Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lies We Believe About God (20)

Summary of Chapter 20
The 20th 'lie' dealt with by Young is that 'God is a divine Santa Claus'. Some people, according to Young, have 'projected their notions about Santa Claus into their thinking about God'. Young adds another layer in suggesting that we think of Jesus as the nice, gift-giving Santa and the Father as the nasty Santa who keeps a record of all our wrongs. But the Father, Young insists, is not a different sort of Person than the Son. We would do better, when attempting to understand what God is like, to look at who we long to be (since we are made in God's image). We would do BEST to look at Jesus, Who is the human we (deep down) long to be.

The idea that many of us think of God like we used to think of Santa Claus is certainly not novel, but Young does a good job of quickly explaining this particular theological projection. He is right that some pit the Father against the Son as if they have different character traits. Young is also correct to say that we should look toward Jesus if we want to get our theology right. He is the direct revelation of God. No objections here.

Lies We Believe About God (19)

Summary of Chapter 19
The 19th 'lie' is that 'God requires child sacrifice'. Here, Young confronts the common 'Christian' narrative that (because of sin) God required child sacrifice (specifically, His own Son Jesus) in order to appease divine wrath. Young says we know in our guts that this doesn't match what we know about the God who is love. Scripture itself bans child sacrifice. Even the story of Abraham, sometimes used as justification, actually has the opposite message (God was simply willing to stoop to Abraham's level of thinking to teach him that his thinking was wrong). Sacrifice is the language we humans speak, so God became the sacrifice we required.

There was a lot of overlap here with chapter 17 (the order of some of these chapters is quite strange, as ones that could easily have been combined are often separated by chapters that seemingly don't have much in common with their prequels or sequels). I agree with Young that God is against child sacrifice and did not require the death of His own Son to appease His wrath. I think Young's understanding of the story of Abraham & Isaac is solid. No objections here.

Lies We Believe About God (18)

Summary of Chapter 18
The 18th 'lie' is that 'that was just a coincidence'. Young believes that God is involved in the details of our lives. There are no coincidences. Coincidence has a name: God! In fact, those things we are apt to call coincidences often turn into awesome moments of divine providence. Young is 'personally convinced that nothing is apart from the abiding presence and activity of God'.

In some ways, this chapter is surprising. Young has spilled a lot of ink to declare that God is not the author of spilled blood, but here he seems to insist that God is in all the details of life. Of course, Young is focusing, here, on 'good' coincidences. I don't know for sure what he would think about the question of random evil (if chapter 16 is any indication, I'm guessing he would consider them mysterious). My point is that I'm not sure how consistent this chapter is with the rest of the book and the theological paradigm that Young espouses.

Lies We Believe About God (17)

Summary of Chapter 17
The 17th 'lie' covered in the book is that 'the cross was God's idea'. Young says there is nothing good about the cross. If it was God's idea... that would reflect poorly on God (God would be a cosmic child abuser). Rather, the cross (a torture device) was our idea. God knew from the beginning that we would do this. God submitted to it and transformed the cross into a symbol of grace.

Though this chapter would surely offend some people (Divine Determinists/Calvinists), I think Young is correct. God's plan was not to have Jesus tortured on a Roman cross. That's what we did. But God lovingly works through tragedy to accomplish good. No objections here.

Lies We Believe About God (16)

Summary of Chapter 16
The 16th 'lie' Young wants to correct is that 'God is not good'. Of course, few believers would repeat such a lie, but Young suspects that many of us doubt God's goodness deep down in our hearts. We feel this way because even though God could fix every problem in an instant... God doesn't. And this creates a lack of trust in God's goodness. Young believes the existence of evil is a wrenching question. He doesn't really try to solve the problem of pain in this chapter. He simply reminds us that there is much beauty and goodness in the world too and insists on God's goodness.

Young believes that 'God is able to heal, instantly and thoroughly', but he also recognizes that miracles are just a 'press of a pause button'. Ultimately, we will all die of our last illness. In any case, miracles are the exception, not the rule. What's interesting, in this chapter, is that Young still says (of evil): 'If I could, I would fix it', but he believes God could and doesn't. This remains a mystery for him. I would guess that Young, if his theology continues in its current trajectory, will come to a conclusion similar to something like that of Thomas Jay Oord (The Uncontrolling Love of God, which I reviewed here) in which God (in some real sense) isn't even capable of 'fixing it' instantly. But that's just a guess. I have no real objects to this chapter because Young doesn't really try to resolve the problem of pain. He simply states it and continues to trust in God.