Your history and your view of God
Intellect and Emotions
Wrong Views of God
The Specific Problem of demands and commands
note, from time to time I will edit and upgrade these pages, so they
may change from the last time you were here)
written a large part of this book I found myself in a variety of conversations
and the same difficulties kept coming up. It made me realise that
actually before we get into the book itself, we need to have a go
at clearing the ground, for most people's lives are cluttered by a
whole variety of misunderstandings about
God and about the Christian faith which stem from
something other than intellectual difficulty.
need to say at the outset that although the layout of this Preface
will be the same as the chapters, it will differ from the following
chapters in that I will not be quoting Scripture here, simply making
some broad statements. Each of those statements will come
from a background of full scriptural understanding
but I will not, for the sake of space, justify them with the scriptural
verses on which they are based. Please simply take my word that what
I state below is justified by the Bible in every respect.
philosopher and theologian Dr. Francis Schaeffer used to talk a lot
about the presuppositions that
people have, their basic starting points for the way they look at
life and he said, “Most people catch their presuppositions from
their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles.”
What he meant by that is that most of us have these ‘starting points'
which we have just picked up along the way without giving them much
have written this Preface to help each
of us face our ‘starting points' but I am going to
suggest that while Schaeffer was addressing intellectual starting
places (for that was his area of expertise), there is another realm
that may have left us with a whole range of wrong perceptions and
it will be these wrong perceptions which may even stop you taking
in the very basic things in this book. That is why this preface is
Intellect & Emotions
I have just suggested, implied that we catch our ‘starting points'
by listening to other people
as part of the experience of our mind, often
in earlier life. That is the intellect and that is
what most of this book is going to appeal to. Again and again you
will find that I am going to appeal to reason and logic
as we consider the contents of the Bible.
experience shows that actually many
people's presuppositions are anchored in emotional experiences,
in our formative years. The experiences we have so often leave emotional
imprints and we come to view everything through the filter of these
imprints which we use as a lens by which to assess all in front of
us. This will become clearer as we examine the next two sections,
thinking about how people view God
how they react to being confronted
with instructions or commands, i.e. how they respond
of these areas impact our emotions, and our emotions then act as a
harsh filter of what might be true, but leaving us with distorted
Wrong Views of God
state it again: we so often formulate our views about God, how we
feel about God, in the light of experiences we have had in earlier
life that had an emotional impact on us that creates an emotional
imprint through which we view everything. Let's suggest a number of
ways this works, the distorted views of God we can have and their
recognise, again and again in what follows, that so often these negative
feelings arise because of the failure
of people and I would ask you to distinguish between
the failures of people and the actions of God, and I hope following
chapters will help you in this.
The Ineffectual God
tell me that God is all-powerful but why does he allow all the injustice
in the world? Why did he allow bad things to happen to me?”
a good question, a very valid question, and you'll find answers to
it in this book as you go along. For the point of this Preface though,
I simply want you to note the anger you are probably feeling. I run
several blogs examining the Christian standpoint and in the early
days before I had provided sufficient information to appeal to the
intellect, I often got very vitriolic demands to justify various things
about God. My books today try to meet those demands but I am left
feeling sad, because so often these (mostly) young people are so blinded
by anger at what they have experienced in life that it stops them
seeing the very answer and means of help. Knowing Christian family,
friends, vicars, or teachers, who seem more concerned with their own
little worlds to the neglect of the poor and downtrodden, can convey
the image of an ineffectual God, but it is a distorted image. It is
not how He feels.
The Bumbling God
I was young I had this Christian teacher who said things about the
Christian faith that no one in their right mind would go along with!”
Christians I accept, as well intentioned as they might be, convey
a picture of a bumbling God, a doddery old man losing his faculties.
You don't feel angry about this, just derision. I have to tell you
that the God of the Bible is about as far away from that image as
you can possibly get. Throw away that distortion. Whether it be parents,
vicars or teachers, a shallow faith in them can conveyed that this
whole Christian and God thing is wishy-washy and not worth giving
much thought to. I hope this book, if you can really get into it,
will show you that that is far from the truth.
The Don't Care God
gone through some really tough times in my life and if God is supposed
to care for us, why didn't He turn up to help me?”
dare to say that actually He was there, feeling for you and wanting
to communicate with you but at that time you weren't open to hear
Him. Sadly there weren't any Christians around to help you, His representatives
on call for you, and for that I am sorry, but that is more down to
us than it is down to Him. Sometimes this feeling is there in us because
people close to us did not know what it really meant to love, care
and support, and therefore there were times when we felt abandoned
and alone and what we see in them, we attribute to Him, but that is
far from the truth.
