We have started an after-service book club at church and today was our first meeting. The first book that was selected is titled If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace In An Ungracious World by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. Each week we are given a set amount of pages to read and a few questions to ponder, so I thought I might post my answers here.
I don’t really have any set-in-stone beliefs when it comes to religion and I’m still trying to figure things out. Therefore, some of my answers may take the form of a question; questions that I hope will be answered as I continue reading. I don’t expect to have them all answered by this single book, but I do expect the authors to provide some insight into how they arrived at their belief system.
This book asserts that God’s grace will save everyone and that there is no hell or Satan. The authors also explain that we are taught that God is a mean, scary deity when He is really loving and gracious. We read to page 34 and had the following questions to contemplate:
As you read “Why Beliefs Matter”, identify one or two of your core religious beliefs. Why do these matter to you?
I believe in God and I believe in the mandate to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” These matter to me because believing in something larger than myself gives life more meaning and I think that following the Golden Rule makes the world a much better place.
What is your reaction to the author’s assertion that God’s love will save all?
I think it is a beautiful, radical, “feel good” concept that is not at all biblical. The Bible is full of examples of God punishing and killing people for minor offenses, which certainly doesn’t coincide with a view that God is only gracious and loving. If we are going to disregard large sections of the Bible simply because they make us uncomfortable, then what’s the point of even reading it or using it in our worship services?
I don’t like the approach to the Bible that says “If this doesn’t make sense to me then I’m going to ignore it.” I have long struggled with the verses that reference homosexuality, but instead of skipping over them to make myself feel better, I have studied the text to see if it reveals a hidden truth. In my studies, I have determined that the Bible does indeed condemn certain forms of homosexuality, but never in the context of a monogamous, loving relationship.
Non-belief in Satan flies in the face of everything the Bible teaches and most of what Christianity is founded upon. Satan is mentioned from Genesis to Revelations. If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, then surely it would stand to reason that where there is good there must also be evil. I think evil is evident in the world. A child molester is evil. A suicide bomber is evil. War is evil. If Satan does not exist, where does that evil come from? God? Even if wickedness could be explained as rejection of God’s love, that doesn’t explain how an atheist can live an upstanding life and we are still disregarding large portions of the very book that Christianity is founded upon.
How and where do you see fear of God being preached in the world? What is your response?
On everything from the 700 Club to Focus On The Family, and in several major religions from Catholicism to Islam. I think fear of God can be a strong incentive for people to do good, but can also be used as a tool to gain power and advance religious and political ideology.