The Four Gods

Baylor sociologists Paul Froese and Christopher Bader have conducted research into people’s conception of God. They published their findings in a new book America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God — And What That Says About Us. They found that Americans have four different assumptions about what God is like. They also found correlations between the kind of God someone believes in and their political and moral beliefs. Here are America’s four Gods:

The Authoritative God. When conservatives Sarah Palin or Glenn 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.”

Asked about the Baylor findings, Philip Yancey, author of What Good Is God?, says he moved from the Authoritative God of his youth — “a scowling, super-policeman in the sky, waiting to smash someone having a good time” — to a “God like a doctor who has my best interest at heart, even if sometimes I don’t like his diagnosis or prescriptions.”

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.’ ”

Bader says Whittington described how ” ‘our cars that are breaking down here will be chariots in heaven. Our empty bank accounts will be storehouses with the Lord.’ ”

•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.

via Americans’ views of God shape attitudes on key issues – USATODAY.com.

Isn’t it true that none of these, in isolation, is anything like the Christian God?  Surely Christians believe that God has ALL of these qualities.  Christians believe that God is a Trinity, that He is complex and a mystery.  (And if natural laws, such as we are seeing with quantum physics are complex and mysterious, shouldn’t God be far more so?  And yet people insist on these simplistic, anthropomorphic, unitarian deities.)  While each of these deities can be adapted into an ecumenical paradigm in which all religions “have the same God,” the Christian God is completely different from these four, each of which is some variation of a transcendent deity looking down on the creation.  Notice that there is no category for God Incarnate.

No wonder churches are so weak and Christians’ faith is so anemic, if they don’t have the right God.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • trotk

    This is the sort of research that strikes me as overly simplistic. As you said, all of these things are aspects of the true God, and just because someone speaks of one doesn’t mean he disregards the other. If a pastor preached one Sunday on the law, and the next on grace, these researchers would come to the conclusion that he was confused between two views.

  • trotk

    This is the sort of research that strikes me as overly simplistic. As you said, all of these things are aspects of the true God, and just because someone speaks of one doesn’t mean he disregards the other. If a pastor preached one Sunday on the law, and the next on grace, these researchers would come to the conclusion that he was confused between two views.

  • Tom Hering

    I mentioned in another thread that I’ve been watching “God In America” on PBS. The history presented in this series makes it pretty clear that the Authoritative God is the god that the vast majority of American believed in, from the time of the Pilgrims to the mid-twentieth century – when Modernism and its handmaiden, theological liberalism, began to win more hearts and minds.

    It was interesting to learn how the Scopes Trial wasn’t about creeping secularism, but rather a battle between liberal and traditional Christians. And how the traditionalists (led by Jennings, who spoke for then-widespread Fundamentalism) saw the teaching of evolution as a threat to America’s covenant with the Authoritative God. (The great wave of immigration in the nineteenth century was an earlier threat.)

    The one theme that has run through all of America’s history is the “city upon a hill” (John Winthrop) – the idea of America as a covenant nation. America will acknowledge the Authoritative God, and the Authoritative God will bless America. America will create a society that is increasingly moral, and the Authoritative God will not withdraw his blessings, nor visit his wrath upon America. America’s divine mission is to be an example to the world.

    Strangely, most theological liberals never abandoned American exceptionalism. Even Obama expresses it in his speeches. (Are his policies just a different way of building the city upon a hill?)

    The covenant narrative is, I think, what still underlies a lot of our contentions in America today – social, political and theological. Isn’t God’s approval in the back of all our minds? Don’t we differ in our views of what God approves of for America – because we’ve come to differ in our views of God Himself? (28%, 22%, 21%, 24%.)

  • Tom Hering

    I mentioned in another thread that I’ve been watching “God In America” on PBS. The history presented in this series makes it pretty clear that the Authoritative God is the god that the vast majority of American believed in, from the time of the Pilgrims to the mid-twentieth century – when Modernism and its handmaiden, theological liberalism, began to win more hearts and minds.