The Hard Demanding God
I've heard from preachers is that God is always making demands of
us and just wants to kick us into line as subservient cattle, there
to do His bidding.”
‘hard man' mentality is a common one that comes from misunderstanding
His very nature and why He does ask things of us. That's why we'll
deal with it as a subject in it's own right in the next section. People
who see God as a strict and hard man so often feel that because they
have had strict or demanding parents or teachers. They are left
feeling that life is all about demands, and they then transfer those
demands on how they understand what God says. The church is not always
good at conveying the truth about God and they do Him a disservice
when they lay heavy demands on people instead of showing the wonderful
grace that is available from God. Some people, quite understandably,
flee from this image of God. So would I – if it were true!
The Fearful Holy God
preachers say that God kills people because they do not live up to
His incredibly high expectations. If He is holy like they say, there
is no hope for any of us. We can never become like Him.”
that partly comes from misunderstanding what ‘holy' means and it also
partly comes from failing to appreciate the awfulness of what was
going on when God did step in and death followed. Probably you have
never looked in detail at what went on, and never considered was there
any alternative to what happened. That is what we will do in detail
in this book. Again we tend to create this fearful image of God when
we have had fearful people in our lives dominating us with their fear.
This is not how God is.
God is fearful it is simply that He is utterly different from us in
respect of His utter goodness, which indeed is scary - but He invites
us to share in that goodness.
The God who trips us up
didn't go looking for some of the things that have happened in my
life; it was like I was being tripped up again and again and if there
is a power behind everything, then this was Him. He's unfair!”
truth, seen from the Christian perspective, is that we live in what
Christians call a ‘Fallen World', a world that is not perfect as God
made it in the beginning, but one that goes wrong because we, the
human race, so often choose to ignore God and do our own thing (see
more in the section that follows) and therefore the world 'breaks
down' and ‘goes wrong' and we get the bad end of that. Contrary to
this false belief, God is there available to help us when we give
Him the chance (although He will never force Himself on us).
The ‘nothing is ever good enough' God
try to live a good life but every time I go near you church people
you seem to be raising the bar so that whatever I do is never good
enough. That sounds like a miserable, petty and unkind God to me!”
the truth, that we Christians obviously don't convey very well, is
that we can never be good enough to win God's love but that is for
two reasons. First, whenever we do try and do good, we can only do
it in a limited measure and so when we are constantly trying to assess
ourselves we keep on spotting failure and that makes us feel even
worse. The second reason is that the truth is that God wants to just
to GIVE us His love, not make us earn it.
truth is that He knows everything there is to know about us and still
loves us. The whole business of Jesus Christ coming to reveal his
Father, God, is that we may know His love and acceptance and that
He has done everything He can to bring us into a place of relationship
with Him where we are completely at ease with Him. He is about as
opposite to ‘miserable, petty and unkind' as you can get.
I reiterate the point of this section. Each of the above is a way
the world may have communicated a distorted and therefore untrue image
of God to us - and we Christians have not been very good at countering
that and showing the truth.
I have observed is that people can be locked in to their emotions
and are thus unable to see through them to discern truth and error.
In the chapters that follow I will do all I can to lay out my intellectual
reasoning as clearly as possible but if you remain locked in to one
of these false images because of the emotional impact that has been
imposed on you by other people or simply by circumstances, you will
find it very difficult to take in and work through the things you
will find in these coming chapters.
The Specific Problem of Demands and Commands
Problem of Viewpoint
there is this particular problem which may or may not be associated
with any of the above things, the feeling that some people have that
the fact that God gives commands makes him a dictator and,
more, if people don't obey His commands they are in serious trouble.
