08 October 2007

God is Love - I'm Confused

I've often joked that I grew up believing that the message of the Christian Gospel was something like: 'Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of your sins, so the Father has to let you into heaven but he's really pissed off about it because he hates you.'

I didn't grow up in the UK and I didn't grow up a Methodist, so I frequently get told that my experience is due to having grown up in a strict denomination in the United States and that this experience is pretty much unique to me.

Then, as I reread Steve Chalke's The Lost Message of Jesus, he writes (in 2004, so not in The Dark Ages):
...in the popular mind, this is exactly who the God of the Bible is: a sadistic monster, a powerful and spiteful punisher of people who are having a tough enough time on earth as it is...Most people today, if they believe in God at all, think that he is power and that power is all about the domination of others. (p. 47)
So what, exactly is the deal? Does 'everyone' believe that God loves them? Are Chalke and I (and Gerard Hughes, for that matter - thinking of his 'Uncle George') all wet? My conversion came when I began to believe that God loves me; is it really the case that few people need to hear this message?

6 comments:

Will said...

You're opening comment reminds of something I read on the First Things website (I think), where an author talked about going to his fundamentalist baptist church every Christmas Eve for the annual "Merry Christmas, you're going to hell" sermon.

I don't know if we always get it quite as blatantly as that (though some do). I'm speaking from my experience here that it sometimes comes more subtlety. As I posted on my blog about the Leadership Summit I attended, I heard from a guy talking about how we tend to focus on our weaknesses rather than trying to grow our strengths. I wonder if when we (or those teachers in our churches) focus on what we are doing wrong almost exclusively if we hear a message that God is more of a hatchet man waiting for us to do something wrong rather than praise us, and even more encourage us, in what we do right.

So, to answer your question, No, I don't think you and Steve are "all wet", but are definitely on to something.

Sally said...

I think the New Age tendency to see God as imutable is a defense mechaanism against the God of wrath that they generally percieve Christianity represents.

Day to day I believe that ordinary folk are confused by mixed messages from their own embedded theology, and cultural stereotypes ( TV etc) ...


Our challenge ; to speak of and reveal the God of grace and love!

PamBG said...

Sally, can you elaborate on 'the new age tendency to see God as imutable'? ('Cause I'm not all that familiar with New Age).

I think you're right about the rest. It doesn't matter where the ideas come from; I think that they need to be clearly challenged.

Reading Chalke's book three years down the line from when I first read it, I'm appreciating it more.

Lorna said...

I think knowing that God loves us - no matter what - is a key to unlocking us to learn that God's love is unconditional and yet we change (for the better) because we are safe in that.

It was key for me in turning back to Jesus ... and it gets under my skin when preachers and denominations undervalue the power of that message. So often they are afraid of cheap grace - but God isn't ...

Kievas said...

I don't think God is wrathful--lately, I've been thinking he's mean and perverse, but I've been having a bad day...

PamBG said...

It was key for me in turning back to Jesus ... and it gets under my skin when preachers and denominations undervalue the power of that message. So often they are afraid of cheap grace - but God isn't ...

This totally resonates with my own experience as well. It's why I'm enjoying reading Chalke's book again.