Our mental views of God shape our attitudes toward God. Misbeliefs about God hinder engaging with God to pursue spirituality. If you think there may be a God, I am convinced you will not regret pursuing more of a connection with your Creator than regretting having a closer relationship with your partner, children, or friends. In this series of Posts the Bible is referenced because that is from where views of God are often formed. What if you discovered ways to view how God’s goodness and evil and suffering could co-exist rationally?
- Some may question why so much evil exist if God truly cares. The problem of evil is one main reason people indicate why they don’t believe in God. How we answer this question for ourselves can determine whether in the midst of suffering we wonder if God truly exist.
- Freedom is the only path to authentic relationships which brings the most joy in relationships. Not even an almighty God can force true love. There is no greater feeling than your partner, child, or friend loving you because they want to and not because they have to. God’s interference can prevent true love from developing as a result of the moral improvement of free creatures. Even humans know “controlling love” is a contradiction in terms. This may explain why God can’t stop evil that results in so much suffering. What God’s love can do is prevent evil is by appropriately influencing one’s free decisions to change or intervene in the lives of others.
- God knew the risks of freedom as do human parents. Are we wrong to bring children into a world hoping they will want to reciprocate our love but knowing our children could cause suffering or suffer at the hands of others? Suffering is avoidable only if God had not created or allowed freedom. Few argue that no freedom is better than freedom.
- C.S. Lewis suggested that wars, crimes, and injustices – evils that come through bad choices make by cruel and lawless people – account for at least 80% of humankind suffering. If God is truly going to control suffering, God must prevent every murderer, every sexual abuser, all natural disasters, and adulterers since adultery destroys lives? Until we make the assumption that God prevents as much evil as possible without violating the freedom to change, we may never be satisfied with God.
- God is tireless in working through individual lives to change the world. Hitler may have been stopped if others had gotten involved in his life as a child or when plotting his evils early on. Perhaps the only way to defeat evil in us, other than destroying at the first hint, is for us to persevere and overcome evil. Jesus’ miracles turn heads but Jesus’ suffering changed the hearts of billions. Martin Luther King’s suffering moved the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry. Suffering enables us to be of use to others in a world where suffering is inevitable if any freedom is present.
- God doesn’t cause evil to accomplish good, but God is determined to bring good from the evil choices of others. We cannot prove there are no good moral reasons for allowing freedom resulting in so much evil. If God stops the bullet, the murderer may never change from killing even more people. Instant justice doesn’t allow God to save as many people as possible by changing of their own free will. God clearly values mercy and forgiveness over instant justice.
Moral evil as a result of freedom gone awry is the most explainable in how a good God could possibly exist in the midst of evil. But, even harder to understand is why God doesn’t intervene more in natural disasters since no human freedom is imposed upon. We know some disasters are made worse by exploiting and destroying nature by pollution of air and water and other acts of destruction. One may surmise that God even built freedom into nature but it is surely harder to comprehend since nature is not a living being. Is freedom and not controlling necessary for any creative act to be loving?
Our mental views of God shape our attitudes toward God. Misbeliefs about God hinder engaging with God to pursue spirituality. If you think there may be a God, I am convinced you will not regret pursuing more of a connection with your Creator than regretting having a closer relationship with your partner, children, or friends. In this series of Posts the Bible is referenced because that is from where views of God are often formed. What if you discovered all this crazy talk about the world ending isn’t in the Bible?
- I care about this issue, though all the different beliefs are understandable, because all this talk about Jesus coming and predictions failing makes God-folks seem slightly loony. Too, certain end-time views can lead to passive living and not taking care of the world for the next generation. God surely prefers focusing on making a difference than escaping. I say somewhat in jest because I am scared of heights, but I am not all that excited about being lifted up in the sky (i.e. rapture) unless in a plane.
- There is a view of the end-times worth mentioning though since there are so many opinions. I would suggest since we can’t know for sure that we ought to live lives as if it mattered if there is life after death. The biblical writers and readers expected the “end times” spoken of to happen within their generation. Jesus said to his audience when asked about the last days: “watch out that no one deceives you….you will hear of wars and rumors of war (Mt. 24:4-6). Jesus warns such end-times would impact His audience. How is that possible if the world hasn’t ended yet? The disciples did not think of Jesus’ coming as supposedly a rapture-removing, visible, world-ending coming as they asked: “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3). Only a non-visible, spiritual coming of Jesus could possibly be missed.