I suggest that it is all about the way you look at things.
me give you a hypothetical example. Suppose I have a son who is in
his teenage years and somehow he has got it into his mind that he
no longer wants to be under the care and protection of his parents;
he's grown up now so he can make his own decisions. Partly true, but
consider this particular scenario.
comes in having been talking with a rebellious friend of his who has
convinced him that parents are a necessary evil for their early years
but it is now time for him to stand on his own two feet and reject
anything I, as his parent, might put to him. He comes in to the room
where I am sitting, sees me, and turns around to go. I reach out to
him saying, “From what you were saying yesterday, you might need this,”
and I hold out a twenty pound note to him, but he has his back to
me and refuses to turn round. “I don't need your help!” I happen to
know he is broke and does need my money. He leaves penniless.
coming up to a special birthday and so we have bought him a car. The
scene is repeated again but this time I say playfully, “Would you
like to go into the garage for me please?” as I hold out a set of
car keys. “I can't," he snaps with his back to me, and still
with his back to me, “I'm busy,” and he storms out the door. The car
remains where it is and he walks to his friend's house.
jump on ten years. My son now runs his own small business. I happen
to be a business development manager but I rarely say anything because
I know he wants to run his business without reference to me. But I
watch the signs and I see he is getting edgy and worried. One day
I venture, “Do you need any help with the business?” “No, I'm fine!”
he snaps back. “Did I hear you say the other day you missed getting
your accounts in to the tax man on time?” “That's none of your business,”
he snaps again and storms out.
not intellectual reasons
look at what went on here. I suggest that this is how people so often
treat God; it is not because of intellectual reasons they have to
reject His existence, but because of personal reasons. First of all
my son had a financial need and as a loving father I wanted to help
him with that but he had turned his back on me and could not see either
the twenty pound note in my hand or the look of concern in my eyes.
So what happened? He stormed out, still in need, refusing the resources
I had for him.
the same thing happened in respect of the car. He would never have
dreamed that I would give him a car but I loved him and saw that that
could help him in the years to come. Years later his independence
refuses to use my wisdom and experience to help him out of the mess
he had got into in his business. As I said, I believe these are good
examples of exactly how we treat God - and we suffer as a result,
and then dare to complain about God.
of the difficulties of life (and maybe having had some of the experiences
I highlighted in the previous section) many of us have been left believing
that we would be better off running our life the way we think is best,
even if from time to time that is proven untrue as we get in a mess.
of what we have come to (falsely) believe about God, although each
of these things are in fact true, we believe they are not:
- That God loves me just as I am,
- That He doesn't condemn me,
- That He has my best on His heart,
- That His wisdom is greater than
anything I can imagine and so He knows all the answers to every
problem I may face,
- That He wants to lead me into a
life whereby He can help and advise me, show me the best way ahead,
and provide me with all the resources I need to go that way.
other words He wants the very best for me. How does the whole thing
about ‘commands' come into this? Well whenever He says do this or
don't do that, He is showing you the best way to proceed to get the
very best out of your life. “But,” you find yourself saying, “why
can't I go the other way, a different way? Why should I respond to
this dictator?” You can if you like, and you may well have been doing
that all your life so far, but if it is contrary to what He says,
understand it is contrary to the way He has designed us to
of God's Design
give very simple and very obvious examples of how we abuse God's good
design. He has given us taste and provided us with an immense variety
of wonderful foods but eating too much (gluttony) causes obese-ness
and general health breakdown and even life risk. The use of grapes
to produce beautiful wines of great variety is another example of
God's good provision, but if we regularly drink to excess we experience
the many problems of alcoholism which may include abuse of people,
health breakdown and even risk of death. Now we all know these very
obvious things but knowing does not stop many of us falling to these
God says don't drink to excess, the foolish or immature claim He is
a killjoy but actually He is saying, “I'm trying to save your life!”
Look at all the maladies of the modern world – and there are many
of them – they all come from living life the opposite way to the way
God has designed us – and we still think we know best.
to be honest about these things. So much of the hostility against
God that I encounter has nothing to do with intellectual reasons;
they are mostly to do with emotional reasons and as such they distort
the truth. Similarly, most of the times I hear rejection of God ‘because
he is a dictator' I hear a general rejection of authority. So often
the people who say that, also portray the bad fruits of this rejection
– social, relational, emotional, psychological and even physical breakdowns
– and they are all painful, but the people concerned don't have the
courage to be honest and acknowledge that. Sorry if that sounds hard,
but the hard, physical, scientific evidence is there that shows this
to be true.
book will examine what the Bible says about God and His dealings with
the human race and will intellectually – using reason and logic –
examine the truth of what happens and why.
we are cluttered up with the emotional baggage I have been talking
about in this Preface, be warned, you will struggle to objectively
think through everything that is here until you have eyeballed that
baggage and put it aside. Can you do that, that is the big question?