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A New View

10 Nov

In the 10 years since I left my family I’ve often been confused about God, the Bible, spirituality, and everything that goes with it. It’s not that I didn’t want to believe. I did want to believe. The problem was that I couldn’t believe most of the things I’d been taught because I felt so violated by those beliefs. What kind of God tells someone to beat someone? That didn’t make sense to me.

Back then, my understanding of God was that He was sitting up there, waiting for me to do something that He could punish me for. He is righteous, holy and just, and He must deal with sin, unrighteousness and unholiness.

This picture is not untrue. It is merely unbalanced.

Because, in addition to God being righteous, holy and just, He is also loving, compassionate, gracious and merciful.

I remember being at Cru in college one day, and a group leader asked my group something about what the phrase “God is love” meant to us. A little light bulb turned on in my brain and I, going completely against my very quiet, very reserved personality, spoke up saying, “If God IS love, then if God were to stop loving anybody or anything for even a nanosecond, He would have to cease to exist.”

I don’t think anyone else had a clue what I was talking about, but that thought completely blew me away.

At that moment, my understanding of God switched from Him sitting up there, waving a big stick around, looking for someone to clobber. All of a sudden, the way I understood God allowed me to make mistakes and still approach Him without fear. God was suddenly compassionate. Full of grace. Merciful.

I love the following Psalm because it paints a picture of God as being a BIG, mighty God — where, when He does something, everybody notices — and yet, He is available to us, He is listening, and mostly, He is able and willing to rescue us. This is how He thinks toward us. This is how He responds to us. This is Who God is.

In my distress, I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple He heard my voice;
my cry came before Him, into His ears.

The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because He was angry.
Smoke rose from His nostrils;
consuming fire came from His mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under His feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew;
He soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him–
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of His presence clouds advanced
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot His arrows and scattered the enemies,
great bolts of lightning and routed them.
The valleys of sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, oh Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.

Psalm 18:6-19

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2 Comments

Posted by on November 10, 2012 in Current Events

 

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2 responses to “A New View

  1. W. Lotus

    November 11, 2012 at 4:42 AM

    “If God IS love, then if God were to stop loving anybody or anything for even a nanosecond, He would have to cease to exist.”

    If I believed in a sentient god, that is the kind of god I would believe in. I am moved by this idea of God!!!

     
  2. Matthew Hoffman

    November 17, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    “If God IS love, then if God were to stop loving anybody or anything for even a nanosecond, He would have to cease to exist.”

    This is very true, but it raises other interesting questions. For example, it would mean that God loves even Satan and wills his existence. But obviously God does not love evil. How do we reconcile these truths?

    First, we must understand what love and the good are. The good, according to traditional Christian theology, has long been understood as the perfection of a thing according to its nature. So for example, a physical good for a spider is that it has eight (or sometimes six) eyes, because that’s its nature. A physical good for a dog is that it has two.

    So what is evil? There is an old Medieval dictum that is very useful here: “evil is no real entity.” Evil is not a thing in and of itself, but rather the absence of perfection in a thing. A physical evil for a spider, therefore, would be that it has only two eyes — it would be missing four or even six, possibly due to an injury or deformity. However, for a dog, having two eyes is not an evil, because it is its nature to have two.

    Moral good and moral evil are similar. A person who is morally good is perfected with regard to his will, which orients him towards his final end, which is the Love that is God himself. A person who is morally evil is lacking in this perfection. However, his existence is itself not an evil, because again, evil is not a thing, but the absence of perfection in a thing. His existence, his being, is always good.

    This is why God loves the sinner, and so should we, while hating his sin. If we hate his sin, we are not hating him, but rather hating the lack of perfection in the person — that is, we are really willing his good, because moral evil is always harmful to the one who suffers from it, even if it appears to bring him benefits. This is why the Bible speaks of a type of holy hatred, which is really just a negative way of speaking about love. To love the person is to hate his sin. To love ourselves is to hate our sins, although, as St. Benedict says, we should hate them patiently!

     

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