A letter to a Christian friend on the nature of God

Dear T*****,

Thank you so much for your heartfelt letter, and for thinking of me after all of these years. I understand the love in your heart that motivated you to write to me and to share with me some of your deepest truths. Although you know that you and I do not stand eye-to-eye on this issue, I feel it is only right for me to take a brief moment to share with you my truth, at least as I see it.

If there is a God, an all-powerful and ever-loving God who has proved himself through the miracle of his creation all around us, then that God knows us. That God knows us intimately and wants what is best for us. That God would be a teacher and a guide, and like any teacher or guide cannot “force” us to learn the truth or take the right path in life. He can only show us the direction, and be as persuasive as possible, and then leave us to make our own destiny in life.

A teacher knows His students, just as a shepherd knows His flock. A teacher in an inner-city classroom, troubled with poverty and violence, will not teach the same way as a teacher in privileged upper-class white suburbia, because the needs of the children are not the same. A teacher who is talking to a student who is creative and visual and spontaneous, will not talk in the same way as He does when talking to a student who is introverted and analytical.  A good teacher understands what a student needs in order to absorb the truth.

If there is a God, an all-powerful and ever-loving God, then He must be a good teacher. I cannot imagine that He would not be. But that also means that He knows that there cannot be a single verse, a single script, a single message that will reveal the Truth to the entire universe. A God who is a good teacher will not abandon His children in Australia simply because the story of the actions of a man half a world away do not resonate with them. A God who is a good teacher will not insist that the laws of how to be a good and virtuous person can only come written from one culture’s perspective, written in one language to one audience thousands of years ago.  A God who is a good teacher will not abandon His children who are native to other planets in the universe, as wide and as vast as it is, just because they did not have the luxury to be born on the Planet Earth.

I cannot start my personal journey toward moral, spiritual and metaphysical truth with the assumption there is one text from one culture written in one set of exact words based on one person’s life that somehow represents the only true story that God is able to tell. That seems an exercise intellectual hoodwinking, just as much as you state that the denial of the miracle of Jesus’s resurrection would be an exercise intellectual hoodwinking.

A true God, the One True God, would be a God who speaks to each of His children in a language that the child understands… because that is what Good Teachers do. A true God, the One True God, will find His way into the hearts of a million cultures across the entire universe and will speak to each of them in the language that they understand. A true God, the One True God, will find a way to reveal the One Truth about the universe with a million different stories, because that is what a good teacher does.

 

So that is where I begin. I cannot do otherwise. I do believe, as you have stated in your letter, that we live in a moral universe. So I look inside my heart and ask myself three questions: What is virtuous? What is just? What kind of man do I want to be?

The journey to answer those questions, a journey that will not end until the day I die, is my walk with God. That is how I strive to be free of sin, at least as I understand the nature of sin.

That journey is how I understand Him, just as the story of Jesus Christ is how you understand Him.

To me, there is nothing contradictory about saying that a real God, a just God, an all-powerful and ever-loving God, if He exists, would talk to us each in our own language, in the way that we understand the best.

Peace,

Greg

The Universe



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  1. Greg says:

    Here’s my quick nerdy response (I didn’t re-read it, so I hope its not too crazy):
    This post is clearly a heartfelt response to some of the deepest questions we as humans have the joy of wrestling through. As we explore the meaning and depth of these hard questions I think it’s always best to examine the implications of what we’re suggesting – no matter how good intentioned. That’s the “progressive” in me, I always am seeking the best aspect of our evolving ideas to hopefully be at the horizon of religious possibility.

    A few thoughts about some more specifics, first I quote you and then I respond…

    “If there is a God,” – a worthy assumption to make! “an all-powerful” uh oh! I can’t go this far, because the problem of evil presents us with the ultimate question, if God is all powerful AND all loving/good then God COULD NOT allow evil – obviously this is a very intense idea, but I do not think God can be all powerful and simultaneously all loving. “and ever-loving God who has proved himself” in God’s expansiveness, I think it best that we not refer to God as having a gender. “through the miracle of his creation all around us,” I’m not 100% sure that God is exactly trying to prove God’s existence through God’s creation, but that which we know as the Cosmos is a compelling reality that begs the question of origin. “then that God knows us.” this is the best assumption I think one can come to after assuming the existence of God, otherwise the existence of God is boring and not helpful in any manor of life.

    You then go on to say that if this God is loving, a teacher, and a companion, then it only makes sense that God would reveal Godself in a variety of ways. I think this needs a bit more explanation but its a great start. If you are referencing the idea that there’s a mountain that all religions are climbing up to find the God at the top, you’re not only saying all religions are right but that they are all wrong. An interesting implication of the claim that all religions are essentially the same…and one I can’t jump on bored with. It also affirms the validity of all religions that don’t promote love, peace, and harmony (that sounds way too hippy-like lol)…aka Hitler’s version of faith is made valid if all religions truth is apart of an Ultimate Truth.

    As a Christian I am only willing to say so many things, as I know my Christian language, thoughts, context, ideas etc. will always interfere no matter how hard I try to be all-inclusive. As a progressive Christian I can affirm the validity of other religions philosophically, but I have to understand that my philosophical ideas are in some way Christian (they affirm the existence of a God, and one who is loving and involved in life – 3 ideas that not every faith traditions shares).

    For an agnostic it might be helpful to say something similar, but that Western thought/language/ideas/context frame the conversation. Being bound to a context isn’t bad but it is a recognition that religious truth claims are sticky and nearly impossible to make blanket statements that can apply from every vantage point.

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