    It was interesting to learn how the Scopes Trial wasn’t about creeping secularism, but rather a battle between liberal and traditional Christians. And how the traditionalists (led by Jennings, who spoke for then-widespread Fundamentalism) saw the teaching of evolution as a threat to America’s covenant with the Authoritative God. (The great wave of immigration in the nineteenth century was an earlier threat.)

    The one theme that has run through all of America’s history is the “city upon a hill” (John Winthrop) – the idea of America as a covenant nation. America will acknowledge the Authoritative God, and the Authoritative God will bless America. America will create a society that is increasingly moral, and the Authoritative God will not withdraw his blessings, nor visit his wrath upon America. America’s divine mission is to be an example to the world.

    Strangely, most theological liberals never abandoned American exceptionalism. Even Obama expresses it in his speeches. (Are his policies just a different way of building the city upon a hill?)

    The covenant narrative is, I think, what still underlies a lot of our contentions in America today – social, political and theological. Isn’t God’s approval in the back of all our minds? Don’t we differ in our views of what God approves of for America – because we’ve come to differ in our views of God Himself? (28%, 22%, 21%, 24%.)

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Tom Hering @2

    Yup. that´s it. there is really no difference between Jerry Falwell and liberals. they have the same triumphalism and methods.

    the only difference is how they imagine a righteous world should look like.

    That first god is one of Sacrifice. A Good Work is truly good because it conforms to what God demands in his written code. The entire point of morality is to conform to God´s demands. Mercy is often a byproduct of this, but it is not really the entire point. This concept agrees with the roman catholic scholastics and also with the neo-scholastic calvinists and Lutherans where they are infected with pietism.

    The second god is one of Mercy. The entire point of earthly morality is earthly and material. The point and purpose of morality is in no way transcendent. It is thoroughly material-istic. It is entirely, about vocation, or serving others. This view agrees with Aristotle´s Virtue Ethics, and so the Lutheran Confessions align best with this view (The Lutheran Confessions assert that nothing can be added to the ethical system of pagan Aristotle). In morality there is no visible or material difference at all between christian and heathen or what they do according to Lutherans.

    Indeed the Formula of Concord art VI says that ..

    “(SD) 26] We reject and condemn as an error pernicious and detrimental to Christian discipline, as also to true godliness, the teaching that the Law, in the above-mentioned way and degree, should not be urged upon Christians and the true believers, but only upon the unbelieving, unchristians, and impenitent.”

    rephrased into a positive statement this says exactly….

    “[To the contrary, we believe, teach and confess that both Christians and Pagans alike should be urged with the SAME Law, in the SAME above mentioned way and and in the SAME above mentioned degree].”

    Lutherans insist on this view with the exact purpose of allowing faith in christ to be alone what makes one a christian.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Tom Hering @2

    Yup. that´s it. there is really no difference between Jerry Falwell and liberals. they have the same triumphalism and methods.

    the only difference is how they imagine a righteous world should look like.

    That first god is one of Sacrifice. A Good Work is truly good because it conforms to what God demands in his written code. The entire point of morality is to conform to God´s demands. Mercy is often a byproduct of this, but it is not really the entire point. This concept agrees with the roman catholic scholastics and also with the neo-scholastic calvinists and Lutherans where they are infected with pietism.

    The second god is one of Mercy. The entire point of earthly morality is earthly and material. The point and purpose of morality is in no way transcendent. It is thoroughly material-istic. It is entirely, about vocation, or serving others. This view agrees with Aristotle´s Virtue Ethics, and so the Lutheran Confessions align best with this view (The Lutheran Confessions assert that nothing can be added to the ethical system of pagan Aristotle). In morality there is no visible or material difference at all between christian and heathen or what they do according to Lutherans.

    Indeed the Formula of Concord art VI says that ..

