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Emerging Faith #3: Deconstructing gOD May 6, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.

Knowing God.

Let's stop right there. Really, stop right there. To what extent does anyone have certainty about knowing God? Think about it. What if all you know about God right now is all there is. No room for learning something new, no room for another perspective, no deeper awareness or understanding possible. All you know is all there is.

There was a time when I thought that certainty about God and knowing God in His entirety was either in my grasp or not far from it. However, the older I get the more I come to understand that a God I could know fully and completely is limited only to me and what my mind can understand. Trust me, you don't want God to be limited what my mind can comprehend.

Now I believe there is very little about God that can be certain. Although this might bring a shiver up your spine because, "Chris, where is your faith?"

Ah, but here is the place where I deconstruct gOD – not God. If most of what I am certain about God is only my perception of God, then I am certain of my perception and not God. That can get real dangerous real fast. How much religious abuse do you suppose has flowed from a person's perception of God and not really God? Let's see – all of it.

I must be willing to confront my perception of God and put it to the test. The potential risk of confronting your own view of God is that you might find out God is just a Gossamer. You know Gossamer, that hairy red creature that when Porky Pig gave him a hair cut found out that, "he, he, he, well, he was all hair." You might find out all there is to God is a perception and no God.

However, as frightening as it can be to go after my own perception is that when I do believe I have found something that is undeniably God, then I really value it.  

What I believe I know about God:

God made all stuff and isn't done with all that.

God is love and does love, isn't hate and cannot hate.

God cannot be predicted, manipulated, intimidated, or killed (at least not for long).

God's good is more powerful than Evil, no matter its source or form.

God invites people to do good.

God is the source of all beauty.

I am not trying to make some kind of creed that anyone else must follow. Puh-lease! At the same time, I believe faith is formed in community, not solo. So, this is the reason why I share my faith in process. Sharing is good. It neither imposes not is imposed upon.


1. john alan turner - May 8, 2006

I believe that — if the Bible is any indication — we can know lots about God.

I also believe that God is infinite, and it’s hard to measure progress against infinity.

To sum up: We can know an awful lot about God and still know nearly nothing of what there is to know about God.

2. fajita - May 9, 2006

Infinity is quite a paradox, I agree. I guess what I am hacking (I am a hack) away at is what is thought to be known that really isn’t.

3. Donna - May 9, 2006

I agree with the thought that the older I get the more I realize I do not know. What scares me is people that do think they know it all….how can they?

I also think that God EXPECTS us to LOVE each other!

4. sofyst - May 10, 2006

No imposing then from your part? What if I asked you to impose? Please dear brother impose upon me a simple answer: how can you say God cannot hate, when Scripture quite specifically says that God does indeed hate?

Would I be incorrect in saying that God is not love and cannot love?

5. fajita - May 10, 2006

sofyst, glad to hear from you. Let me bounce it back to you.

What does God hate? Who does God hate? What do you mean by hate? We’re goig to have to get this out on the table before we can dive more deeply into your question.

6. sofyst - May 10, 2006

To answer your question, I would just quote the Psalmist or Paul. The Psalmist says that God ‘hates’ the workers of iniquity (Psa. 5:5) and Paul says that God hates Esau (Romans 9).

I don’t necessarily think the meaning of ‘hate’ is important here. We are just discussing whether God does hate (as the Psalmist/Paul says) or whether He does not (as you say). After we understand that, we can then understand what hate is. Afterall, if God doesn’t hate, why would we attempt to understand what hate is?

7. fajita - May 10, 2006

The meaning of the word “hate” is the entire purpose for the conversation. But, since we are where we are in the conversation, I’ll bite on your comments.

Both refernces do not indicate hate as I understand the meaning of the word. Simply because a word appears in the Bible does not make it mean what it meant when it was written. We’ve got dozens of centuries, enormous cultural distance, and a snafu of interpretational riddles to unravel in order to really arrive at the word hate meaning American English “hate”

I have a feeling we’re going to get into some real disagreements here about Bible interpretation and so forth. And I really don’t want to get too caught up into that. However, I will say that God does not take pleasure int he destruction of an image of God that He created. God loves people.

But, if we’re going to use the Bible as it is written in English, then I can easily counter with Lev 19:17, which simply says, “Do not hate.” Why would God command something he does not believe in?

Why does Jesus say, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” It doesn’t make any sense to command one thing and to do and be another. God is not a hypocrit.

8. sofyst - May 11, 2006

No, I would never claim God to be hypocritical. But wouldn’t you say God frowns upon us killing, and yet He does (did at least) this constantly?

The problem with that argument is it supposes that the commands we have from God are the standard by which God lives. God tells us to tithe (if you believe this), yet He doesn’t tithe. Would we then say God is hypocritical for not giving a tenth?

And regarding the idea that our understanding of ‘hate’ is different than the Hebraic understanding of ‘hate’ and thus we cannot say God ‘hates’ based upon the english translation of the Hebrew word being hate, I find this unconvincing. If all of the translators felt that ‘hate’ was an accurate translation of miseo, then I would rather go upon the opinion of scholars much more versed in the Greek and Hebrew languages than myself.

