On the Nature of God

“I don’t believe in a God that’s vengeful,” Fowler said. “I believe in a God that’s compassionate.”

It’s nearly always amusing and appalling to learn what people think of the nature of God, more especially, people who do not study scripture.  (By “study scripture” I mean: handling the Word of God carefully, practicing thoughtful and informed hermeneutics, using an exacting and accurate translation, studying and understanding Near Middle Eastern culture of the times.  For more on what that means, go here, and here.)

One common mistake is to say something like “I believe in a god who……..”.   Well, that’s nice.  Without study and learning that’s really no different than saying “I believe in pretty, pretty purple unicorns who help me and give me strength.”  Usually it’s said in a context of defending some statement, position or whatever.  It’s justifying some thing.

The statement above, and the link to the CNN story it was taken from, is a sad and atrocious example of taking the Lord’s nature in vain.  As a mere human I can not declare to God His nature.  I can seek to understand it as much as I possibly can with my very puny mind.  Do I think I can really understand God, all His complexities, and then predict what He can and can not do?  Not so much.

Don Fowler ran afoul (pun intented) of a classic mistake: molding God in the image we want Him to take.  Really, that’s no different than grabbing a lump of clay, making a statue and then worshipping it.

Is God compassionate?  Absolutely. Yes. Totally. For Sure.

Is God vengeful?  Absolutely. Yes. Totally. For Sure.

Now for the important part: Is God’s compassion and vengeance like mine?  Can I define God’s ways by mine, what I do, think and feel?  No, a resounding, thorough and final NO!  He is other.  God is unlike me, though I bear His image, I am not like Him.  I can not define Him by me.  So when I say that God is vengeful, I mean that God is vengeful in His way, not vengeful in my way.

All this to say, I think it’s silly and stupid to pretend I know what God Almighty’s intent is in sending another hurricane to the Gulf Coast.  Why, I don’t know.  Do I think that God is visiting vengeance upon New Orleans?  No.  Do I think asking “why” is a profitable line of thought?  NO!  Do I believe that God is kind and compassionate throughout the storm and it’s aftermath?  Yes.

So, in the end, Don Fowler made a bad joke at a bad time.  Silly man.  Mocking the dead AND a natural disaster at the same time.  Nice, really nice.

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One Response to On the Nature of God

  1. Dana says:

    VL, thank you for defining what needs desperately to be defined. Fowler is typical in making God into his own image because that way its unnecessary to bend one’s knee before the Cross and submit to a living, breathing God whose very nature will compel a surrendering of self-will and a selflessness that compels us to *change*. Best to be god, eh? 🙂

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