    “(SD) 26] We reject and condemn as an error pernicious and detrimental to Christian discipline, as also to true godliness, the teaching that the Law, in the above-mentioned way and degree, should not be urged upon Christians and the true believers, but only upon the unbelieving, unchristians, and impenitent.”

    rephrased into a positive statement this says exactly….

    “[To the contrary, we believe, teach and confess that both Christians and Pagans alike should be urged with the SAME Law, in the SAME above mentioned way and and in the SAME above mentioned degree].”

    Lutherans insist on this view with the exact purpose of allowing faith in christ to be alone what makes one a christian.

  • Tom Hering

    “… there is really no difference between Jerry Falwell and liberals. they have the same triumphalism and methods … the only difference is how they imagine a righteous world should look like.” – fws @ 3.

    I hadn’t thought about it enough to reach that conclusion. But yeah, I think you’re right. Moral progress is what both sides in the culture war are all about.

  • Tom Hering

    “… there is really no difference between Jerry Falwell and liberals. they have the same triumphalism and methods … the only difference is how they imagine a righteous world should look like.” – fws @ 3.

    I hadn’t thought about it enough to reach that conclusion. But yeah, I think you’re right. Moral progress is what both sides in the culture war are all about.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    This reminds me of the Indian proverb about the seven blind men and the elephant.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    This reminds me of the Indian proverb about the seven blind men and the elephant.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I’m not sure about the distant God, but the rest are all aspects of God. of course that is normally where heresy starts, an improper emphasis on one aspect of God to the detriment of other aspects of God. The same phenomenon happens with Christian values when divorced from the over all context of the Bible. What was a good value, say a love of peace, becomes actually quite evil as people can no longer see any good reason to fight or defend their neighbor.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I’m not sure about the distant God, but the rest are all aspects of God. of course that is normally where heresy starts, an improper emphasis on one aspect of God to the detriment of other aspects of God. The same phenomenon happens with Christian values when divorced from the over all context of the Bible. What was a good value, say a love of peace, becomes actually quite evil as people can no longer see any good reason to fight or defend their neighbor.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Bror @ 6

    ‘We should not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body (mortification, self restraint, love of peace), but….

    we should help and befriend our neighbor in every bodily need (love). ”

    Seeking order or peace by ignoring the suffering of others, or injustice is no righteousness. The point and purpose of each commandment (cf Lutheran Catechisms) is always in the second positive part. The first negative part is merely a pre-requisite means to that God-willed end.

    Peace without love is pious posturing for selfish reasons.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Bror @ 6

    ‘We should not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body (mortification, self restraint, love of peace), but….

    we should help and befriend our neighbor in every bodily need (love). ”

    Seeking order or peace by ignoring the suffering of others, or injustice is no righteousness. The point and purpose of each commandment (cf Lutheran Catechisms) is always in the second positive part. The first negative part is merely a pre-requisite means to that God-willed end.

    Peace without love is pious posturing for selfish reasons.

  • WebMonk

    I’ve looked into the surveys and study a bit more, and while I haven’t run across the actual paper itself, what I have found suggests that the ones who carried it out did a LOT of simplification to the point where this sort of result would come out of any answer they got from someone describing God.

    Sort of like what trotk said – definitely simplified. I suspect from what I’ve found, is that Bror and Frank (just to use you guys for the example) would most likely get classified in one of those categories. The authors did their studies, determined what they felt the different categories were, and then assigned everyone to the category they felt was closest.

    I’ll try to track the book down at the bookstore and see what the book itself says, but from what I’ve found, my description above is the authors’ methodology. That methodology makes me suspect the results.

  • WebMonk

    I’ve looked into the surveys and study a bit more, and while I haven’t run across the actual paper itself, what I have found suggests that the ones who carried it out did a LOT of simplification to the point where this sort of result would come out of any answer they got from someone describing God.

    Sort of like what trotk said – definitely simplified. I suspect from what I’ve found, is that Bror and Frank (just to use you guys for the example) would most likely get classified in one of those categories. The authors did their studies, determined what they felt the different categories were, and then assigned everyone to the category they felt was closest.

