In the past, over at De-Conversion blog, I’ve wrestled with God and the issues of pain and suffering and evil and conflict. I have come away from such discussions believing that the God of the Jewish scriptures is not the same God that Jesus knew or prayed to. Yesterday, I wrote about my affinity for Jesus and what that means for me today, as if Jesus is another being entirely from this God. And I believe he is. I believe he is the ultimate expression of an unknowable entity we call God.
Strangely, the whole of my life as a believer, there’s been this strange disconnect between the Christian concepts and explanations of God and this Jesus of Nazareth. Although Christians emphasize that God and Jesus are One and that this God is the same as He was in times past, I tend to separate them out into a kind of bad cop/good cop scenario. God, for me, has always been that great step-father in the sky, one who is really only looking for ways to fuck up your life, to make it harder to live normally (not that I couldn’t do as good a job myself). Jesus, on the other hand, was kind of like your big brother who protects you from the monster in the house. I’ve never thought much of trying to reconcile the God of Jewish scriptures and His inexplicable behavior because frankly for Christians, it’s pretty clear that the New Testament superseded the Old Covenant. It has too, or well, you might as well convert to Judaism. The Jewish God is far removed from the God of Jesus and Paul. Jesus was accessible. Jesus, I could relate to.
Now I know to other Christians this is weird behavior/belief on my part, but why does anyone believe anything anyway? Because it’s a comfort. Because they want to. They can justify all kinds of strange theology and they have! So when I separate Jesus from the Father, it’s a safety and comfort issue for me. It’s also because I’ve never really believed Christian explanations about how this God acts in the world. His behavior, as Christians tell it, is inconsistent and incoherent, so there must be a reason for it. No wonder non-believers scoff. I would and have scoffed as well! And the reason this God is inconsistent is that the Jewish writers of the scriptures presented God as they saw Him at the time. This image of Him did indeed evolve over the years, just as the Jewish people have evolved. The concept of God as seen through Christian eyes has also evolved over the years. I believe that God is so remote and far removed from the world that He is a being you go to with the monumental things and only then very, very sparingly and with much trepidation. God will not intervene in human affairs. He only did that once in Jesus. There is no guarantee you will be heard or even noticed with this God. Jesus, you can go to anytime, anywhere. It’s kind of like those Catholics who approach God only through Mary, so she can pave the way first, soften the blow. I get around the inconsistencies by knowing that God probably doesn’t hear. That’s Jesus’ job.
Now, I know that some will think this theology is “incorrect” and some will try to “reason” their way to a strange consistency between Jesus and God as the same Being, but I cannot equate the two except in purpose only. Nor do I see any evidence that God intervenes. It would seem that Jesus is God’s last statement to the world. The bible is clear that the actions of one do not jibe with the actions of the other. In theology, the five points of Calvinism has always suited me because of the concept that God knows the end from the beginning and not only knows it, but wills it completely. It fits in with Deism nicely. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, this concept of God’s knowing and willing history from the beginning is accepted, albeit, not in the Calvinistic sense, but in the sense that it is useless to speculate why God would require the sacrifice of His son to appease Himself. It was willed. End of discussion. All other speculations are moot. In other words, all of history was part of God’s program from the get-go. We don’t know why or how and it really doesn’t matter. We just know that it is.
Now reconciling all this with free-will does not concern me much either because I don’t believe free-will exists in any sense of the term that we define it now. There are so many variables at play in scientific terms that no one could logically infer a cause/effect from any set of actions let alone from a specific God-action. It’s far too complex. However, a Being such as God could reconcile it. In a way, this is entirely freeing. Sure, it doesn’t answer why some of us live such hard lives to the point that we feel we are being punished for something, but you can ask “why?” until the cows come home. You’re just not going to get an answer. At some point you have to make peace with the fact that there is no answer in human terms. Why do some people believe and some don’t? Why are some murderers who come from perfectly fine households and some who grow up in hell become saints? Some make peace with these dichotomies by giving up on the question. Some make peace by accepting all that is as a mystery. Still others make peace by continually raging against the machine. I’d like to thank hughvic over at De-conversion blog for not only injecting some fun and humorous dialogue into dreary debates demanding “logic,” (with little humor), but also for throwing a new word my way that has helped me make peace once and for all. The word is “fideism.”
In fideistic thinking, (especially my fondness for Kierkegaard’s way of thinking on faith) no amount of reasoning will get you to God. By the same token, I would posit, that no amount of reasoning will get you to a consistent Christian theology either. There are times when I can see that only individual elements of theology may be true, but taken as a whole they appear ridiculous and irreconcilable. Even I can figure that one out! But the God of the Old Covenant is one of those concepts that just needs to be left alone. Since I’m not an inerrantist, I don’t believe that the bible paints a necessarily accurate picture of God all the time. All it shows us is how the Jewish concept of God has changed through the centuries, culminating in Jesus’ concept of God. I think a “picture” of God and His ways will always be beyond our ken and our reach and yes, our reason. I’m fine with that. I’m tired of wrestling with a silent angel. This God neither needs my defense against charges of cruelty any more than this God needs to be extolled to the world as an object of worship. Jesus, for me, embodies all I need to know about this God. Jesus, for me, is all I care to know about such a God. The rest can forever remain a mystery because it doesn’t concern me. All I can hope for is the ultimate justice for the wrongs of the world. That’s what I have faith in. The ultimate “righting” of an off kilter world. Isn’t that all anyone hopes for?