The ancient Greek’s viewed god as judgmental, angry, and elderly–detached from the world waiting just for someone to do something wrong. Sadly, this Greek view has permeated Western society.
According to USA Today Religion survey: Out of the 91.8% say they believe in God, a higher power or a cosmic force, they had four distinct views of God’s personality and engagement in human affairs.
The survey asked respondents to agree or disagree with any of 10 descriptions of their “personal understanding of what God is like,” including phrases such as “angered by my sins” or “removed from worldly affairs.” They could check off 16 adjectives they believe describe God, including words such as “absolute,” “wrathful,” “forgiving,” “friendly” or “distant.”
These views of God tell more about people’s social, moral and political views and personal piety than the familiar categories of Protestant/Catholic/Jew or even red state/blue state.
- The Authoritarian God (31.4% of Americans overall, 43.3% in the South) is angry at humanity’s sins and engaged in every creature’s life and world affairs. He is ready to throw the thunderbolt of judgment down on “the unfaithful or ungodly,” Bader says.
- The Critical God (16% overall, 21.3% in the East) has his judgmental eye on the world, but he’s not going to intervene, either to punish or to comfort.
- The Distant God (24.4% overall, 30.3% in the West) is “no bearded old man in the sky raining down his opinions on us,” Bader says. Followers of this God see a cosmic force that launched the world, then left it spinning on its own. This has strongest appeal for Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jews.
- The Benevolent God (23% overall, 28.7% in the Midwest) still sets absolute standards for mankind in the Bible. More than half (54.8%) want the government to advocate Christian values.
What Did Jesus Say About God?
Jesus’ disciples requested, “Teach us to pray.” He answered with a prayer beginning with the words “Our Father” (Mt 6:9-13).
Jesus called God Abba, a term of endearment and respect similar to our term Daddy. Our heavenly Father is our Daddy, someone who is close to us, who cares about us, who loves us, who watches over us–someone who will listen to us, someone who wants our good. We don’t have to become worthy to be His children. We just have to accept Him as Father!
The Creator of the Universe who spoke the world into being lovingly chose to commit Himself to our salvation by stepping into humanity as Immanuel (meaning “God with us.”) He broke down the wall of separation that our sin had built and reconciled us to Himself; “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” (2 Co. 5:19).
A Stunning Portrait of God Our Father
The most stunning portrait of God our Father is in the parable of the prodigal Son.
The father longingly watched for his son’s return then when he saw him approaching, he came running to the prodigal son kissing him over and over, even before the son apologized. The dancing father was elated in his son’s return.
In The Parable of the Dancing God, C. Baxter Kruger explains how Jesus replied to the Pharisee’s distorted views about God:
Jesus confronts them with a picture of a God who dances in sheer joy at the sight of a failure coming home. He confronts them with a God who turns out to be a divine sprinter, who runs after sinners, who throws parties for those who have not and cannot possibly qualify for His favor. Instead of a God quick to judge–a hangin’ judge, who has one hand on the rope of the trap door and searches for an excuse to jerk it–Jesus’ version of God is of an amazing Father who steadfastly, persistently and unswervingly remains exactly what He is, a Father, even and especially when His sons become rebellious, twisted and wayward.
There is no list-keeping in this Father’s heart. There are no Pharisaical religious steps to forgiveness. There is no mention at all of forgiveness here and especially of earning it in any way. Because forgiveness is already done. It is, in Jesus’ word, “finished.”
… This is about a sinner coming to his senses and encountering the truth of who he is because of who God is. This is about a son encountering the truth that he has a home, that he has a father, that he has an inheritance that he cannot squander. This is about coming to know God, coming to know and believe the good news of God the Father’s immutable heart…
“Son, this is not about your opinion of yourself. This is not about your worthiness. This is not about winning points with me. This is not about what you do or fail to do. This is about the fact that I am your father and therefore you are my son. This is about you coming to know who I really am and therefore who you are–you belong to me. This is about you coming to know as you are known. This is about you seeing the real riches of your inheritance in me and being filled with a great hallelejuah! This is about you coming to bask in my relationship with you.”
Let’s Talk About This!
Do you ever feel unworthy of a father/child relationship with God?
Do you feel God is waiting for you to do something wrong so He can zap you?
Has legalistic religion (like the older son in the Prodigal story) kept you, from experiencing the Father’s acceptance?