomination, or in growing numbers, as non-denominational. (number of denominations and discussion of church authority here)

However, running through the flavor of the teachings we often hear are leanings toward one of those labels or views of God. Why? The answer is simple and angers some: we have mixed the Truth of God with the meager understanding of men.

The "authority" view of God stands on the idea of man's destiny to build societal structures governing humans, which reflect goodness, fairness and justice. As such, these frameworks must have authority to control the actions of all and in particular the lawless. Therefore, an ability to reference God will garner support from different factions of the electorate. More narrowly within the realm of the believing community, a view of God as authority supports the rule of an authority structure. Our need for authority shapes our view of Who God fundamentally is. The mixture occurring in this view is our basic sin of the pride of life. We want to be responsible for building a good world for which we will receive affirmation and glory.

The "benevolent" view of God is based on our human need for meaning. This view recognizes the frailty of man's ability to create justice and holds forth love itself as justice. Herein, the Christian experience is defined not by its authority structures (though interestingly, that high place is not always dismantled) but in its social activism. The problem here is that we begin to express a tolerance for sin in the name of a love. We strive here to reveal the love of God but end up loving ourselves for our own sakes and not for His glory. This is mixture with the lust of the eyes.

The "critical" view of God is often held by populations of the world who have been the downtrodden and exploited, or perhaps, those who have felt a need for revenge but know they cannot act on such raw feeling. The focus on the need for justice becomes an assurance that it will come at the end of time. Certainly it is true that God has told us there will be a judgment of all men for all deeds, but the limits of this view are the limits of the earthly conflicts that exist over who will control wealth, beauty, and power. By focusing on the judgment due those who make seeking such control the meaning of their lives, we play out our own greed in masked sublimation. This is mixture with the lust of the flesh. (more careful discussion of the basic sins of life found here.)

Thoughts on the "Distant God" and my conclusions are the next path in the Wild Wood.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Boxed God, Part II

In America's Four Gods, Froese and Bader analyze and label the way Americans view God. I have experienced the labels personally. I have discussed a variety of topics with others whose perspectives were clearly based on one of these views. There are a couple of thoughts and three conclusions I would share here, but it will take a post or two after this one.

I wish you could be here to do this with me over coffee. The mountains are in full blown color, and this fall startles the eye and calms the heart with God's brilliant brush--unlike any in recent memory!

I wonder if that last statement is a view of the Father's benevolence, or if it is more influenced by seeing God as distant and known only through His creation?

Therein lies a great truth shared among those of faith. God is not reduced to one side of His character and few would try to limit God to a label. (I haven't read the book--probably won't take the time--but I suspect the authors make that point, as well. At least, I hope.) Yet, the reality is, American religion and politics does just that. People of all stripes find a corner of God in which they relate to Him and from within those limits, identify "His" (read that "their") goals for society. Thus is the preaching and politicking done. Unfortunately most often to the detriment of both the spiritual experience of faith and the failure of reaching good ends in the political realm.

What is it my mother used to tell me? "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." She probably hoped for a benevolent God but kept Him in her Distant view.

Leave your coffee cup in the sink. I have to run you off, so I can get ready for work. Part three soon, maybe tomorrow.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Boxed God

From the article I mentioned in the last post, I copied the following excerpts:

"Froese and Bader's research wound up defining four ways in which Americans see God:

•The Authoritative God. When conservatives Sarah Palin orGlenn Beck proclaim that America will lose God's favor unless we get right with him, they're rallying believers in what Froese and Bader call an Authoritative God, one engaged in history and meting out harsh punishment to those who do not follow him. About 28% of the nation shares this view, according to Baylor's 2008 findings.

"They divide the world by good and evil and appeal to people who are worried, concerned and scared," Froese says. "They respond to a powerful God guiding this country, and if we don't explicitly talk about (that) God, then we have the wrong God or no God at all."

•The Benevolent God. When President Obama says he is driven to live out his Christian faith in public service, or political satirist Stephen Colbert mentions God while testifying to Congress in favor of changing immigration laws, they're speaking of what the Baylor researchers call a Benevolent God. This God is engaged in our world and loves and supports us in caring for others, a vision shared by 22% of Americans, according to Baylor's findings.

"Rhetoric that talks about the righteous vs. the heathen doesn't appeal to them," Froese says. "Their God is a force for good who cares for all people, weeps at all conflicts and will comfort all.

•The Critical God. The poor, the suffering and the exploited in this world often believe in a Critical God who keeps an eye on this world but delivers justice in the next, Bader says.

Bader says this view of God — held by 21% of Americans — was reflected in a sermon at a working-class neighborhood church the researchers visited in Rifle, Colo., in 2008. Pastor Del Whittington's theme at Open Door Church was " 'Wait until heaven, and accounts will be settled.' "

•The Distant God. Though about 5% of Americans are atheists or agnostics, Baylor found that nearly one in four (24%) see a Distant God that booted up the universe, then left humanity alone.

Others who cite a Distant God identify more with the spiritual and speak of the unknowable God behind the creation of rainbows, mountains or elegant mathematical theorems, the Baylor writers found.

This distant view is nothing new. Benjamin Franklin once wrote that he could not imagine that a "Supremely Perfect" God cares a whit for "such an inconsiderable Nothing as Man." *

Is not the God revealed by Jesus Christ all of these, and thus a Being of inscrutable wonder Who deserves to be regarded above the boxes labels create?

Next up in the Wild Wood, how the Lord is in each of these views.

*God Views. Pompa and Merrill.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

God has Made the News Again

A new book out explores American views of God.

A USA Today report about the book can be found here.

Book and its authors: America's Four Gods by Paul Froese and Christopher Bader

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nearing the Third Anniversary

Checked this my morning and my first blog post is dated 10/19/07.

I have thought much over this blog in my recent and forced hiatus. The only choice I feel to make is getting on with this public record of thoughts.

I came near to thinking the end of the blog had truly come. I have had nothing I wanted to write about for so long. An idea would float for a brief time, then simply slip away without any action from me. I tried to unearth whether or not I had lost interest or what.

Then something unusual happened. Don't want or have the time here to explain, but it got my attention.

So here is the re-launch of the blog. I still don't have a computer, nonetheless...

Does anyone want to suggest a topic?