Thursday, February 11, 2016

Who is God? (God is Love...?)

(This post was originally posted on my Facebook page, which I have recently decided to fast from for Lent.  I decided to be a little more intentional about my search and questions for God.  I'd love this to be a conversation, so I'll post some of the responses I got on FB here, and I hope to get a lot more in the comments section below!)

The little video from Sojourners, Ashes to Go made me very contemplative about my own qualms with the church and God and faith. I suppose Lent is a good time for that. Last week, the pastor preached a sermon that asked, what do we think of God and what do we believe that God thinks of us? I really think this might be the crux of faith and the issue with which I've been struggling.
You may have heard the phrase, "speak the truth in love." The idea on one part, is that, if you really love someone, then you will reveal to them the hard and maybe even ugly things about them. This is true, but I so often see this as an excuse for Christians to be nasty to people, while throwing it under the guise of love. I propose, that this really means that the person needs to know they are well-loved BEFORE receiving the difficult word. Otherwise, the word feels more like condemnation...and maybe in many cases that's exactly what it is, because the person sharing does not love or maybe even know the person to whom they speak. Guilt is ok-ish, if it then leads to change, but often, and at least in my case, there's a tendency to dwell in that guilt. And that can be paralyzing, leaving us stuck in our dysfunction.
Back to my view of God: I think in my case and perhaps many other struggling Christians, we hear "God is Love." We know this, but for some reason we always seem to hear and fixate on the idea that God is really disappointed in us (I even have a hilarious paraphrase of the Bible that is labeled exactly as such). What if, we knew that we were so unbelievably loved by the One who made us and knows us better than we know ourselves? Would that change the way that we think about ourselves, even while looking at our ugly parts? Would that change how we view others? Can a transformation take place in that space of accepting Love?
I don't usually post this forwardly about my faith (or my struggle to keep one thereof), but I guess I felt compelled by my grandma's recent death (and her loving, faithful life) and by entering this season of Lent and looking at my own mortality that life is short and I need to address these things head on. I feel many people may be in the spot that I am. If so, let me know, and I'd love to make this journey with you offline or in a different space. I'm searching for the God who I know loves me, as I am, and in spite of any darkness or perceived darkness inside my heart, with a transformative Love. I'm not looking for pat answers either. I struggle with that in religion, that there's a simple answer when it seems it's not...and yet it is: when it's simply Love. And exploring Jesus, as perhaps that physical, alive person to more fully convey that Love.

Comment from my friend Brandon V: "I believe unconditional love is absolutely necessary for self transformation to occur. Only by accepting everything that makes us who we are (including the dark stuff) starting with our thoughts, words, actions, and habits can we truly say we love "ourselves" unconditionally. I put the word "ourselves" in quotes because we tend to define the self with words or symbols and not more accurate ways of defining the reality of what we are. This clouds our judgment of the self and can cleverly place things we need to address outside the box of who or what we are, and place blame on environment (an extension of the self) or on another (a reflection of the self). We must love ourselves unconditionally with acceptance of the good and bad before we can change. If we set conditions, deny the truth, or shirk responsibility, we resist the change. Change is prevented by spending energy on denying the need for it. We free the energy to be used to transform the self when we no longer resist the change by applying truly unconditional love. When the mind is clear and still, the miracle occurs."

Comments from my friend Drew: "On "What does God think of us..."

I think that "love," itself, needs a discussion in semantics. I'm not sure that God "loves us" in the same way that we tend to use the term. But then, who knows what an entity that by very definition is beyond our understanding, thinks/feels. 

I would imagine that God has more of a Buddhist take in regards to love. We don't "love" the hair on our head, or else we are superficial/materialist. We can love what we do with the hair on our head, love in a human way, but with the understanding that it is in transition. Do we love it any less when we are young, when we are old and gray, when we are bald? There is a beauty in all phases and we must all learn to appreciate the phases as a greater whole and as an object in transition. Does God love us when we do wrong? Yes, because God sees the entire path and is not fixated on a place along that path. 

Instead of hair, what about a stomach. Do I love my stomach? Probably not when I have a stomach ache. But, I should... that stomach ache is trying to tell me something. Perhaps it's trying to tell me that I had unsafe or unhealthy food. Perhaps it told me that I have a virus. We need to learn to see pain with love, to understand where it fits in the greater scheme of things. We need to look at the path and the whole, rather than the specific and temporary. I think the same goes with looking at the whole of humanity as a large body/organism. What insight can we gain from those that cause us pain and grief? If we don't "love" the source of pain, perhaps we fail to understand its purpose. 