- The end-times were not an earth ending event. As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3) There was the end of an age in the first century when Jesus lived. History suggests Jesus’ prediction of coming in the “last days” has taken place. In the first century the great tribulation was fulfilled. The temple and Jerusalem was destroyed and millions of lives were lost. Biblical Judaism ceased to exist. This was the end of the age that Jesus spoke of. God no longer dwells in temples but people’s hearts. Jesus, as the ultimate and final sacrifice, was God’s desire to show love and to persuade us to run from evil and love others as we wish to be loved.
- What does the Bible say about life after death? Not as much as you might think. The Bible says nothing about Hell. Gehenna, the Greek word wrongly translated as Hell in the New Testament, was a real valley near Jerusalem. It had an ugly history but was not a place people were kept alive to torture by fire. Hell was invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience.
- Jesus didn’t say much about heaven as one may think. When Jesus spoke about eternal life He spoke of it not in terms of something after death but a quality of life that begins here on earth to avoid future regrets. Enough biblical passages suggest all will face God one day for an accounting of their deeds – good and bad. Why doesn’t the Bible say more about heaven? A solely heavenly focus can lead to passive earthly living, similar to focusing on Jesus’ coming rather than making a difference in the world we live in currently.
Do beliefs on earth matter if the Bible isn’t crystal clear about whether they determine our eventual destiny? Do you really think it doesn’t matter how you treat others here on earth if there isn’t a consequence? Jesus conveyed God’s unimaginable love to inspire us being even a better partner, parent, and friend. God will be just to the guilty and victims. I am a hopeful Universalist. It seems no one in their right mind would refuse living in heaven when meeting their loving Creator. But, God clearly values freedom of choice. There is real hope that we will be reunited with our loved ones unless they are evil to the core.
Our mental views of God shape our attitudes toward God. Misbeliefs about God hinder engaging with God to pursue spirituality. If you think there may be a God, I am convinced you will not regret pursuing more of a connection with your Creator than regretting having a closer relationship with your partner, children, or friends. In this series of Posts the Bible is referenced because that is from where views of God are often formed. What if you discovered that prayer didn’t have to be so confusing or disheartening since a lot of our prayers are not answered?
- Prayer isn’t as complicated when we understand the challenges of running a universe where there is freedom and God has the interest of all in mind. God can’t just disrespect freedom by controlling the world as God wants. God can’t make one be a better parent if they have no desire to change. God can’t answer the prayer for both people asking for the same job. We may have to trust a loving God answers how we would if we knew everything God knows.
- Since God doesn’t speak audibly or write in the sand, how can we know that we hear the voice of God? God’s love is supportive not controlling. If God has determined the future or knows the unknowable future, we are not really free to make any other choice. Asking God for guarantees is asking God to be a controller. God’s interference stops growth and self-satisfaction resulting from making independent choices.
- God is always supporting and listening. God is always available in times of loneliness. Friends can’t always be available in the middle of the night, or we may feel that we are overburdening our friends. God speaks to us mostly through self-reflection as God only wants us to feel free to make decisions based on our gifts and aspirations. Only controlling parents insist on certain dreams. God only has moral biases for our best interests. God is speaking when we hear: I love you; I forgive you; I won’t abandon you; I want what you want deep down; I am not really like what some say.
- I have seen many come away confused and disheartened about their relationship with their Creator since miracles are rare. I am not trying to get God off the hook but one must admit miracles aren’t as great as they always seem. You may want to reread the Old Testament if you think amazing miracles lead to inspired living. Jesus’ miracles turned heads but Jesus’ suffering turned the hearts of billions of followers. Miracles often lead to seeking only physical cures and not spiritual cures. When suffering I ask for relief but I ask God to stay close to me if a miracle is not possible all things considered. I am a better person in the long-run sometimes because my prayers are not answered. We can pray for others but God is already doing all they can. Are we?
