The practical, logical way to conceive of God builds upon the commonly used methodologies of time management, orderly behavior, and our needs as opposed to the needs of a distant God. The biblical concept of God builds upon love and sacrifice from God, and fawning humans who eagerly die for an unknown freedom called an eternal worshipping existence. Plus, a biblical God insists we all have the power to speak and interact with him? Really?
Today’s readings point out two ways to look at our relationship with God.
First, we have the practical model, which most folks consider the better model. Human beings factor God into their daily lives like hygiene and matching socks. There are things you have to do, and things you do to look good. God is all about manners and appropriate responses in times of trouble.
Second is the biblical model described in Hebrews and fortified by Mark where God becomes one of us and intervenes in an unbelievably personal way. He shares himself with us, and we have to share ourselves with him. For us practical folks, this model is harmful and dangerous, because it is invasive to our freedom.
The first model makes more sense, because God is commonly understood by rational human beings as focused on the big things. God is extremely wise, and therefore disdains fools, abhors sinners, and prefers perfection.
The Hebrew model identifies a powerful devil, but we practical types know that the devil can’t really rule over us, because God is in charge. The devil can’t have been allowed the kind of power that kills off God’s creation. A broken angel? Viruses, volcanoes and voles come and go, but an eternally evil angel stays? God created us as temporary beings, so death comes with the territory of God’s creation. The devil is a canard put in place to ignore people’s bad choices. It's like blaming global warming on dragons.
The biblical God really doesn’t make sense because it is, well, ludicrous to imagine that God decided quite late in history to finally destroy death, which he then still allows to happen anyway. God destroyed death by subjecting himself to death? Let’s be honest. Why would God subject himself to a bully, and why would he allow such a bad guy to exist after he finally rose from the dead? He would have to be a God who insists that we each be tested individually and molded into someone who has the power to choose God over someone who hates him. He wants love that bad, that he lets an evil dude scare us to death? Only stupid, uneducated people would choose the devil. They're the source of evil, not a devil.
The practical concept of God, on the other hand, builds upon the commonly used methodologies of time management, orderly behavior, and our needs as opposed to the needs of God. The biblical concept of God builds upon love and sacrifice from God, and fawning humans who eagerly die for an unknown freedom called an eternal worshipping existence. Plus, it insists we all have the power to speak and interact with God? Really?
The premise of the practical God relies upon our space and time as different from God’s space and time. This is a more logical view of divinity and humanity. We only need a small space that fits our feet and our mobility, and God has exorbitant, cosmic and eternal-sized requirements that expand beyond our universe. Due to God’s obvious busy schedule and expansive agendas, we are rather insignificant, and not worth bothering with too much. Due to our individual puny existences, and constant surprise with discoveries that should have been obvious, plus our seeming endless ADD, we’re not that interesting on a person by person basis. To us, for instance, ants are a curiosity for about 20 minutes over our entire lifetime. An individual ant gets a glance followed by a foot stomp.
Consequently, from our point of view, by not requiring us to share our every moment with him, God is quite generous by not glancing our way very often. He gives us breathing space to grow up, make acceptable mistakes, and improve ourselves. When we’re run over by a truck, commit suicide, or are simply too old or broken to repair, he apportions us to an eternal life of peace and quiet, or one of misery. Since our lives have already been reviewed and logged, this apportioning process is probably anti-climatic to him. We’re lucky to even get into the lottery, which pretty much represents our chances at heaven. Lots of luck.
God has some high expectations, certainly, especially regarding morals and social interactions. Temptations in these areas mark our progress and our setbacks. Temptations, then, must come from this God. When God has been satisfied with our performance, we get to command the remote and manual controls of our lives, for a while, without his interference. This is the entire point of independent living. Limit our ruination from temptations that God allows so that we can take care of those who depend upon us, including God, and we get the rest of our lives to ourselves.
The biblical God expects us to believe that he went through a life of temptations and testing and suffering in order to help us get through our own lives as a gathered bunch of brothers and sisters? This is counter intuitive. We are not God, and God is not us. That’s an imperative separation. If God becomes one of us, the entire logic of a distant God falls apart. We need God to be distant, so we can keep the baboons around us from causing us harm.
We don’t want God to miraculously heal people either. That’s too confusing. It throws off our understanding of success and failure. How come some people can get healed and others don’t? We win or lose according to our health, fitness, relatives, work, friends, neighborhood, digital connections, and of course, our reputation. If God intervenes by existing within our every moment, fixing stuff and not fixing other stuff, then order gets messed up.