    I’ll try to track the book down at the bookstore and see what the book itself says, but from what I’ve found, my description above is the authors’ methodology. That methodology makes me suspect the results.

  • MikeD

    to fws @ #2 said, “Lutherans insist on this view with the exact purpose of allowing faith in christ to be alone what makes one a christian.” I agree totally.

    But from a week or two ago on the post about Obama’s profession and the ensuing discussion of being a Christian and a baptized person reply to Trey’s comment, “I think if he believes in Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sins and clings to the Word then yes he is a Christian.”…

    …with the following, “Dear brother Trey. This is not a Lutheran statement. Our believing is not what makes us a Christian or not. How can you be sure dear Trey that even you yourself believe in a way or degree that is sufficient for your salvation in that case? You cannot. It is Whom we believe in Who makes us Christian in our baptism.”

    I bring this up, I promise, not to “catch” anybody in anything… just for you to clarify what is Lutheran doctrine. Is our faith, our belief, our pisits, the sole instrument through which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us or not? Thanks in advance.

  • MikeD

    to fws @ #2 said, “Lutherans insist on this view with the exact purpose of allowing faith in christ to be alone what makes one a christian.” I agree totally.

    But from a week or two ago on the post about Obama’s profession and the ensuing discussion of being a Christian and a baptized person reply to Trey’s comment, “I think if he believes in Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sins and clings to the Word then yes he is a Christian.”…

    …with the following, “Dear brother Trey. This is not a Lutheran statement. Our believing is not what makes us a Christian or not. How can you be sure dear Trey that even you yourself believe in a way or degree that is sufficient for your salvation in that case? You cannot. It is Whom we believe in Who makes us Christian in our baptism.”

    I bring this up, I promise, not to “catch” anybody in anything… just for you to clarify what is Lutheran doctrine. Is our faith, our belief, our pisits, the sole instrument through which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us or not? Thanks in advance.

  • Frank M.

    When I read that Glenn Beck now allegedly speaks for Christians, I have to laugh.
    Glenn Beck is a Mormon. No disrespect to Mormons individually, but I do not consider them Christians. When Christian Conservatives line up to rally behind him they should be aware of the things that church believes in. They hold weird teachings and beliefs that are totally incompatible with the essence of Christianity. Personally, Glenn Beck reminds me of Joseph Goebbels, the head propagandist and strategist of the Nazis.
    I don’t care what he thinks or says, and certainly not what his perception of God is.

  • Frank M.

    When I read that Glenn Beck now allegedly speaks for Christians, I have to laugh.
    Glenn Beck is a Mormon. No disrespect to Mormons individually, but I do not consider them Christians. When Christian Conservatives line up to rally behind him they should be aware of the things that church believes in. They hold weird teachings and beliefs that are totally incompatible with the essence of Christianity. Personally, Glenn Beck reminds me of Joseph Goebbels, the head propagandist and strategist of the Nazis.
    I don’t care what he thinks or says, and certainly not what his perception of God is.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Mike D @ 9

    Dang. You caught me! Sort of.

    “Lutherans insist on this view with the exact purpose of allowing faith in christ to be alone what makes one a christian.” I agree totally.

    Here is how a Lutheran resolves this:

    Faith is something we do . It is a work. It is something that God in his Law demands of every human being. It is the first commandment. And the lack of this faith is exactly what it is that is sinful about us. It is in fact the only one of the 10 commandments that man cannot do with his own reason or strength. Fallen reason is able to outwardly do all the other commandments but this one commandment requires the heart. Fallen men cannot do this.

    Luther :

    “You must not understand the word law here in human fashion, i.e., a regulation about what sort of works must be done or must not be done. That’s the way it is with human laws: you satisfy the demands of the law with works, whether your heart is in it or not. God judges what is in the depths of the heart. Therefore his law also makes demands on the depths of the heart and doesn’t let the heart rest content in works; rather it punishes as hypocrisy and lies all works done apart from the depths of the heart. All human beings are called liars (Psalm 116), since none of them keeps or can keep God’s law from the depths of the heart. …In chapter 7, St. Paul says, “The law is spiritual.” What does that mean? If the law were physical, then it could be satisfied by works, but since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy it unless everything he does springs from the depths of the heart….