Since we are always blind to the future and lack the insight that a lifetime may or may not shed (it's difficult to know what another person has been through or where the future will lead them), I'm not sure that we can love so much as remember not to hate. We can call it love if we view love as a form of acceptance, but we often use it with a stronger meaning than that.

I don't think that God loves so much as God accepts. It's the gift of insight. Not sure if I'm being clear enough with my meaning but I'm trying to throw out a perspective and food for thought. I think we need to be careful with how we define love in regards to God, because it's easy to personify something we don't really understand all that well. I think personification can be a trap in thinking."
Reply from me:  "That's a fair assessment. There are certainly different kinds of love too. C.S. Lewis wrote a book called "the Four Loves" which goes into some of the varying definitions. And our culture has come to use the word "love" in place of the word "like" as well, sort of stripping some of the special intensity of the word. Lewis uses the term Unconditional Love to describe the love of God (EDIT: I checked, and Lewis actually uses the term "Charity", which I'm ambivalent towards, though I think he meant it in a deeper sense than us modern folk take the term), no matter what we have done or will do, we are loved, and loved regardless of any emotion typically attached to the word love. Love as a verb. I use capitol L Love. It is like a parent and child, but as I think you mean here, human analogy can only take us so far if we are talking of a divine being rather than a human. And I think that's the trap we fall under when we follow religion too...religion, is basically OUR reaching out for God. It's human by nature, but not to say that it might not be touched or directed occasionally by divine insight. Anyway, we have a very imperfect picture of God, but as human, the best we can do is to recognize that. Perhaps that's where prayer comes into play? Perhaps we are given the ability to love at least in part, to the portion that God can Love a person? But maybe part of that, is to recognize the overwhelming and unattainable Love that God shows to us? And in that recognition of being Beloved, we can (at least imperfectly) love others - and ourselves - in a more complete measure?"

And what happens when/if a God decides to reduce God's self to human form? To feel as we do, to go through our existence? To reach us in Love in a more tangible way and still be connected to the Godself? To model the way we are to love as humans perhaps? To show that suffering is a way to connect to others, not to be avoided. To show that Love is laying down our lives for another. I think this is why I find Jesus not only an intriguing figure but a doorway into who God is. Of course, if you believe it to be true."

Reply from Drew: "well, in that case, you have two centuries of debate over what Jesus was/represented. Of course, I choose not to weigh in on that specific angle since my personal beliefs do not view Jesus as part of a trinity.
I may read that book by Lewis."
Reply from me: "I feel like I'm being pulled to strip away everything in order to have it built back up again. I think I shall blog. I'll continue this there. I may pull some of these initial thoughts people sent me there."

Reply from Drew: "Everyone should challenge presumptions and blindly accepted/taught beliefs. Just do so with an open heart and mind and an openness to what input others have (from all perspectives). I think that is a better description of being "born again" anyway... not the usual meaning."

Comment from my friend Joyce: "It's not easy. Sometimes there are no answers, but I still believe God is love and loves each and every one of us."
Reply by Drew: "I believe that God is present and undeniable. I just try not to define it beyond that... Just posting as an affirmation of belief."

Comment from my friend Brandon: "The summation of my beliefs resulting from my experiences as an open-minded lover of all: There is nothing that is not God."


Vannevar said...

My fifth-grade Teacher was Sister Mary Fortunata, and I had concluded she was the dumbest teacher I ever had been subjected to, mainly on the basis of two assertions: She said that God is Love, and she said that really we're all solar-powered.

In the first claim "God is Love" I told her, No - love is an emotion; God is a Being. At times, God has flooded the earth, commanded Abraham to kill his son, etc. But she held to her statement and told me that someday I'd understand.

Her second claim, about people being solar-powered, went like this: the sun grows the grass and the grain, which feeds the chicken and the beef, and in one year without the sun we'd all be hungry, and in three years without the sun society would collapse- so we're really solar powered. Although I thought it was crazy at the time, I see that she was right.

But I'm still hung up on the love-as-emotion, God as a being-entity. But perhaps in time I'll understand what Sister Mary Fortunata knew.

Vannevar said...

(to be clear, implicit in my post is a yearning to understand and a call for help) cheers, VB

Tricia said...

