Friday, March 18, 2011

The Difference Between God As He Is & God How We Want Him To Be: Part 1

There is a massive dichotomy in religious circles when it comes to the understanding of God. I say dichotomy, because it can simply be boiled down two two views: the way we want/think/presume/expect God to be, and the way that He is.

Granted, with all the diversity present in religious groups, our views of who we think God is are vastly different. But, they're all views and understandings created by humanity. Our view of God is shaped by what we are taught, what we experience, what we think and reason, and ultimately, our view is flawed by our imperfections and lack of total understanding and comprehension.

And then there is truth and reality about who God really is. This can be found in the Bible, though we shouldn't expect to know and understand absolutely everything about God from reading the Bible. I say this because He is so far above us and works beyond our finite (limited) understanding, that all truth about him could not possibly be contained or explained in the Bible. (If you doubt that God is beyond or above us, then you are welcome to demonstrate your skills versus His.) Therefore, understand that you will inevitably have questions that will not be answered.

However, there is a great deal about God, His nature, His acts, His expectations of humanity, that can be discovered from reading the Bible. What is contained in the Bible is exactly what God wanted each person to know about Him, nothing more and nothing less. So we can trust that what is important, essential and relevant when it comes to the truth of who God is, is completely contained within the Scriptures.

This knowledge is important because it in turn helps us understand that any additional, non-biblical (not found in the Bible) information about God produced by man falls into the first camp of understanding. (Again, this understanding is the way we want/think/presume/expect God to be.) It is therefore unreliable and should not be taken as complete and total truth about God.

The best way to determine if what is being said/taught about God is true is to compare it to the Bible. Does the Bible back it up? Is what is being taught consistent with what you find in the Bible? If not, it should be dismissed and thrown out. We should never take a theologian, philosopher or church leader's word over the Bible.

And why is this? Because if we blindly follow the teachings of any person (well intending or ill), we can very quickly be led away from the truth.

The Apostle Paul writes of this exact problem in Galatians 1:6-24 (particularly verses 6-9 and 11-12, though the entire passage contains his argument). He warns the believers of the early church to not follow other teachings of men that are not in line with the truth presented in what is now the Bible. (Paul does not say "the Bible," but "gospel other than the one we preached to you." To find out what Paul preached, you can begin with Paul's conversion in Acts 9, continue reading the remainder of the book, and then read each of the books of the Bible written by Paul--Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.)

That being said, it is nothing new that humans are misleading and being mislead when it comes to the Bible and to who God is. This has been going on for centuries. The sad part is, even though most people now have the Bible in their own language (particularly here in America where anyone that doesn't own a Bible can get one often times for free), we are still being mislead and allowing ourselves to be mislead.

This brings me momentarily to the current debate being stirred up by a pastor by the name of Rob Bell. In his most recent book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, he attempts to work out the conflicting facts that God is loving, but people still can go to hell.

These conflicting facts are nothing new, and have bothered people for centuries. Most cannot understand this, to them it is an irreconcilable conflict, just as it is to Bell. And just as Bell has done, people in their finite understanding will attempt to reconcile the conflict. They will twist, distort and mutilate the truth of who God is so that they feel better about Him. They want to make a new reality about God that is comfortable for them.

But, if we look at who God is biblically, we will see that this is not an irreconcilable conflict, it is the truth of who God is. Of course, people will not want to accept it. They will still choose to reject it, and argue that the truth is impossible. But you, you have the ability to know and believe the truth. The question is, will you?

[To be continued in Part 2.]

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