THE THEISTIC GOD SHOULD (MUST) GO
In 1996 former Presbyterian Moderator Alan Brash wrote a short book on the Bible, one chapter spoke of the difficulties readers face when confronted with biblical texts which portray God as violent. These violent images of God pervade the Bible - and indeed some other sacred Scriptures - and present a challenge which none of us can ignore.
The heart of the problem, as I see it, is the continued and widespread belief in a theistic God, that is belief in a personal supernatural being "out there" who intervenes in and has control over all human affairs. In the theistic world-view God is the all-knowing, all powerful landlord who created an earthly home for us to live in, who gives us rules to live by, who has mapped out our lives from birth to death and who has promised us that, come what may, his Will would finally be done. While it is freely acknowledged that over the centuries belief in a loving personal God has been and continues to be a source of comfort and inspiration for many people, theistic views of God are declining. They no longer make sense to growing numbers of people and can now be justly labelled as dangerous. For some years I possessed a German soldier's belt buckle which was inscribed with the Nazi swastika and underneath were written the words "Gott Mittuns". (God with us) The name of God is still being used to support questionable and sometimes ruthless nationalistic purposes while TV evangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell regarded the 9/11 terror attacks as punishment from a violent God for their nation's acceptance of homosexuals and other so-called social evils, e.g. feminism and abortion. My argument therefore is that the theistic God must go. Efforts are already being made to re-imagine, or portray God, in new and more satisfying ways.
Lloyd Geering has written that God is a term used "to focus on all that we supremely value and on the goals which make human existence meaningful and worthwhile; and there is no thing and no place in which we do not encounter this God.
The first epistle of John links God with love. Others simply use the term Presence or a Voice to express their understanding of God. John Hick, the eminent multi-faith scholar, has even offered the view that God will have to be dropped - at least for a while. Shades of Bonhoeffer who said of God that we must now learn to do without him.
Whichever view of God we take, whether he is a reality "out there" or a human construction, all our views of God have to be filtered through our human consciousness. (1) We invent God in the same way that we invented politics, science, sport, education and all the various religions. As Richard Holloway in his superb little book "How to Read the Bible" says, in our imaging of God we have frequently gotten God wrong!
As Christianity struggles to take new shape and leaves many of its former traditional beliefs and practices behind, one of its enduring contributions to society at large would be to publicly and openly disavow all belief in a theistic God. Of course that will not happen, not yet anyway, because there is too much at stake. The authority of a theistic God confers privilege and power which influence the decisions of individuals, churches and governments like the United States. So we live in hope as a new day and new Christian age slowly begins to dawn.
(1) See ref. to Holloway below, pp 16 and 17.
Alan M Goss