"Judgments of a Loving God" - Preface





Preface: Your history and your view of God

Preface Contents 


P1. Introduction

P2. Intellect and Emotions

P3. Wrong Views of God

P4. The Specific Problem of demands and commands

P5. And so…


(Please note, from time to time I will edit and upgrade these pages, so they may change from the last time you were here)


P1. Introduction


Having 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.


I 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.


Christian 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 thought.


I 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 so important.



P2. Intellect & Emotions


Schaeffer, 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.


However, 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,

  • first thinking about how people view God and then
  • specifically how they react to being confronted with instructions or commands, i.e. how they respond to authority.

Both 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 vision.



P3. Wrong Views of God


Let's 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 causes.

I 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.


a) The Ineffectual God

“You 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?”

It's 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.


b) The Bumbling God

“When 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!”

Bumbling 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.


c) The Don't Care God

“I've 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?”

I 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.


d) The Hard Demanding God

“Everything 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.”

The ‘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!


e) The Fearful Holy God

“Your 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.”

Well 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.

If 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.


f) The God who trips us up

“I 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!”

The 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).


g) The ‘nothing is ever good enough' God

“I 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!”

Well 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.

The 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.

And So

May 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.

What 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.



P4. The Specific Problem of Demands and Commands


A Problem of Viewpoint

Now 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

  • somehow the fact that God gives commands makes him a dictator and,
  • even more, if people don't obey His commands they are in serious trouble.

May I suggest that it is all about the way you look at things.


A Hypothetical Example

Let 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.


He 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.


It's 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.


Now 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.


Personal not intellectual reasons

Now 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.


Next, 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.


Because 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.


Truths about God

Because 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.


In 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 live.


Rejections of God's Design

Let's 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 various things.


When 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.


Causes fo Rejection

Dare 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.



P5. And so….


This 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.


If 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?



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