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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Loving God or No God At All

I don't hate theology as a subject, but I do dislike most of its contents.  We say, "God is unknowable," and then go on talking endlessly.  And, I mean endlessly.

You get the same starry-eyed looks from post-grads as earnest intellectualized converts as they delve deep into things that they really, really feel think are important.  Yes, it is never about their emotional state... they are always very rational.  Up until you disagree with them, and then all the hostility and sarcasm pours forth.  Never wake a dreamer from his beautiful dream.

Here's a rule of thumb: if someone gets angry during a theological discussion and starts uttering condescending insults or just plain yelling (or FLAMING in the case of those always-entertaining online theological debates), you have a moron on the other end of the stick.  I don't always use that word, but when I do, it is usually reserved for impassioned amateur theologians.  Don't try to fight them: angry people really need something we ought not give them, so it is best to just avoid them.

While I try to avoid calling people names and using ad hominems, 'moron' really works for me in describing the angry 'theologian.'  That's because you can't talk about God and get angry unless you are willing to say that you know a lot about God and hate Him at the same time.  That's the devil's problem.

You see, the true God is Love.  He is the fullness and completion of Love.  The more you know Him, the more you see of this love.  And, that alone should make getting angry a profoundly difficult task.

It really makes no sense to talk about God as if He is not Love, because for us humans this is the only way that we can even have any hope of perceiving Him.  He can only be manifested as Love.  What do I mean?  Simply put, pain and suffering and death and decay are all self-explanatory.  They are utterly natural, and you don't need a god to explain their existence.  Science does a great job of explaining why they are there and how they work.

The only thing which science cannot explain, really, is man's need for God's love.  We can't even really explain why we inherently need our parents' love and affection, but that's a different discussion.  But, man naturally seeks some kind of greater sense of divine purpose and kinship.  Religions have been with us for as long as we can tell, and while they do try to explain how the world came about, it also tries to provide men some kind of hope.

Why do we, of all the animals on earth, need hope?

The last time I checked, dolphins and monkeys don't pray or build altars.  Only we do.

The modern world proves that you can have some basic social order without religion, though it does seem to help.  However, there are plenty of lawless places right now where there is religion, so I don't think that there is an immutable connection between the two.  Natural selection can't really explain religion in a convincing way.

Man has an inexplicable need for hope, and only a Loving God, a God of Love, can provide it.  And, you you truly believe that God loves us, then getting angry about a stupid theological debate is really counter-intuitive.  That's why I use the m-word to describe people who talk about God and get angry.

Again, pain and suffering and death and decay are all self-explanatory.  You don't need a God to explain them.  You do need a God to explain why you should not run off a cliff when you look at how much pain and suffering and death and decay are out there in this world.  You can call it the survival instinct, but I think most of us agree that man's survival instincts are really a mess when you look at how screwed up things are in the world.  

Man has a deeper problem: he is willing to plunge into self-destruction for the sake of love.  He is willing to go contrary to common sense and even the laws of physics in search of Love.  And, this is not a love that can be found in the things of this world, because if that were true, then we could just get those things and be happy.  But, that isn't happening, either.  We have lots of all kinds of stuff and are gulping pills like crazy.

The only use we have for God is if He is indeed love.  It is the only need that man cannot fill on His own.  Even the polite 'public atheist' will go soft on his denial in the face of a God of Love.  Atheism is a lonely place, and the atheist can empathize with the need for us to be loved.  He experiences it, too.  He just says it is an itch he can't scratch.  We believe that too, and that only God can reach that part of us that we cannot.

Without love, there is no need for any connection between man and God at all.  Man does not need God to make him more miserable, because are a perfectly able to manufacture our own misery without divine intervention.

The only thing left to discuss, then, is how God loves us.  Most theological junkies stray way far from that tether and get into spacey topics because they enjoy dreams, not because they are actually interested in God.  'Mystical theology' can often become a reasonable man's acid trip, just as legalism is the temptation of the weak believer.

We must always remain grounded in the knowledge that God is only knowable to us through His loving acts.  This is the only way we can discern Him from the natural order.  This love is unmistakable, whether you call it a 'miracle' or something else.

A God who is not Love is hardly worth acknowledging, and even less worth talking about.  And, if we acknowledge that God is a God of love, then the only things fit to say about Him should be said in love.

It also means that the one thing we all share is a lack of love.  If we had it, we would not need it.  Spiritual growth is the acquisition of love.  In my own case, I know I have a long ways to go in acquiring Divine Love, so I keep trying.

That means we have to say the word 'moron' with love.  After all, God loves them, too.  ;)

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