Monday, November 17, 2008

If God So Loved The World...

I have been haunted by Rob Bell's question in his video "the gods aren't angry", and it's emotional but powerful critique of Anselmic Atonement theology (Christ satisfies God's wrath in his suffering) and the Protestant doctrine of Penal Substitution (Christ died in our place). He says "Does your God need to hurt something to love?...Does your God say 'oh if I could only get more blood I would be so happy'...Does he think 'oh you killed that animal, now I love ya!...'"

I realize that all of our orthodox systems in Christian theology focus greatly on merit - even if it is hidden. Obviously for the Catholics, it is: belonging to the right Church, and doing the right motions, and the Priest saying the right words, and you having the right intent. This is the Catholic system of merit which has long been attacked and ridiculed etc.

BUT - the Protestant system equally relies on merit - though they try to hide it. I would argue that the Protestant system actually focusses more on Human merit than the Catholic one, in that the Catholic one actually shows grace to those who don't deserve it at a few points whereas the Protestant system shows grace to those who don't deserve it not even once. Let me explain this possibly ridiculous claim.

For the Protestant you have to have sola fide - faith alone and THEN you are Justified. You have to understand the gospel, accept the gospel, and decide. Just ask most Evangelicals (excluding the usual suspects: Lutherans, True Calvinists/Presbyterians, Anglicans) what they think about infant baptism. Chesterton says that men who wish to become Baptist ministers do so out of the 'horror that an infant could unconsciously come to Christ'. In Catholicism a baby who doesn't understand anything can be baptized and said to be unequivocally 'saved'. For Protestants (at least the modern ones) this is high heresy. The idea that someone could be saved without earning it by believing and having knowledge and rejecting false heretical papist versions of the gospel - that is terrible!

So we have the Catholics who are fighting their way through earth and purgatory by faith and works and sacraments to reach Heaven and the Modern Protestants who are preaching a sort of Gnostic idea that knowledge will save you and that if you say the sinners prayer of believe the "right" theology then you'll be saved (See Sproul on believing the "right" (Reformed) theology for salvation). Each equally trying to earn their way into Heaven or at least to point the finger at those around them to try and prove that they're more deserving than their neighbour.

There was once a man named Martin Luther who taught alot of things - but aside from his theories on driving the Jews our of Germany as dogs, he had one interesting idea (which Hitler didn't later advance). It was the reinterpretation of Sola Gratia - Grace Alone, and imputed righteousness. He was wild enough to propose that humans actually didn't have to do anything to be saved, that they were freely justified by grace alone and predestined by God to go to Heaven no matter what they did. (Luther was a Calvinist/Classic Reformed in this view but later Lutherans changed him) He wrote to Sin boldly with confidence in Christ. He was a grace-high psychopath who actually believed God loved people even when they didn't earn it.

But, I began to wonder something even MORE crazy, something heretical, something unorthodox... what if God actually loved people unconditionally.


Seriously, like REALLY unconditionally.

Like if he loved Richard Dawkins. Like if someone cursed God and spit on him and God still loved that person.

Clearly that's not the biblical view of God as he says that those who keep his commandments will be loved by him (Jn 14:21) and that we will be judged by our works (Mt 25:44, Rev 22), and that he hates the proud, and obviously hates the Canaanites as he ordered their genocide. And obviously God hates Idolaters as they were killed by the Levites after Moses brought down the 10 commandments and the people were worshipping the golden calves..

What if God loved people who worshipped golden cows...

Well philosophically I'd then have to say that God would not be Just or Holy or a bunch of other good things that he is, and apparently there's no loophole for him to get out of his obligation to hate sin. But it boggles my mind that someone who can see everything and upholds all existence would be so shocked and appalled by sin. It kind of reminds me of when I watch Lord of the Rings and I KNOW Boromir is going to die, but Boromir is my favourite character and I get angry and sad and cry every time I watch it. Does God do that every day as he upholds our existence and sees the endless sin of humanity, does he cry and lament our every sinful and human mistake which he consequently knew would happen and even allows to continue to happen.

Even if Deism does show us an uncaring God, at least it makes sense in that God can deal with the consequences of his creation, it's almost like the God of theism created a sandcastle on the beach and then freaks out and blames the castle for being knocked down by the waves.

But ya, I'd have to be some kind of wild non-Christian Episcopalian to believe nonsense like God actually loving people who don't have the right religion. What was I thinking.