“I don’t worship that kind of God.”
It’s a common statement thrown about nowadays for a variety of ethical reasons. Usually, it’s said by someone who is offended at an event in Scripture, or someone’s interpretation of it, and they simply can’t imagine the all-loving God they know condoning, or directly causing, harm to others in some truly visceral ways. It’s a great topic for reflection, study, and prayer. After all, we must openly confront that the Bible writes of God condoning genocide, eliminating entire cities, asking fathers to kill sons, and a flood that supposedly kills almost everyone just 7 chapters into the whole thing. It’s a difficult task that some Christians don’t wrestle with at all because either A. Ignorance is bliss, B. It’d be too difficult to reformulate their image of God from the one they learned in Sunday School or C. They don’t struggle with it because they don’t question whether God is good, or not.
I must admit that I fall into the 3rd category…but not as proudly as you might imagine. I don’t believe doubt is really that bad of a thing. Actually, I think it can really be a thing that sharpens, draws, and leads us towards a better understanding of who God is. The fact I never second guessed the ethical ramifications of a God who behaves as He reportedly does in the Bible has left me with a flat and narrow picture of who He is. The only reason I explore these questions now is only because others do. Without the other voices within evangelicalism questioning what kind of God we serve, I would never have thought to consider Him as deeply as I do, today.
But if I’m honest, I’ll still tell you that the goodness of God is not something I struggle with.
When I read about God ordering the genocide of the Canaanites, I’m really not that disturbed. This isn’t due to a callous, or surface, reading of the text, either.
My understanding is and has been this: “If God is, by His very nature, good, then everything He does is unquestionably good.” If you were to take the adjective “good” and replace it with whatever adjective you apply to Him, then what you’re left with is trying to discover what “good” is. In trying to understand what things like “good,” “just,” and “love” are, I hope to know Him more.
To claim to know those things (goodness, justice, and love) is a claim to know exactly who God is. Make no mistake: God has revealed Himself and continues to do so. But to those who say “I don’t want to worship that kind of God who…” I’m left with the impression that they worship someone who thinks and looks like them. I could be completely off, mind you. Telling the difference between someone who has fashioned a god in their image and those who have actually adopted the language of God isn’t exactly a speciality of mine.
What I hope for that, when Jesus returns, we’ll be able to recognize Him. I don’t want to be like the leaders who opposed Him because they had fashioned an image of God that didn’t line up with what they were seeing. I pray that for the Church, as well.