I think that's fair, and as Drew seemed to write, that God is love is kind of a very fluffy sort of thing that doesn't seem realistic if you are even willing to broach the idea that God is being. I suppose - and Drew also proffered - we should reexamine the definition of love as we know it. I'm willing to bet that the Sister meant Love as something more than an emotion. Drew said that maybe God doesn't love so much as "accepts" as a "gift of insight". I like to define this kind of "God Love" as more of a state of being than an emotion. Also, if you are even amenable to the idea of the Trinity, a God in three persons...the status of such a being could only be in Perfect Love in order to interact and be as One. Thinking this over, I suppose I do take some of the faith that I'm clinging to for granted, but it's some of the Christian ideas that I've found most profound to me.

But then there's your depictions of God in the Old Testament that don't seem to line up with a loving sort of being. I might need another day to mull over that. Maybe another post?

Fennec said...

[God:love] comes to us through others and to others through us. When someone is there for us in the exact way we need, that's [God:love] acting through them to positively affect our lives. When we are there for someone at the precise moment that matters most, delivering what is direly needed, that's [God:love] acting through us to positively affect their lives.

We feel the human emotion, love, as a swelling of warmth within. "The kingdom of heaven is within." "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven." "Seek God first." Seek love first. To seek what is within us we must look within. To look within is to know thyself. To know thyself, we must unconditionally love and accept what comprises the self. To do this without rejecting what we'd rather not acknowledge, takes practice. By practicing unconditional love, we raise our vibration and become a higher (more God-like) version of ourselves.

The idea of God as a being or as a male parent, has drifted from me for so long now it feels completely foreign and unacceptable. I can't view the world as something apart from God as everything is so perfectly balanced in equals and opposites that the very substance underlying it all simply must be conscious and divine.

Tricia said...

Fennec: I also have abandoned the male identity of God. It's not enough. Parent is ok, but still not enough. I believe "parent" is the closest thing we have in our human experience to describe the Love God has for us, however, I feel God Loves more unconditionally than any human ever could (because of the reasons I think Drew stated: if the nature of a God-being is all-knowing, the nature of the Love must be more perfect). Excepting the person of Jesus perhaps (but that's another musing for another day).

But the male-only language for God drives me nuts. I'm trying to mouth my own gender non-specific substitutions in my church liturgy, but that's difficult and often tongue-twisting! But maybe that's ok? Maybe talking about God-things should be a bit more difficult? Maybe it will get easier as I work on it? I actually like the pronoun "They" as a term for God. If God created humanity as "male and female" and we are made in Their image, then THEY is a perfectly biblical pronoun to use. Heck, if you read the Genesis text, you'll see God talking as though God is plural anywho: "Let US make humankind in OUR image; according to OUR likeness..." (Genesis 1:26)

Tricia said...

Ohhh but you say as a "being" at all....THAT is a different thing altogether. I would need to think about that more. :) I might want to actually tackle these thoughts as separate posts.

Tricia said...

I will ask though: can God be both Other AND within? Can God be both energy/substance AND entity? If we all came from somewhere, does it need to have been a being who has done it? It seems most religions have something to say about the inward search for truth: (bad website, but an interesting list of quotes from various faiths)

Still the question remains: Who is God? Or perhaps rather, is God a Who?

Andy said...

A friend once pointed out to me that the problem with saying "God is love" is not that God isn't love. It's that, when we try to understand that sentence, our usual approach is to take what our experience has taught us to think of as "love," extrapolate that to the farthest and highest and most perfect degree we can imagine, and say that God is that. But our experience of "love" is inevitably distorted through our limitations and weaknesses and sins and through those of the people who (imperfectly) love us, so our extrapolations and the image of God they give us will be distorted as well.

Basically, we're trying to draw the analogy in the wrong direction: from us to God, instead of from God to us. What we ought to do is to look at who God is, both within himself* and toward us, and say that, notwithstanding our feeble and flawed attempts to love, that's what love really is. That's the model we should use to shape our understanding of love and our practice of love; that's how we should be trying to love God and one another, however short we may fall in the attempt.

*The same friend also gave me an interesting explanation for why it makes a certain amount of theological sense for the Bible to speak of the Father and Son rather than Parent and Child, even though God has no gender. But I don't want to get derailed, so I'll save that for another comment.

Andy said...

My friend's explanation for the "Father and Son" terminology (as promised) runs more or less like this:

God is a person (or three persons, depending on how you count) rather than a principle or some sort of impersonal force. So it makes sense for him to identify himself to us with some sort of human analogy. And since God created us for a close relationship with him, there's a way in which the relationships among the persons of the Trinity are meant to provide a pattern, an image, for our relationships with God and with one another.

