Uh-oh

Jim Linville shared the above cartoon on Facebook. There have been lots of variations on it. All of them either play into, or poke fun at, the very common idea that God is like human beings, essentially supporting one team and holding a grudge against others. That way of depicting God ought to be regarded as blasphemous by anyone who has given it even a moment’s thought – not to mention those who’ve grasped the emphasis in some biblical texts that “God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34) and “there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). Of course, some biblical texts promote this very idea – which is why, if one is to have any hope of incorporating the Bible’s library into a coherent belief system, one must identify core principles and relativize individual passages in light of them.

  • http://bobcornwall.com/ Robert Cornwall

    James — thanks for the reminder that when we come to Scripture, we must recognize that we will have to make interpretive choices that are rooted in our theology — understanding of who God is.

  • Gary

    But John tried to give them a heads-up. Rev 5:6 “And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth.”

  • David_Evans

    It’s not really about supporting a team, is it? “Uh oh” here does not mean “I was on the wrong team” (in a game where both sides agree on the rules), it means “All my life I’ve been playing by the wrong rules”. Bad news, since the OT and the Qur’an are full of warnings about what God does to those who get the rules wrong.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I suspect that all of those depicted as reacting this way share certain assumptions about the rules, or rule – offer obeissance to the right figure and feel relieved rather than dismayed when you encounter him after you die. But I think we may be getting at the same thing, just using different terminology.

  • Speusippus

    “…[I]f one is to have any hope of incorporating the Bible’s library into a coherent belief system, one must identify core principles and relativize individual passages in light of them.”

    That seems right to me. But is there a principled way to identify core principles in the library? (no pun intended…)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I don’t think that there is something that makes the identification of core principles self-evident. And even someone who accepted Jesus’ proposed core principles – love for God and neighbor – could have applied those principles very differently than he did and related them differently to one another. But I think that any attempt to be consistent about guiding principles can be “principled” (pun intended or not, it is a good one).

  • guest

    Why do you assume the passages you quote are about core principles and all the passages about the jews being the chosen people of God are not? Yahweh’s always seemed like a very tribal god to me. Even Jesus’ followers weren’t sure whether to include gentiles. And then there’s the treatment of women…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I don’t assume that they are core principles in any inherent sense – they are whatever readers make them, although clearly God’s impartiality is a persistent theme alongside God’s partiality. Using moral discernment, and choosing for oneself core principles that noble and good, is no one else’s responsibility than our own.


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