- We may overlook the most important reason for praying which is relational. God already knows what we think or need. Praying to God connects us to our Creator so we may become more the people we desire to be. We tell our children to associate with the right people so to make wiser choices. We may begin to want money to not starve as opposed to wanting to be rich or have things. Prayer is more talking to gain support than manipulating for gain. God is always available to talk about anything on our heart but we might best leave the running of the universe up to a loving God who has the interest of all in mind.
One may ask thought what does the Bible say though? Verses are lifted out of context to support the false prosperity gospel. Mt 7:7 is a representative example: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” The context is saying if we parents give good gifts despite our imperfections, will not God as our perfect Parent always give good gifts when asked. First-century readers didn’t assume this was a blank check for any request. God is always listening, supportive, and respecting freedom as God seek to make for a better world by individuals becoming the kinds of people we deep down desire to be.
Our mental views of God shape our attitudes toward God. Misbeliefs about God hinder engaging with God to pursue spirituality. If you think there may be a God, I am convinced you will not regret pursuing more of a connection with your Creator than regretting having a closer relationship with your partner, children, or friends. In this series of Posts the Bible is referenced because that is from where views of God are often formed. What if you discovered God didn’t demand certain traditions such as church you must abide by to have a relationship?
- The Apostle Paul expressed concern to the Galatians that they were distorting the gospel that Jesus taught (1:6). They begin to insist all peoples follow their customs (2:17) and stressed special occasions as most important (4:10). Religions may try to control where and how people pray during the day. We may insinuate that people must attend a church if they are truly spiritual. Traditions can obscure what is really important.
- The Bible never speaks of church as a place to attend. Individuals were called the church and encouraged to care for others as themselves. The church doesn’t go to church. We can be seduced into thinking that attending church is all that matters and not how I treat others the rest of the days not spent in church. Traditions forced can lead to thinking that God only loves me if I honor certain customs. God, like any loving parent, love their children even if they act immoral. Loving parents simply encourage children to make for a better world.
- People may form their views of God by observing and assuming churchgoers are God’s representatives. The world often seems better off with churches because whether Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, places of worship teach Jesus’ main message of treating others like you want to be treated. The church can be a place for people to organize to serve others in need. Some will admit though often the church gathers only to be with one another, thus isolating themselves from others in a world in need. Layers of structure can take money away from those who need it most. Groups outside the church can serve others but they aren’t claiming to represent God and adhere to a set of beliefs other than obvious moral laws
- We must not assume church teachings or creeds necessarily represent God’s beliefs. The mere presence of so many religious and denominations suggest no one has the corner on truth. Such divisiveness can hurt God’s reputation. The presence of Denominations suggests followers do not believe the same thing or even get alone. Why would those possibly interested in hearing what we believe want to join us? Organized groups by nature develop structured beliefs but biblical interpretations are fallible. Individual beliefs typically only happen when “the church” meets wherever without an official structure.
- Jesus was a calm person in interactions with others but the religious, who claimed to represent God, got his dander up the most. Jesus was more of a spiritual than religious person. Religions tend to emphasize rules and obedience rather than a relationship and God’s unconditional love. It is a friendship with God, without fear, that best transforms followers to being the kind of unselfish person they deep down desire to be. It is very challenging for a church with an organized structure to encourage a relationship versus adherence which is simply another form of legalism.
Each person in their relationship with their Creator can decide which environments give the most encouragement. No one though needs a mediator between God and them such as a pastor or priest. The institution of church worked for me for years and continues to work for many, but people need to feel free than obligated to pursue God on their own terms. Obligatory relationships are seldom life transforming. Church is not always a place where genuine relationships are built. I certainly didn’t share my burdens openly in that meeting. Do not feel obligated or believe God thinks any less of you if decide to not attend the traditional church. Seek encouraging relationships anywhere. There doesn’t have to be structured leadership.
Our mental views of God shape our attitudes toward God. Misbeliefs about God hinder engaging with God to pursue spirituality. If you think there may be a God, I am convinced you will not regret pursuing more of a connection with your Creator than regretting having a closer relationship with your partner, children, or friends. In this series of Posts the Bible is referenced because that is from where views of God are often formed. What if you discovered the Cross wasn’t a story about a blood-thirsty Deity who must child their child to save their reputation?
