Friday, November 13, 2009

Love God or Get Squished?

Reading the first book of the Confessions of Augustine yesterday I was stopped to contemplation (now that's good thing - usually) by this phrase: "Or what am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and, if I give it not, art wroth with me, and threatenest grievous woes?"

Now first off, I must admit that I am not a fan of Augustine. This is because he was instrumental in pushing for the eventual excommunication of Pelagius, whose story reads like a classic frame job. Aside from this I am enjoying the reading. There are some fantastic declarations of praise in Augustine's Confessions.

This quote stopped me, because I considered it from the perspective of someone who struggles with the idea that an angry god might also be a capricious and cruel god. This concept that the Christian God is demanding love, and is angry to the point of destruction and killing if He does not get it certainly makes Him appear wildly capricious at best, and a cruel murdering megalomaniac at the worst.

So, these questions comes to mind:

Is God really declaring woes on those who do not love Him simply because they are suppose to love Him, and when they don't He gets really ticked?

OR is there something intrinsically insidious, and potentially dangerous in the heart of those who do not love God?

OR is this quote altogether problematic for Christian doctrine, and instrumental in establishing a bad way of viewing God?

OR is there altogether another way of looking at this?

OR, maybe you have some thoughts?


Unknown said...

In my way of thinking, the closer we are to God the better Life is. The further away from God, the worse Life is. However, this also seems like a contradiction because "bad things happen to good people" all the time. I always marvel at Jesus hanging from the cross saying, "Father, forgive them..." So it's just not a matter of following the rules, it's finding the Will of God for your life. Sounds so simple and yet how we struggle and in the interim try to justify ourselves.

Pastor Phil said...

I agree, and see the contradiction all at once too. Hmmmm... couldn't God make this simpler on a poor dummy like me?

Ron Ruf said...

Hey Phil - could it be that Augustine was simply a Christian man like you and me, asking questions that are difficult at best to understand with human reasoning? What this does to Christian theology, in my view at least, is nothing. As a man, the words of Augustine are not on the same level as inspired scripture any more than the words that come from my mouth or pen. I know over the years I have preached sermons that contained bits and pieces of (mis)information that probably made God cringe. Blessings to ya bro!


Pastor Phil said...

Hey Ron,

It could be, but then again his writing became influential enough to dictate how we interpret scripture.

The passage I quoted does have a scriptural equivalent, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be anathema maranatha." 1 Cor. 16:22

Yet this leaves us still with a dangerously radical tension. I am not sure he was establishing the tension, as much as making a declaration of how he saw God's dealings with men.

Ron Ruf said...

After re-reading your original post, I am leaning more toward the fact that there is something inside of each and every one of us humans that is expressed in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. We all together have a tendency to prefer to love ourselves and our pleasures rather than love God. In those who are not yet living as new creations in Christ, it is extremely difficult to live a life that would reflect God's love. In my experience, and the experience of those outside the 'church' looking in, many Christians do a poor job of loving God and loving people - most likely because we are too wrapped up in loving ourselves and our pleasures - if we were honest enough to admit it. I am far from being an expert on early church history, but it seems to me that for centuries the church has built walls to keep people away...

Helen said...

I don't go for the squishing God - I prefer this one:

God of my dreams

James said...

For the most part, I feel like the only time that God gets angry is generally when Human Rights violations begin to occur. To me, this seems to be the tone of the Old Testament.

One of my professors wrote a book/his thesis on the subject of Anger in the Old Testament. Might be worth a read:

Pastor Phil said...

Hi James,

Thanks for popping in. Do you think that view limits God's anger over personal suffering, and issues of manipulation?

Pete Aldin said...

It is a difficult tension between God's wrath and love - one that we could explain away on one hand or get upset and reject him over on the other.

Couple o' thoughts:

1. I am being seriously challenged lately (see Book of Job for example) by the thought that God is God and who am I to question him? My 21st Century hands-on-hips ranting at God that He should be more mature is fairly ridiculous. (And I do kinda do that occasionally) :)

2. Off the top of my head, I'm more inclined to think that Scripture reveals God's wrath as against people for doing bad stuff rather than just for not liking Him. But maybe I'm out of touch.

Anyhoo, good thought provoking post Phil, appreciate you sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am from Australia.

Everybody who has ever lived has died, and with incredibly rare exceptions they have all been hell-deep afraid of dying too.

Why do you presume that Real God or the Infinitely Radiant Conscious Light is in any sense wrathful?

What is the solution then?

A thorough Understanding of the meaning & significance of death and Real God

But on the other hand the universal klik-klak machine operates under the immutable laws of perfect justice or KARMA.

That is we all create our karmic destiny, and in one way or another, and sooner or later, we inevitably reap what we sow.

And the universal klik-klak machine is also completely indifferent to the well-being and survival of any of the billions of body-minds, human and otherwise, that exist in any moment.

Which is to say that the klik-klak universe is a never-ending relentless death machine--as pictured by the images of the "Goddess" Kali, who sooner or later eats ALL of her (birthed-created) babies.