Of the three persons of the Trinity, the one often called the Father is in some sense sense the origin of the other two, and the one often called the Son is eternally begotten of the Father. (That last phrase, from the Nicene Creed, is meant to make the point that the Son was always part of the triune God and not a later creation.) The obvious analogy in human terms to this begetter/begotten relationship is that of parent/child. God is, of course, also the creator of us humans, so the Father/Son relationship is meant to set the pattern for the God/us relationship.

So far, so good. But human parents come in (for the most part) two sexes, and so (for the most part) do human children. If God had identified God's self to us as Mother and Son or as Father and Daughter, the analogy would have introduced a sexual component--or at least left too much room for one in too many people's minds--that isn't part of how the persons of the Trinity relate to each other or part of how God wants to relate to us.

Hence the use of a same-sex parent/child pair. But why Father/Son instead of Mother/Daughter?

Well, a mother carries the child in her body and gives birth to the child through her body and nourishes the child from her body. The relationship is intensely intimate and--more to the point--immanent. Mother and child start out very nearly as one, feeling very much as one, and only gradually do the mother and (especially) the child learn to think of the mother as a separate person who transcends the child. The movement is from immanence to transcendence.

But a father doesn't carry the child in his body or give birth to the child through his body or nourish the child from his body. He starts out more distant, more separate, more transcendent than the mother does. He must actively draw closer to the child, become more present to the child, become immanent for the child. The movement is from transcendence to immanence.

And that's the movement God makes with respect to us--transcendence to immanence. We don't start out in some sort of panentheist us/God unity from which we only gradually separate. We start out far off from God, and God draws
near to us--near enough, indeed, to become one of us at Bethlehem.

But the names "Father" and "Son" are not so much identities that inhere in those two persons of the Trinity as they are analogies that tell us something about their relationship. Every analogy breaks down somewhere, of course, and one place where this one breaks down is that God is genderless spirit, not a gendered being.

But that doesn't mean the analogy is without value. I am not--emphatically not--arguing that anyone who prefers to call the first two persons of the Trinity "Parent and Child" or what have you is wrong to do so. I am arguing only that the "Father and Son" rendering, notwithstanding the sexist baggage we dumbass humans have laden it with over the centuries, has more than mere tradition in its favor.

Of course, as with love in my previous comment, so also with fatherhood in this one: we're better off looking at God and letting him shape our understanding of fatherhood than we are looking at the fathers we know and basing our understanding of God on them.

Fennec said...

God is everything. God was alone. God got bored and started splitting up into pieces with limited perspectives and different ways to experience existence. These pieces get lost and go on pretending they are not one with God until they eventually realize that they are.

Fennec said...

We came from God, we are partnered with God when we use love to create the kind of world we desire by treating others as we would treat ourselves, and we will return to God when our spiritual work is complete (which God determines?)

There is never a point that God is not there for us; that is impossible. Our free will allows us to look away and forget the connection, which can turn the tables from loving creation to fearful destruction. Our constant awareness of the connection to God (source / love / cosmic consciousness) keeps our thoughts and actions in line with what we love. It keeps us in line with what we desire to feel, experience, and share with the world we are helping to create. We have this ability to create using love because God first loved us and desired to create us. God created us with love, guides us with love, and will welcome us home with love.

Tricia said...

I'm digging all of these perspectives. I started picking up a book I had put down for a while and I think my next post will focus on that. My mind has been on the idea of "heaven" and I think the idea of what people think of this life, as well as, if there's a "next life" (and what that looks like) is an important thing to note. Suffice it to say, I think there are many focuses we can take about the idea of God. And I would like to get back to that, but for now, I assume that "God exists" in whatever form. Part of my process should probably be, is God a thing at all? But for some reason I have a difficult time with the idea of no God. I don't know if that means I'm holding back and won't fully be able to deal with my questions if I don't go there, but I've tried in recent years and just can't do it. I've seen too much affirmative reassurance from others around me to think it's complete nonsense to believe in God. Perhaps by looking at other aspects of the religion/faith, I can come back around to the God question, answering it by taking a less direct angle?

JK Riki said...

"But I'm still hung up on the love-as-emotion, God as a being-entity. But perhaps in time I'll understand what Sister Mary Fortunata knew."

