9 Sep 1996
Nature of God
I know you did not intend for me to make a heavy assignment out of reviewing
my theology. But I made it one, never the less. It is not an easy task for
me, for my head and my heart have never been in agreement concerning God.
The years of my childhood were full of Pre-Vatican II Catholicism and Southern
Baptist hellfire and damnation. Although I left those religions far behind
many years ago, sometimes remnants of their merciless gods pop up unexpectedly.
When that happens, I look closely at the assumption I am making, and correct
it if I can.
Ben, I have spent considerable time thinking about what you wrote in your
web pages and email concerning the nature of God. When I mentioned in an
earlier letter "God continually surprises me with gifts," I chose
those words most carefully, and I could tell in your response that you picked
up on them, although you did not mention it. Since 1987 -- the year of the
Faustian conversation and the "light-show" -- I have grown ever
more aware of God's love and caring concern. Prior to that time, however,
God was a distant, callous Deity, and I was doing my best to make it with
what little guidance a "Humanist" education, and my own study,
offered. But although I had rid myself of most of the religious dogma by
then, my lifelong personal experience did little to support the notion of
a loving God.
It does little good for well-meaning people to tell me it was I who turned
from God, because I know how hard I looked for Him.
Matthew 14:21-28 (NIV Study Bible): Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to
the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came
to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter
is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer
a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away,
for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only
to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him.
"Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to
take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs." "Yes Lord,"
she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters'
table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your
request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
My image of God is also as if He is standing next to a child at a busy intersection.
A drunk driver careens down the road, weaving madly from side to side. Suddenly
the drunk's car bears directly down on the child, and sometimes God reaches
over and pulls the child out of harm's way, and sometimes God does not.
I do not doubt that we are supposed to be "God's eyes and ears and
hands and feet." But we cannot always be at that intersection, or where
ever else we need to be. Indeed, sometimes we are prevented from doing so.
Ben, I do not *like* these images of God, but they cling and will not go
away. So I judge myself to be guilty of ungratefulness because I do not
value the crumbs from my Master's table, and I pass sentence on myself,
saying, "You are not likely to see more than this if this is what you
believe." I see the darkness and sin and anguish all around us, and
I remember years of praying for God's light and receiving nothing. And I
judge God to be guilty of sins of omission. And all my thinking and reading
and study become a trap.
Well, I wrote this last night and came back to it in the morning light.
I usually delete stuff like this and start over, but it is true to my experience
and so I will send it. I have further response to your last letter, but
will send it separately. This is quite enough by itself.
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