“I don’t believe in God.”
When I hear these words, I can’t help but ask, “What God don’t you believe in?” Because, chances are, I don’t believe in that God either.
The term “God” is a rather ambiguous word because it means so many different things to so many different people. Saying “I believe in God” or “I don’t believe in God” is thus a statement that honestly deserves further explanation. Last week, I started out by saying that I believe in God and continued to explain what I meant by that. Simply saying that I believe in “God” is not enough because there are so many other people out there, even within Christianity, who believe in a “God” that I simply do not believe in.
So, let me clear up some “God’s” that I do not believe in.
For example, I do not believe in a “God” who hates people and desires to send people to Hell. This “God” is proclaimed by many well-meaning Christians; however, this is not the God that is witnessed in scripture or in the world today. If God is love, then it is impossible for Him to hate or desire to see anybody face eternal punishment. Note that I am not denying the existence of Hell — I am simply denying that God desires to see anyone suffer.
The thing is, I do not believe in the “God” who get’s whatever He wants. The Bible is a book filled with stories of God not getting what He wants. History is the same way. Thus, I do not believe that God controls or manipulates things towards His will. Because He is love, He allows for free-will (which is necessary for love to exist) and thus does not control the actions of myself or anyone else. So, even if God does not will suffering (including Hell), that does not mean that such things as suffering and Hell don’t exist.
I do not believe in a blood thirsty “God” who needed Jesus to die in order to forgive sins. It does not make sense that God would need His own blood to be shed in order to love people — such a “God” would be in line with that hateful and controlling “God” that I have already denied. Now, this is not to say that God did not use the cross (and the shedding of Christ’s blood) to provide salvation and atonement for humanity nor is it to say that Jesus did not pay the penalty of sin for all of us when He died. All I am saying here is that I reject the “God” who could not forgive or love me unless there was blood.
The hateful, controlling, blood-thirsty “God” is one often associated with Christianity and many well-meaning Christians do, in fact, believe in Him. The reason, I think, is because such a “God” makes the gospel much simpler than it actually is. This “gospel” reads much like this: God is wrathful against humanity for sinning. So Jesus, God’s son, took the penalty for sin by dying for us. All you have to do is believe a handful of things and then God can forgive you and you can escape Hell and go to Heaven.
Such a gospel says nothing about a radical new way to live and love in this world. Such a gospel says nothing about the importance of the resurrection. Such a gospel says nothing about any of the things that Jesus actually said. Such a gospel is ultimately not “good news”.
Thus, I don’t believe in that gospel. Thus, I don’t believe in that “God.”
I believe in a gospel of hope, redemption, and grace. I believe in a God that is love.
Next week, I’ll begin to explain why.