Oh man, wait until you see it. It's mind boggling. When you get to witness love past what is previously thought of as "love..." When it's tangible instead of just vague or emotional... It's NUTS. Amazing and crazy and... just mind blowing. Keep your eyes open, you'll know it when you see it. :)

(And then you won't be able to explain it to anyone who hasn't yet seen it, so you can just be excited for them and encourage them to keep seeking. It's amazing, and you absolutely will experience it at some point, I'm convinced. Everyone will, just a matter of when.) It's not the most fun answer to get, but it's worth the wait/seeking. If I could only deliver one message to a single person as the purpose of my entire life, it would be "It's totally, totally worth the seeking." Probably. I mean, I'd have to think about it, but it would be something along those lines most likely. :)

JK Riki said...

"But then there's your depictions of God in the Old Testament that don't seem to line up with a loving sort of being."

Ah, sounds like you could use some amazing time with Old Testament study! :D I have not learned more about God (outside from what He has done in my life) than I have by learning about the Old Testament. It's a treasure trove. We avoid it because it's hard, or at least I did for that reason. And it IS HARD. I preferred the "God is Love" New Testament stuff. God healing people makes me happy. God killing people makes me terrified. But you can't truly understand Love (with the capital L) until you get the totality of God, and the totality is found in the old AND new. It is what makes the whole thing complete. The New Testament introduced me to God. The Old Testament told me everything about him, and made the New Testament introduction all the more amazing and gorgeous. (I can't wait to see how the book of Revelations adds to the whole picture, but we're not there yet.)

Looking at just "God is Love" is half the picture. It's the whole "milk drinker/meat eater" concept from Scripture, are you familiar? Essentially you start out drinking milk, because it's easier. But eventually it isn't enough. You need more, otherwise you face the very questions and conundrums you're facing. The questions/conundrums are part of what tell you it's time to progress past where you are. It's actually a beautiful moment, when it's time to move to the next stage. But oh my gosh it can be TERRIFYING. I spent two literal weeks crying my eyes out not believing in God when I started the transition. It was by far the worst time in my entire life. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Which is what you start to learn: Things aren't just "one thing." Suddenly perceptions are changed. Me in the darkest place in my life wasn't "bad" even though it seemed like it at the time (and sounds like it would be even now). Which can sound like an excuse or rationalization, to be honest. It's tricky. It's so hard to explain, because it's a really deep, deep concept and it shouldn't be rushed. It's not something I can just sum up in a blog comment. Well, it is, but the summary is "God is Love" and that is literally the "fluff" you described until you find the deeper meaning in it. (Gah, it's so miserable to try and explain! I wish I could zap you with it and you'd be done. But I also wouldn't want to deny you the incredible, incredible journey. Which I believe may be one reason God doesn't just pop into our living rooms and change us instantly, which he could. We NEED this.)

Anyway, my point is (if I even have a point) that the answers are in the truth, and the truth is there for us if we want it. Yes it requires work, and yes it is hard (DANG hard at times) but if we want it, it is there. It may, however, mean dying to the self and being in the presence of God while he does things like flood the earth and murder everyone on it. "How can a being like that be Love?" is only answered once you really dive deep. There is no easy, flippant answer. But there is an answer, it's a good one, and it is worth finding. :)

The joy you'll find there so far outweighs the fear of walking towards it that when you're done, the fear will seem laughable. But boy it's not easy while you're walking. (Which is why it helps greatly to have both God and a support team of other humans for the journey, which clearly you do indeed have! Woo! Everything is in place, ready for a walk?)

Vannevar said...

@JKRiki said: Oh man, wait until you see it. It's mind boggling. Amazing and crazy and... just mind blowing. Keep your eyes open, you'll know it when you see it. :) (And then you won't be able to explain it to anyone who hasn't yet seen it,

I'd like to say: first, hello to @JKRiki! and then: Yes, you're probably right. But you could say the same thing about LSD, couldn't you?

Vannevar said...

I like what @Fennec and @Tricia said about: "I actually like the pronoun "They" as a term for God." and also, "Is God a Who?" which is a brilliant inquiry.

The whole notion of God as gendered (to me, no offense intended) is humans down here reinventing God in our own architecture. I like to work a in She every now and then.

"they" is both a gender-inclusive term and a trinity-emphasizing term, and I like it a lot. It does bump up against monotheism, though.

also on gender: Back in the early days, this country's avatar was Columbia, a female figure. But we've shifted into an Uncle Sam male-paradigm with dubious outcomes.

thanks to all for the discussion.

Tricia said...