God gets his time, and we get ours. God gets Sunday services, meal prayers, and some other momentous occasions. That leaves us to our own designs upon what we do with our time and the devices we use. The fewer our failures, the more time we get to ourselves. Those folks who believe God participates in every single second of their lives, both misery and joy, are delusional. He’s got better things to do, like managing black holes and stuff like that.
True freedom isn’t being under God’s thumb. It’s being left alone. We get freedom after we’ve done our duties — earned our money, married our wives and husbands, raised our children, paid our taxes, and showed up on time. Freedom when we die is a different thing. That’s never having to deal with idiots or pain anymore. Freedom here is once a day, once a week, once a month and once a year, for the rest of our lives, where we experience bits and pieces of doing what we want and not having to worry about keeping a distant God from glancing our way. It's a test in patience and camouflage.
This practical philosophy of life presumes that God is rather a nuisance, along with most everyone else. While every pain in the patoot comes with excruciating disturbance, God is quite manageable, and tolerable. He is overbearing largely because he’s got a lot on his plate. Give God his due, to give him the respect he deserves, the portion of our profits that he needs, the attention he expects, and then he’ll leave us well enough alone.
Do the little bit we simply have to do for God, because God is, well, God. I call this practical God the Government God. If everyone would just comply with what he asks of us, then we’d all get along just fine, and things would operate a whole lot smoother. There’d be more fresh water, bigger tastier fish, and more time for fishing.
When we die, we are measured upon how we met God’s expectations, how often we smiled, when we picked up after ourselves and bent over to pick up after morons who litter. It matters how quickly we apologized, and how our kids turned out. When we get to heaven, we’ll get to nap more, hike farther, read more complicated stuff, have great skin and hair, and not be bothered by anyone who’s a damn fool, a freeloader, or a huckster. God will finally be finished with them, and we’ll be able to relax.
Hebrews talks about another God, and another us. In Hebrews, God is our Father, not our governing overlord. Really? God is our brother, and also a whispering Spirit who guides us all day long. How is that possible? God calls us his children, not his citizens or minions or creatures. OK. We are, in fact, called to be his offspring. I get that. So, maybe Father is OK. But saying all those idiots are our relatives? Plus, God as a Spirit lives in all of us, too? How many balls in the air are we expecting this God to handle?
Supposedly, the Hebrews God left his grand paradise to partake of the same things that we do, including birth and death, to free us from the slavery of the devil in order to live a life of freedom right now. That means, that even though we still suffer and die in this life we’re somehow freed because God says so? The most dangerous thing about this God is that he rejects what we believe is a practical, quasi-loving, distant and dismissive God who we know treats only the obedient ants well. He is a fair God who steps on the bad guys. Any other kind of God is too good to be true.
Such a Father-Son-Spirit God is an impossibility, so we insist upon living with the Government God. Our practical God shows up periodically, offers correction and advice, keeps a list of acceptable behaviors, and leaves the best of us to ourselves. The Hebrews Father God knows our desires, eagerly nurtures us, offers abundance and love, assists us in every decision we make, and asks to live in our heart. That’s just too much to deal with.
Our government run day begins with a sunrise, floats through mid-morning stuff, rests a bit for lunch, speeds up with afternoon tasks and things, slows down for dinner, follows up with hanging out at home or meetings, and then it’s beddy-by after the sun sets. The Government God moves with us through that schedule, and puts up some speed bumps for us along the way to test us. Sometimes only once a year, once a month, once a week, or once a day. We can handle life like that just fine.
The Hebrews God follows sunrise like a wave around the earth. Every moment is a sunrise somewhere. The same with mid-morning, lunch, afternoon, dinner, and sunset. All moments are the same to him, and all are experienced as fully constant events as the population of the earth rises and moves and falls. This God also heals and repairs as people call out to him. He spends the day with every single one of us, endlessly forgiving us and promising to save us. Can such a God really exist?
Most of us don’t think so. This Hebrew God’s life sounds exhausting and relentless. He wants to suck us into his sphere of loving attention, and never let go. Give me a break.
It’s way better to look upon God as a meteor passing by, a gust on a windy day, or a sunbeam onto our desk. That way, we are left to ourselves the rest of the time, and evil can be ignored as broken stuff that idiots have left in our path.