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.

5 comments:

postmodern redneck said...

I've been reading these posts, even though I've been quiet so far.

As far as the "distant" God, my own belief is that the distance is on our side--most humans try to ignore Him as much as they can. As for the other three, they are all incomplete pictures. All too often they are seized on by some religious leaders to justify their own inclinations (I'm afraid I have known a few church leaders like this, especially the authoritarians). It is fortunate that the Ultimate Genuine Article takes such delight in busting out of the boxes we construct to contain Him.

ded said...

Great comment, Phil! I haven't dealt with the "distance" thing since I regard it as you do. It is in a little place all its own.

forever said...

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ded said...

forever and His Bride, thanks for visiting and commenting. I appreciate much the encouragement you both offer. Yes, His Bride, and thanks for the invitation!