    Sin in the Scriptures means not only external works of the body but also all those movements within us which bestir themselves and move us to do the external works, namely, the depth of the heart with all its powers. Therefore the word do should refer to a person’s completely falling into sin. No external work of sin happens, after all, unless a person commit himself to it completely, body and soul. In particular, the Scriptures see into the heart, to the root and main source of all sin: unbelief in the depth of the heart. Thus, even as faith alone makes just and brings the Spirit and the desire to do good external works, so it is only unbelief which sins and exalts the flesh and brings desire to do evil external works. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise (cf. Genesis 3)….

    That is why only unbelief is called sin by Christ, as he says in John, chapter 16, “The Spirit will punish the world because of sin, because it does not believe in me.” Furthermore, before good or bad works happen, which are the good or bad fruits of the heart, there has to be present in the heart either faith or unbelief, the root, sap and chief power of all sin. That is why, in the Scriptures, unbelief is called the head of the serpent and of the ancient dragon which the offspring of the woman, i.e. Christ, must crush, as was promised to Adam (cf. Genesis 3). Grace and gift differ in that grace actually denotes God’s kindness or favor which he has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us, as becomes clear from chapter 5, where Paul says, “Grace and gift are in Christ, etc.” The gifts and the Spirit increase daily in us, yet they are not complete, since evil desires and sins remain in us which war against the Spirit, as Paul says in chapter 7, and in Galations, chapter 5. And Genesis, chapter 3, proclaims the enmity between the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent. But grace does do this much: that we are accounted completely just before God. God’s grace is not divided into bits and pieces, as are the gifts, but grace takes us up completely into God’s favor for the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that the gifts may begin their work in us. ”

    So we are saved by grace, through faith, but that faith is not something we can do. It is a gift, and the usefulness of that gift is alone in what it clings to , christ alone.

    There are many politicians who extol faith as a virtue. Faith is only useful if the object of that faith is True. So the focus of faith is not faith itself. That would lead to despair since we have no true or substantial faith in and of ourselves. the fact that we sin is ample proof of this. The focus is on The Faith. On that object of our faith Christ.

    So how do we determine if someone is a christian or not? We don´t! In charity we accept at face value someones baptism. and we leave it to the Lord to separate sheep from goat and weed from wheat at the last day.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    Mike D @ 9

    Dang. You caught me! Sort of.

    “Lutherans insist on this view with the exact purpose of allowing faith in christ to be alone what makes one a christian.” I agree totally.

    Here is how a Lutheran resolves this:

    Faith is something we do . It is a work. It is something that God in his Law demands of every human being. It is the first commandment. And the lack of this faith is exactly what it is that is sinful about us. It is in fact the only one of the 10 commandments that man cannot do with his own reason or strength. Fallen reason is able to outwardly do all the other commandments but this one commandment requires the heart. Fallen men cannot do this.

    Luther :

    “You must not understand the word law here in human fashion, i.e., a regulation about what sort of works must be done or must not be done. That’s the way it is with human laws: you satisfy the demands of the law with works, whether your heart is in it or not. God judges what is in the depths of the heart. Therefore his law also makes demands on the depths of the heart and doesn’t let the heart rest content in works; rather it punishes as hypocrisy and lies all works done apart from the depths of the heart. All human beings are called liars (Psalm 116), since none of them keeps or can keep God’s law from the depths of the heart. …In chapter 7, St. Paul says, “The law is spiritual.” What does that mean? If the law were physical, then it could be satisfied by works, but since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy it unless everything he does springs from the depths of the heart….