- Is God really a blood thirsty Deity who must be satisfied and have their honor and reputation restored by killing their child? God loved people before Jesus died, and God would love people even if Jesus hadn’t died. I am convinced Jesus was willing to be murdered not for God’s sake by our sake. Terrorists blow others up for a message they feel strongly about. Jesus only blew himself up for a message He believed very strongly in. Soldiers often die for one another because they are convinced certain freedoms are that important. Jesus died in hopes to persuade us of the freedom that comes from understanding God’s love and mercy. Jesus wanted us to know living a loving life is what leads to true happiness in relationships.
- The legalistic view of Jesus’ death doesn’t make moral or legal sense. What does it say about God who requires the blood of the innocent to be accepting! Besides, death can never make matters totally legally right. Death doesn’t resurrect the murdered. Death doesn’t wipe out childhood memories caused by a parent’s abuse. My going to jail for a friend’s wrongdoing doesn’t somehow exonerate my friend. Guilt is not somehow removed by someone else’s confession of a sin they didn’t commit. Why would Jesus say: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” if God thought sacrifice than confession lead to healing? (Mt. 9:13) A loving God only requires confessions of wrongdoings for this leads to healing.
- Verses are chosen from the Bible to defend a legal than relational view of the Cross. Hebrews 9:14 says: “…Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” Which is it? Was Jesus’ death for the purpose of serving our guilty conscience or God’s? Do you every think God needs a break from you at least for a day or do you think God can’t possibly forgive you for the 10th or 100th time? Guess again! Jesus died so we are can feel loved by God no matter what! Actions have consequences but God doesn’t pour on the hate.
- Jesus came to save us from the sin of destroying ourselves and one another. Zacchaeus had cheated many people out of their money and had decided to payback four times the money he had stolen. Jesus responded: “Today salvation has come to this house” (Mt. 19:1-10). Jesus simply commended Zacchaeus for recognizing a journey necessary to avoid personal destruction. Salvation is not saving us from God but from ourselves.
Suggesting Jesus died for God than for us undermines Jesus’ unimaginable love as evidenced by His tremendous sacrifice. Jesus hoped others would follow in His footsteps in relationships to avoid self-destruction and destruction of others. Parents who believe their guidance is vital “walk the talk” to best influence their children in the long-run. Jesus was willing to die for a cause to gain moral authority to influence lasting world change. Do we really think that God was so mad that God had to kill someone, or did God seek to convince and persuade of God’s love for us and God’s ways are in our best interest?
Our mental views of God shape our attitudes toward God. Misbeliefs about God hinder engaging with God to pursue spirituality. If you think there may be a God, I am convinced you will not regret pursuing more of a connection with your Creator than regretting having a closer relationship with your partner, children, or friends. In this series of Posts the Bible is referenced because that is from where views of God are often formed. What if you discovered that God never meant for the Bible to take the place of a personal relationship with our Creator?
- Sincere people have different views of the same biblical passage or topic, so it is important to acknowledge that our interpretations may be wrong. The Bible can be used to justify racism, gender inequality, or controlling personal beliefs. God has always worked through human means available so the Bible was God’s attempt to communicate to as many people about God while not condemning those who misunderstand it or never had a chance to read it.
- Insisting the Bible is without errors can lead to worshipping a Book and not who the Book is about. It is not as if the Bible came together from writer to publication. God can still have a hand in the Bible and God can be revealed to us, though God did not interfere with the freedom of writers to grow in their understandings of God. We also cannot prove God inspired others to select over time which Books should be recognized as supposedly infallible. God didn’t promise an inspired Book but God’s spirit to discern what God is really like (Jn. 14:16).
- Suggesting the Bible has errors can be troubling to many. At least we must recognize that often it is our interpretations that we are proclaiming are not in error. It can be freeing though to not get bogged down in debates over God because the Bible supposedly says so. The main message is clear and all are free to seek God’s help in being more the person they desire.
- On the other hand we don’t question the historical reliability of Julius Caesar’s exploits in the Gallic Wars though the manuscript reliability of all ancient literature is far less than the New Testament. And the Bible gains credibility by not making its own heroes always or rewriting events to make a story more believable. Women had very little credibility during this time, so if you are going to make up a resurrection story you don’t report a woman being the first eyewitness unless Mary was.
