‘If God is Love’ #1

if_god_is_loveWe 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.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 11 years and three fabulous felines.

8 thoughts on “‘If God is Love’ #1”

  1. Clear responses to important questions. I’ll be interested to see where and how God leads as you work your way through the book. I’d suggest praying as you read.

  2. I’ll look forward to continued postings on this subject. I’m fascinated. Where does evil come from? I don’t know, myself. Sometimes I think “It’s your hell, you burn in it.” And that evil comes from the free will that God gave us. But in my heart, I think that’s a cop out and somewhere out there is a real, definite answer. Then I go back to wondering. :)

  3. Brian,

    I’m with ctupren–fascinated and looking forward to future posts.

    For an insightful explanation, check out “Did God create everything that exists? Does evil exist? Did God create evil?”

    at http://skeptically.org/logicalthreads/id8.html

    Supposedly a true story, but you don’t find out whose true story until the very end.

    JimT

  4. JimT,

    I enjoyed the article you linked to, but was curious about the person it was attributed to. I’ve seen similar email forwards and immediately went to Snopes to look it up. Here’s what I found:

    http://www.snopes.com/religion/einstein.asp

    The Snopes article actually has some very good insight into the whole debate and I especially liked when they gave the definition for faith – firm belief in something for which no proof exists. I guess that’s why it’s so difficult, eh?

    However, I do like the explanation that evil may be absence of God. It possibly answers the age old conundrum of “Did God create evil/Satan?”

  5. Very interesting indeed.

    I have often wondered, since God is all knowing and He knew that Adam and Eve would sin, then He had to know that Lucifer(Satan) would do what he did. And He even allows him to be the “prince of darkness” over the earth or at least until the end of the world, Revelations.
    To voice such questions in my religious circle’s is blasphemy.
    I find it wonderful that you have a pastor, Karen, who encourages you to really search out these things.
    I believe, when we die, God is going to judge us individually and not based on what a group of people told us was the “correct” way to live.
    However, I once saw on the history channel, (covering different events in history and looking how the Bible protrays these same events), that the reasons we see such difference in the Biblical writings (example: God is the God of wrath and then His the God of love and peace), has more to do with the Century and how they wrote to relate to the people in terms they clearly understood. That makes sence to me. You can look at ANY writings since the beginning of time and see the way that writing styles have changed. So, they used events and examples that the people could relate to. Even Jesus used parables in His teachings.

    Regardless of the writing styles, the over all message is the same. God is LOVE, He loves us. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever”

    Looking forward also to more post on this!

  6. Stilldreaming,

    We also discussed the aspect of scripture relating to the time period that it was written in yesterday. I think that’s a good point and one I’m interested in learning more about.

    I do believe God is loving and gracious, but there are many instances in the Bible where it seems quite the opposite.

    I think Karen is right about using prayer in our studies. I talked to God last night as I went to sleep and told Him that I wanted to get to know Him better. I know He understands what I meant and trust that He will reveal Himself to me in due time.

  7. Stilldreaming wrote: “I believe, when we die, God is going to judge us individually and not based on what a group of people told us was the “correct” way to live.”

    I agree whole-heartedly. While we need each other for growth, encouragement, community, etc. when we face our Creator we will have to give account for our own choices and actions and our’s alone. I like the picture in the New Testament of Jesus being our Advocate, or Defense Attorney, standing with, and for, those who trust in him.

    Brian wrote: “I talked to God last night as I went to sleep and told Him that I wanted to get to know Him better. I know He understands what I meant and trust that He will reveal Himself to me in due time.”

    I’m sure that’s a prayer God can’t wait to answer!!

    JimT

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