    Sin in the Scriptures means not only external works of the body but also all those movements within us which bestir themselves and move us to do the external works, namely, the depth of the heart with all its powers. Therefore the word do should refer to a person’s completely falling into sin. No external work of sin happens, after all, unless a person commit himself to it completely, body and soul. In particular, the Scriptures see into the heart, to the root and main source of all sin: unbelief in the depth of the heart. Thus, even as faith alone makes just and brings the Spirit and the desire to do good external works, so it is only unbelief which sins and exalts the flesh and brings desire to do evil external works. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise (cf. Genesis 3)….

    That is why only unbelief is called sin by Christ, as he says in John, chapter 16, “The Spirit will punish the world because of sin, because it does not believe in me.” Furthermore, before good or bad works happen, which are the good or bad fruits of the heart, there has to be present in the heart either faith or unbelief, the root, sap and chief power of all sin. That is why, in the Scriptures, unbelief is called the head of the serpent and of the ancient dragon which the offspring of the woman, i.e. Christ, must crush, as was promised to Adam (cf. Genesis 3). Grace and gift differ in that grace actually denotes God’s kindness or favor which he has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us, as becomes clear from chapter 5, where Paul says, “Grace and gift are in Christ, etc.” The gifts and the Spirit increase daily in us, yet they are not complete, since evil desires and sins remain in us which war against the Spirit, as Paul says in chapter 7, and in Galations, chapter 5. And Genesis, chapter 3, proclaims the enmity between the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent. But grace does do this much: that we are accounted completely just before God. God’s grace is not divided into bits and pieces, as are the gifts, but grace takes us up completely into God’s favor for the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that the gifts may begin their work in us. ”

    So we are saved by grace, through faith, but that faith is not something we can do. It is a gift, and the usefulness of that gift is alone in what it clings to , christ alone.

    There are many politicians who extol faith as a virtue. Faith is only useful if the object of that faith is True. So the focus of faith is not faith itself. That would lead to despair since we have no true or substantial faith in and of ourselves. the fact that we sin is ample proof of this. The focus is on The Faith. On that object of our faith Christ.

    So how do we determine if someone is a christian or not? We don´t! In charity we accept at face value someones baptism. and we leave it to the Lord to separate sheep from goat and weed from wheat at the last day.

  • LaRoyce

    “Christians believe that God is a Trinity, that He is complex and a mystery.”

    Could this be the reason why “churches are so weak and Christians’ faith is so anemic” because God is “complex and a mystery”? It is quite difficult to believe what you don’t understand. And how do you know God is complex and a mystery? And if he is “complex and a mystery” how do you even know if he is a Trinity?

    I would agree that Christians believe that God is a Trinity, but I never read in Scritpure where it says or implies that God is “complex and a mystery”…

  • LaRoyce

    “Christians believe that God is a Trinity, that He is complex and a mystery.”

    Could this be the reason why “churches are so weak and Christians’ faith is so anemic” because God is “complex and a mystery”? It is quite difficult to believe what you don’t understand. And how do you know God is complex and a mystery? And if he is “complex and a mystery” how do you even know if he is a Trinity?

    I would agree that Christians believe that God is a Trinity, but I never read in Scritpure where it says or implies that God is “complex and a mystery”…

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Well said, gracious host. I’m always sad to see arbitary categories that don’t have anything to do with the ultimate reality.

    On the other hand, perhaps the arbitrary, yet unreal, categories might expose the shallowness of our theology if, and only if, it is contrasted with a real, Biblical view of God. My pastor spent Wednesday nights for a few months covering some of what we learn about Him simply from His names–what a blessing.

    That said, it stands to reason that instead of creating and tearing down false categories, maybe it would be a better use of our time to simply learn the real attributes of God.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Well said, gracious host. I’m always sad to see arbitary categories that don’t have anything to do with the ultimate reality.

    On the other hand, perhaps the arbitrary, yet unreal, categories might expose the shallowness of our theology if, and only if, it is contrasted with a real, Biblical view of God. My pastor spent Wednesday nights for a few months covering some of what we learn about Him simply from His names–what a blessing.

