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Survey Reveals American's View of God

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.

  1. Authoritarian
  2. Critical
  3. Distant
  4. Benevolent

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.”

Read the rest of this beautiful story in the free download The Parable of the Dancing God, (also available as an audio file)from Perichoresis.org

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?


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About Robin Sampson


  1. I think many times it is “us” who get in the way of our relationship and most times I doubt I will ever walk the life Christ wants for me. I then have to remind myself as you have pointed out, God wants a relationship with me. He is pursuing me and all I need to do is let Him catch me.


    Angelas last blog post..Fruit of the Spirit Friday

  2. JustPassin'Thru

    I believe I see God as an Angry Father…? One who knows the good things I am capable of and wanting to smack me upside the head because I’m so stupid sometimes!

    I feel completely accepted by God the Father, but my own father is not my earthly example, my mother is/was. She listened and seldom critizied, and basically I knew where I stood with her.

    However, my parents were quite judgemental of others. They put others down in order to build themselves up. A Heavenly Judge measures us against a non-corrupt standard. Earthly judges have measures that change with the situation. Perhaps what I’ve gleaned from the memory of my childhood frustrations is the knowledge that no matter what I did to measure up to Dad, I never quite hit the mark. But God’s standard doesn’t change! At some point I realized that just because mom didn’t say mean things TO me, didn’t meanshe didn’t say mean things ABOUT me to others…just as she “confided” to me

    So I already had in me the concept that what I do isn’t enough, but through Jesus, I know that He not only makes it good enough, He even makes it glorious.

    I was not burdened with a legalistic Christian upbringing. My family was moral, but not believers (from what I could see as a young headstrong know-it-all. I was born late in my parents’ lives, so there was much to them I didn’t stop to consider until they had passed away). So no I don’t have the mental image that my childhood friend had. It was an epophinal moment when she realized God was NOT like her childhood image: this old guy with a beard looking down on her from his home on a cloud with a ruler in his hand, just waiting to whack her with it.

  3. Lisa Arndt

    My answer is yes, I have often felt unworthy of a father/child relationship with God. And yes, most definitely legalistic religion has been partly the cause of this. In fact, I’m still struggling with the whole idea. Reading Wayne Jacobson’s book and the transitions seminar by him has opened my eyes as to why prayer is so difficult for me. Interestingly, the simple truth of this fact that no amount of my own effort will earn a relationship with God feels like the solid food spoken of in 1 Cor. 3:2. All this time I’ve been under the impression that the solid food is actually just understanding Biblical truths more deeply. Yet to understand God’s love is to be able to graduate from that milk to meat. I fear I’m still just able to take the milk. The difficult thing for me is that there is really nothing I can do to get from this milk to the meat because it’s something God does, right? Anyway, thanks Robin! You have a knack for pointing me to the safety of the ROCK. Lisa

  4. I feel at times God is not happy with me and I can never do anything right, I grew up in a home where my dad never showed me any love, nothing at all? I always felt no matter what I did it was not good enough for both of my parents. I feel the same way about God!!!

  5. I believe God is a father, a friend, and also a judge that cannot tolerate sin. We need to be careful not to put God in a box and think that he is just a cuddley puppy that just happened to create the universe.

    My life is driven by a fear of the Lord that draws me closer to Him and pleases Him because of the choices I make. Do I have to make those choices? No. I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus and my sins have been completely forgiven. Do I want to live a life that is not bound by guilt but that is dedicated to pleasing my God? Definitely yes.

  6. I could not see God as He is in the prodigal parable until I got over my own daddy issues. I assumed God would abandon me no matter what I did. When God showed this to me it ended a 27-year prodigal run by me. Now I can see Abba, I can feel His delight in me.

    You’re a powerful witness of God’s true work.

  7. This was certainly interesting. I did not know this was the general perception of God!

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