God, What Are You Really Like?
by Mike Edwards
I swear this is the last time I will write on this subject until next time. There is repetition in my writing because I am always trying to answer the question better. I named my blog What God May Really Be Like in search of answers to this question. I am convinced many don’t pursue a relationship with God because of mistaken beliefs claimed about God.
The truth is we can’t prove that God exist or doesn’t exist. Either belief takes faith. If a Creator does exist, most agree only a perfectly good or loving God is worth believing in. Such a statement is nonsensical if we are clueless about perfect love. A Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others.
God and perfect human love must be the same.
The Bible even suggests perfect human love and God’s love are the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). “Follow God’s example…” (Eph. 5:1). We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves — am I loving others perfectly or am I loving others like our Creator loves. God is often claimed a mystery because one’s interpretation of Scriptures makes God seem evil. Such interpreters sense intuitively God and human love are the same.
Moral intuitions are a guide in what true love is.
It is plausible a universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated is how a Creator communicates how to treat others if in that person’s shoes. I don’t know any reasonable God or non-God believer that doesn’t respect the golden rule in relationships. Rational people don’t always agree what is our moral obligation concerning immigration, climate change, abortion, health care, taxes, or responding to evil dictators that murder their own people, but civil dialogue allows evaluating the challenges we encounter and finding what different views have in common.
But, what about the Bible?
We can’t prove if biblical writers were made to understand God perfectly as opposed to being on the same spiritual journey all are on — discovering what God is really like? Even if God inspired every word of the Bible, we can’t always know what the writers meant. Scholars disagree on the meaning of the same biblical passages concerning significant matters such as hell, women, gays, etc. Sick and weak minds carry out immoral acts contrary to common moral sense according to their interpretation. We must use our moral brains when reading ancient literature.
What About Jesus?
It is argued, because of the challenges understanding God and violence in the Old Testament, that Jesus is the final word in understanding God. Jesus claimed to be God and His moral legacy seems undeniable. But God-followers don’t always agree what Jesus taught because of transmission, translation, and interpretation. People who love Jesus with all their heart don’t agree if Jesus’ teachings allow or rule out war when evil is rampant and victims can be saved. It is an illusion to claim we can know for certain what God would do because the Bible or Jesus says so.
What does God really think about women, gays, and non-Christians?
Most intuitively question if a loving God really favors men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face. Most intuitively question if a loving God really condemn gays, who have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility, when gays can no more choose who attracted to than straights can. Most intuitively question if God would torture infidels forever for beliefs while on earth only for a short time. Humans wouldn’t even create a place such as Hell for their worst enemies. Such beliefs may only be held because of one’s interpretation of a supposed inspired Book.
Uncertainty may be better than certainty.
Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. It is universally accepted that it is evil to kill or behead someone because of their beliefs, unless you are a terrorist, but it is not a universal belief that God condemns gays. God may not communicate more directly, because God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. The Bible was more direct communication, but it has been used to force beliefs on others despite subject to interpretation. The road traveled of learning and reflecting may best lead to lasting convictions. Different opinions communicated respectively can stand together as we continually evaluate the most loving.
It matters what we think God is like!
Our mental images of God shape our relationship with God and how followers might treat others. The more you respect your earthly parents or God, the closer you are to them. We can’t claim with certainty, which may not be a bad thing, what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion. We can’t know what God is exactly like, but continually evaluating the most loving approach openly with others is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. Imagine what God is like. You may be right!