    That said, it stands to reason that instead of creating and tearing down false categories, maybe it would be a better use of our time to simply learn the real attributes of God.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I lean towards the benevolent characterization. I see separation from God as bad, evil, etc. My fear is that separation.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    I lean towards the benevolent characterization. I see separation from God as bad, evil, etc. My fear is that separation.

  • SKPeterson

    @LaRoyce #12 – it is never detailed in terms of “complex,” but use the word “holy,” which in Hebrew is “separate” and you get quite close. God is God – Holy and wholly Other. The mystery then is multifold: Why does a God who is holy interact with man, a fallen creature? How is God revealed as Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Luther also talks of the hiddenness of God. We know only what has been revealed, but we cannot assume that that is all there is to know about God, only that it is what is sufficient for us to know.

    So, we come to understand God as Trinity through the Scripture, but we cannot completely fathom the relationships between essence and persons as revealed. Luther likens it as analagous to a man’s words and thoughts being part of who he is, so that when thinking or formulating a plan, a man will often talk to himself and declare courses of actions, what will or will not be done. This too comes close, but is only a pale shadow of what the reality of the Trinity truly is. God may be a Quadity or a Quinitity or an Infinity, but He has not been revealed to us as such – only as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This too is mystery – the secret of God’s plan becomes revealed.

  • SKPeterson

    @LaRoyce #12 – it is never detailed in terms of “complex,” but use the word “holy,” which in Hebrew is “separate” and you get quite close. God is God – Holy and wholly Other. The mystery then is multifold: Why does a God who is holy interact with man, a fallen creature? How is God revealed as Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Luther also talks of the hiddenness of God. We know only what has been revealed, but we cannot assume that that is all there is to know about God, only that it is what is sufficient for us to know.

    So, we come to understand God as Trinity through the Scripture, but we cannot completely fathom the relationships between essence and persons as revealed. Luther likens it as analagous to a man’s words and thoughts being part of who he is, so that when thinking or formulating a plan, a man will often talk to himself and declare courses of actions, what will or will not be done. This too comes close, but is only a pale shadow of what the reality of the Trinity truly is. God may be a Quadity or a Quinitity or an Infinity, but He has not been revealed to us as such – only as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This too is mystery – the secret of God’s plan becomes revealed.

  • Pingback: Linkathon 10/13, part 2 « BrianD blog

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  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The Indian proverb about the seven blind men and the elephant. LOL.

    In order to use that argument about the nature of God, you have to be arrogant enough to think that you yourself are sitting on high looking down on the blind men fumbling about.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The Indian proverb about the seven blind men and the elephant. LOL.

    In order to use that argument about the nature of God, you have to be arrogant enough to think that you yourself are sitting on high looking down on the blind men fumbling about.

  • Arfies

    Perhaps LaRoyce @ 12 has hit on something important—but in the wrong direction. Maybe churches are weak because we have done too much simplifying of God and not enough emphasizing that God is far too complex and mysterious to be reduced to what we can fully understand. In the face of that mystery, we rejoice that God has chosen to enter our world as one of us and has revealed not only his Law but also his magnificent, unimaginable Grace!

  • Arfies

    Perhaps LaRoyce @ 12 has hit on something important—but in the wrong direction. Maybe churches are weak because we have done too much simplifying of God and not enough emphasizing that God is far too complex and mysterious to be reduced to what we can fully understand. In the face of that mystery, we rejoice that God has chosen to enter our world as one of us and has revealed not only his Law but also his magnificent, unimaginable Grace!

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Mike; if we’ve understood a good portion about what the Bible says about Him, are we not effectively watching from a good vantage point? At the very least, we can rebuke the ultra-simplistic notions.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Mike; if we’ve understood a good portion about what the Bible says about Him, are we not effectively watching from a good vantage point? At the very least, we can rebuke the ultra-simplistic notions.

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