But who knows, perhaps you are a greek scholar yourself. Do tell, what would be a more accurate translation of miseo as used by Paul?

Strongs defines the word quite specifically as hate, and even says ‘to love less’ and to detest. Would you then say that perhaps ‘loving less’ or ‘detesting’ would be a more accurate translation? Would you be more comfortable with saying God detested Esau rather than saying God ‘hated’ Esau?

9. fajita - May 11, 2006

No, I am not a Greek scholar, nor am I a Hebrew scholar. I am not even an English scholar. So perhaps going in that direction is pointless.

Scripture clearly says in I John that “God is love.” Please reconcile God not merely being loving, but being love itself, also having hate. “God hated Esau,” must be some kind of metaphor.

Does a father hate His own son or daughter?

What confounds me more than anything is why you are going to the mat for a god of hate. A little help here.

10. sofyst - May 11, 2006

The only reason I am going to mat for a God of hate is because Scripture specifically says that God does hate. The same reason you are going to mat for a God who is love.

If someone were to argue that ‘God is not love’, I would argue against them fervently based upon the clear Scriptural teaching that ‘God is love’.

In like manner, when someone says, ‘God does not hate’, I argue fervently against them based upon the clear Scriptural teaching that ‘God does hate’.

We would either have to accept that the Scripture is contradictory, that it claims one thing in one place (God is love) and the complete opposite in another (God does hate). OR we would have to understand that maybe, just maybe, hate is not the opposite of love.

Have you ever thought about that? Granted, within our english speaking minds, we cannot comprehend how you can both love and hate someone. But that doesn’t say much. Within our minds we can’t accept how you can be three in one either.

My point is not necessarily to prove to you what it looks like to love and hate at the same time. This I can no more prove or explain than I can the Trinity or the Incarnation.

My point is merely to get you to not deny one Scripture, in light of your interpretation of another.

11. fajita - May 11, 2006

Then we stand at an interpretational impass. We have to define hate in order to go any further with this conversation. You tried in earlier comments to get me not to define it, just agree with you. I wasn’t willing. Now you’re trying to define it by asking me to consider something I have already considered, that love and hate are not dualistic oppostites. I get it. Just because I say that they are not compatible does not mean they are dualistic opposites.

Furthermore, I do not deny scripture; I simply interpret it differently than you do. That is fine with me. However, to say that since I do not believe God hates makes me someone who denies scripture (or part of scripture) is quite a leap. And it is not a safe leap either since it is not true.

12. sofyst - May 11, 2006

Scripture says, ‘God does hate’.
You say, ‘God does not hate’.

How then, praytell, am I incorrect in saying that you do deny Scripture?

I would understand if you said, well yes, God does hate, but it is not like human hate, or it is a different kind of hate, or ‘hate’ really means lack of love. But you didn’t say this, you just say, ‘God cannot hate’.

Do explain this to me please.

13. fajita - May 12, 2006

Do the women at your church wear head coverings when they pray in the assembly?

14. sofyst - May 12, 2006

Oh nice.

If I was to tell you that they did, then I would be one up on you.
If I was to tell you they didn’t, then you and I would simply be in the same boat of not following Scripture.

Either way, you still must answer why you say one thing which is contrary to the Scripture.

15. fajita - May 12, 2006

I am not being sarcastic. I need to know if we are even talking the same language, which I am losing hopes that we are.

Furthermore, the assumption that if you answered in the affirmative about the head covering somehow puts you one up on me is a mistake – and confusing. If this is about being one up, then the conversation needs to end.

If you do not want to answer the question about head covering, that is fine. But if so, I think we probably need to bring this to a close.

16. sofyst - May 12, 2006

No, my church does not have the women wear head coverings. Neither do we have the correct office of elders. Neither do we spend our money wisely.

I saw no relevance of any of my church’s shortcomings to our discussion. Hence my avoidance of answering the question.

Fajita, can I attempt to give you my understanding of God’s hate and you can see if it is at least reasonable. Then perhaps you can see where I am coming from?

Origin, one of the church fathers, said that the same sun that hardens clay softens wax. Meaning that the sun just shines. Its heat is the same heat that is cast upon the clay and upon the wax. It is the makeup of the different substances that determine how the heat affects it.

I think this is the same with God. God is God. He allows His rain to rain on the just and the unjust alike. He shines upon the wicked and the good. He does not change, He is just being God.

However, when the goodness of God comes in contact with people, it doesn’t always affect them the same way. The unjust hate the rain. They don’t want to get wet. The just love the rain. They recognize the life it brings.

God is God to all. The wicked perceive the light as blinding, as something that hurts them. They hate it becuase they perceive it as being destructive to them, it is hate to them.

The good however perceive the light as beautiful. It brings warmth and chases away the darkness. They love it because of the beauty and warmth that it brings. To them it is love.

It is not that God loves a certain people and hates another. This is an incorrect understanding of God being God. God shines upon people, it is whether they are good or evil that determines whether they are being loved or hated by the same light.

Does that make sense?

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