A Perception of God
Written by: Robert D Brinsmead
When it comes to theology, it makes no difference if a person is a professed atheist, because all have a reference point to what they regard as the Supreme Good. Some personify the Supreme Good by labeling that God – others do not. Nothing determines the character of a person as much as that person’s concept of the character of God – or the character of the Supreme Good.
Harold Ellens writes an interesting observation on Carl rogers who “did not think it was an inherently unbelievable idea that humans could exercise unconditional positive regard for each other…but even he was most hesitant to believe it true of God. Thus, he could preach human unconditional grace but could not imagine unconditional grace of God. Unfortunately, Carl Rogers is joined by much of the human race throughout history, who cannot imagine that God is not a god of terror and threat. God, the warrior, the vindictive judge, the impulsive slayer, the genocidal maniac, is a monster and nobody should honor him. He makes me sick! He makes us all sick. God, the purveyor of unconditional grace is situation-appropriate, a key gradient of good mental health. We are human, we did not ask to be human, to be born, to be limited in our data base, to be creatures of growth and change, to be unfolding persons that inherently need to explore and experiment and imagine by trial and error. We did not ask for our transcendental task and our mere mundane resources. And God who does not see that and respond with unconditional positive regard is a very sick monster. That is why John says that the real God is faithful and just to forgive us! (l John 1:9). Did you hear that? It is a matter of justice that for the like of us, caught in our limited humanness, the only right thing is mercy. “As a father pities his children so God pities us who contemplate him as awesome!” (Psalm 103:9). Now that is a health God. Healthy people are, therefore, awestruck by such a God.
“How can we make sure that our perception of God is not instead the universally cominant lie that he is a monster?
“We will not achieve human well-being until we create a world culture of well-being. We shall not achieve that until God gets well in our theological constructs. A world culture of wellbeing implies a world of psycho-spiritual metaphors that produce healthful unconscious archetypes. To achieve that we must destroy the sick monster God that reigns unconsciously in all our hearts. Furthermore, we must train our children for that in every new generation. The programs of psychological and more re-framing are worth the trouble. Freud and Jung have given us much help. But it is the monster God that sometimes appears in the Hebrew Bible (OT) that must be exorcised and killed, if we are to achieve some gains toward the world of well-being we can imagine, instead of the lethal world we continually tend to create.
“Judaism, Christianity, and Islam must rediscover the God of grace and learn to care about behaving in that same grace. Sick gods make sick people. Health theology has a chance to make humans wholesome and healthy.” Excepts taken from Honest Faith for our Time
I believe there are at least seven thousand thinkers like Ellens out there who have not bowed the knee to this monster god. As for stressing the “unconditional” nature of grace/love, Ellens uses the term “Doesn’t God have to be better than the best parents we sometimes witness?”
We can’t legitimately do our theologizing from above – that is, soar up to the unsearchable, incompressible and unknowable God. We can only do our theology from below. (That is a piece of advice from Luther). When we see humanity at its best, we can recognize that, because we are witnessing something divine. For instance, “to err is human, but to forgive is divine.” When we see humans forgiving one another, we somehow sense that in this we glimpse something transcendent in humanity. We are like Moses looking at the burning bush, amazed that this lowly bush can burn like this. Doing theology correctly (which everyone does in his own way) is to see this image of God, (which image God has made, not us), and then we can extrapolate from this to what God must be like. So the reasoning of Jesus, “Ye are the light of the world…let men see your good works (forgiving and loving your enemies) and then they will understand something of what God, your Father, must be like.”
On the other hand, doing our theology from above, that is imagining or making an image of God from our human imagination, is the transgression of the Second Commandment which forbids our making an image of God. When we do this, God becomes the projection of the evil in ourselves. We can’t project from our own estimated “goodness” to God’s goodness because that is an exercise in our own vanity. The eye cannot see itself, but it can see the goodness of God being exhibited by our fellow humanity. Think of the story of Moses descending from the Mount unaware that his face was shining with the glory of God. Others could see this, but Moses could not see his own face. That is how it is in seeing the image of God reflected in humanity.