Hey JK, I appreciate the exuberance of your comment, I really do. I hope I get there at some point and share the exuberance with you. I have been there at times already in my faith walk, and I think I will again, but I want to say life can be a cycle of up and down. Even after one “gets it”. I think it’s always a good thing to question and break open one’s faith and to let more truth seep in. I think it’s hardest to start, but I think this whole journey is the journey of “beginning again.” It’s also good to note that many people we would consider as Saints have struggled with God questions. Mother Theresa, had a period of spiritual darkness that lasted 40 years, to her death: Her detractors claimed it as crypto-atheism, others say it was a purifying process believers sometimes go under, one where she could feel the abandonment of the poor as she felt abandoned by God. I’m not sure what to think myself.

While I do cling (sometimes fiercely, sometimes feebly) to my Christian background, trying to find WHICH Christian worldview rings most true is the answer I seek and I think our culture and the course of time has done a lot to highly distort our understandings of life and death and everything. Also, I do believe that Reason should have some sort of footing in our theology and some of our new-found scientific understandings of the universe need to play into and shape our faith on some level. I reference in part the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as a basis for theological formation, with Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason:

So I believe our understanding of God needs to also flex with the times. But I may be “heretical” in deviating somewhat from Wesley’s view (and many others) that scripture is the primary footing of our faith. I agree, almost vehemently with him, BUT I also think that we have to face the HUMANITY that soaks the pages of the Biblical canon. I still believe in spite of the human hand, that scriptures are God-breathed in a way, but there are still different kinds of books involved in the canon, with different ways of reading them (some analogy, some poetry, some historical, some song, some prophecy), as well as different ways of interpreting the words and phrasing and meaning and cultural setting. To quote a quote I heard in a sermon one time, the pastor’s teacher once said that “we sometimes love the Scriptures so much that we make them out as a 4th member of the Trinity.” Before there were written books, there was God, and there was Truth. If we believe in a living Spirit and Word made flesh, then I would think that there’s a continual learning and understanding from God. Why do some people treat it as if everything ends at the end of Revelation? (cont. next post)

Tricia said...

(cont.) For me, I take faith of some people often as a glass house. People are so afraid to question things that it's like guarding a glass house. If you poke at it too much, you might shatter its walls or foundations. I want my faith to be, and I believe it can be, a faith that can stand up to criticism and questions and doubts. I want to be a tree that bends with the wind instead of breaking. Or they make God out to be so small that they can fit God into a box, one that is more palatable to them and easy to manage. I feel that God does not live in a shoe box or a glass house. I want to live like I know that's true, and feel certain about it.

Anywho, so I have various qualms with certain parts of the faith of my childhood as well as other commonly held beliefs in our culture-soaked Christianity. I do believe there is a truth to be found and I agree JK, that different things can be true at the same time, that the truth is probably held in tension. I think the reality of God may lie in a seeming paradox. I just want to dive into some of that more deeply as well as to pick off some of the distorted/distracting ideas of God that do not bring me closer to the real truth. I think it does take time, and I have too often wanted to rush forward to find it, but also bypass the process through which I can discover such things.

Tricia said...

I just took some time to read through all of these comments again and I want to thank you all for taking time to write and muse with me.

Another thought I had before I go off into a more focused train of thought: is, perhaps leaning more on the "experience" and "reason" parts of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, that maybe God only reveals God's self to humanity through history, as we are ready to receive God? Perhaps that's one reason we have some very differing views of God from Old Testament to New. Maybe it's not God who's the violent, raging jealous type, maybe it's us and we are projecting some of our own dysfunction onto God? Though, if I take this train of thought, some would say then, perhaps there is no God at all and God is just purely a product of humanity. I realize I open myself up in this way, but I would still argue that the truth is somewhere on a middle ground or third way.

Also, as I think JK references, a good study of the Old Testament will show a ton of patterns of mercy and love and faithfulness in the midst of certain instances of genocide and other questionable content. Some would argue that there is love even in the awful events that we can't wrap our minds around God doing if God is so Loving. It's strange, and I still struggle with some of it, but on the whole I do see the overall story arc of the Creation analogy into the history of the Hebrews and on into Jesus' life on earth and the happenings of his followers after he died and rose and ascended (these items are pretty central to Christianity, and still good to break open and question, because I think we don't fully get what is going on there as a culture. And I have my own convictions/questions on these things.). I also see the time of the Acts of the Apostles as just the beginning chapter of the rest of the story of the Jesus followers and how God continues to interact with humanity.

So feel free to keep commenting, but for my sake at least, I'm going to move on to other topics that will continue touching on some of these broad ideas.