One of the lines I often hear (and maybe you also do) is: “If that’s what God is like, I don’t think I could believe in him.”
And the list of objections are all over the place. It seems to be that if a person has an objection to something that is understood about the character or activity of God, if they find part of that offensive, then the objection is allowed to rule the day. And a relationship with God is benched.
Part of this sort of thinking and responding is encouraged by those who suggest that you can define eternal truth and reality however you want. If it seems real and valid to you, it is. If it doesn’t, it isn’t. As long as you believe it, that is enough. Sort of like Disney’s “all you need to do is believe” line from Peter Pan.
Curious, isn’t it, how we easily accept that this works for spiritual reality, but quickly agree it doesn’t work for pretty much any other part of life.
I tried to tell the cop in Smith Falls that I believed there was no stop sign. He smiled. But I still got a ticket. I tried to believe, really believe, that the grass wasn’t growing last week. Still had to cut it. I tried to believe that it was only Tuesday and I had LOTS of time before my blog would get published. Alas, it is very much Thursday afternoon.
Just because I find something in the character or actions of God offensive, doesn’t mean I can just dream up some alternative reality. Maybe instead of having to “rewrite” God, what I need to be doing is rewrite my expectations of God, or rewrite how I behave in life before God, or the like. Maybe the fact that I encounter something about God that offends me is more a sign that God is real and needs to be taken seriously, than that I need to go off and come up with some sort of spiritual belief that keeps me comfortable.
Dr. Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, suggests the following as a warning if we find this sort of line dancing in our head…
“Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have…a God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction. Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination…To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense?”
― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
Jesus, for one, had no trouble offending all sorts of people. Writing off, or walking away from what he says, though, would be a huge mistake. It needs to be wrestled with.