- The Bible was never meant to be a Book of rules rather than consideration for wisdom and reflection on one’s individual situation. When Jesus said turn the other cheek, He wouldn’t advise a woman to allow an abusive husband to continue to beat her. The Bible didn’t have assigned chapters and verses until centuries after written. Read the Bible as stories about God’s relationships with others as you discern your own relationship with the Creator.
- Declaring the Bible isn’t infallible doesn’t make everyone’s opinion correct. We all can agree murder, lying, or adultery is immoral. We know terrorist’s views are wrong because they violate the freedom of others to believe as they choose. When Old Testament passages are complicated or seemingly contradict what we think a good God is surely like, we can know God best through the person of Jesus.
God, not a Book, was meant to guide one personally in understanding God. We do not have to assume the Bible is without errors; we do not have to assume the Bible is without truth about God. If there are certain characteristics of God claimed by others according to the Bible that you don’t agree, reject them! Don’t allow others’ understanding to keep you from exploring your own views. Enjoy the Bible as a story about your Creator. As you get to know God, God will guide you in your spiritual journey to be more the person you deep down desire to be.
Our mental views of God shape our attitudes toward God. Misbeliefs about God hinder engaging with God to pursue spirituality. If you think there may be a God, I am convinced you will not regret pursuing more of a connection with your Creator than regretting having a closer relationship with your partner, children, or friends. In this series of Posts the Bible is referenced because that is from where views of God are often formed. What if you discovered that God only encourages you to love others without any hidden agenda to convert them?
- True friendships don’t have hidden agendas. Having the goal of conversion leads to spiritual discussions becoming taboo as the agenda is obvious to others. We can get together with friends to enjoy one another’s company and love them how we wished to be loved. I love talking to others about my relationship with God as much as I do a good book, but only if natural and mutually desired. Jesus only wanted others to feel loved by their Creator.
- Spiritual conversations do not have to proceed: “Do you believe in God? Do you believe Jesus was the Son of God and died to save you from your sins? Will you confess your sins, believe, and go to church?” Very few react positively or are persuaded with such an approach unless choosing to attend an evangelistic meeting in the first place. Such conversations lead to more of a negative perception of Jesus and/or Christianity. God is not the kind of Parent that insists we jump through hoops when interested in having a relationship. Jesus simply encouraged people to follow deep down what they knew best in their heart.
- Spiritual conversations are often avoided because one believes such conversation must lead people to accepting a free pass out of Hell. The traditional understanding of Hell is nowhere to be found in the Bible, and of course is morally indefensible. Who doesn’t know unending suffering is pointless as it doesn’t produce any good? We do not have to avoid conversations because God is some immoral, irrational Being. God only desires to help others love one another in a troubled world. Friendships are hindered when one feels pressure to talk to people about God or they are going straight to Hell.
- Jesus, when not confronting immorality or self-centeredness, discussed God in natural, unforced ways. Jesus didn’t think of eternal life as something after death but a quality of life that begins here on earth. Jesus when asked how to obtain eternal life, simply said to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). God is not egotistical but Jesus understood loving God is being empowered to love others to the fullest. Jesus cared less about certain beliefs and more about caring for others as we would want to be cared for. Jesus taught knowing how God feels about us can help us on that journey. Mother Teresa said that she was simply responding to God’s boundless love for her and humanity.
- The majority of people born have lived and died without any knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. A loving God doesn’t insist all believe in the Christian God they have never heard about or may not truly understand. We can simply encourage other to consider the possibility of a God or Reality that seeks for a better world by loving others like we want to be loved deep down. Jesus and all the great spiritual leaders had this message. Jesus didn’t convey a litmus test of sacred beliefs. Would Jesus be encouraged by one who believe He was God but didn’t take to heart His moral message or one who questioned Jesus’ deity but took to heart the importance of loving others like you want to be loved? Jesus didn’t back down from the belief that a self-centered life is doomed for destruction and is not true freedom.
I am convinced there is a God and, like a loving parent, can be an inspiration in being the person we desire to be deep down. God’s love and forgiveness can be our necessary nourishment that leads to life transformations. Very few disagree that the motivation to love your neighbor is wrong-minded. It isn’t always easy to know when best to forgive or seek justice, but actions that can lead to change from brokenness is so badly needed in an imperfect world.