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Defending the Faith: On 'hanging out' with a comfortable god

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  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    July 17, 2014 8:07 a.m.

    Salvation and damnation are alike, you have to die to get ether one. All I can do is my best.

  • Joan Watson TWIN FALLS, ID
    July 17, 2014 8:38 a.m.

    One hears many times the saying: I don't like the God of the Old Testament as he is wrathful and harsh, however, I accept the loving, forgiving, God of the New Testament. In ones opinion, a careful reading and study of both sets of scriptures, reveals that the God of the Old Testament, and the God of the New Testament is one and the same. It is we humans who either choose to live by God's precepts and commandments, or we do not - in either case, consequences of our own making, good or bad, follow.

  • John Marx Layton, UT
    July 17, 2014 9:02 a.m.

    From the article:

    "The criticism runs as follows: ... The angry God of the Old Testament was created by fallen people in their own image. They blamed on him the natural consequences of human evil.

    Now, there’s undoubtedly truth in this. Sinful mortals have indeed often projected their prejudices, violence, hatreds and vengeful desires onto Heavenly Father, who loves his children and weeps at their self-inflicted suffering"

    For the record, does this 'projection' include the Old Testament? In other words should we understand that parts of the Old Testament (for example the ethnic cleansing of the promised land) might simply be humanity projecting their "vengeful desires" onto God?

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    July 17, 2014 9:19 a.m.

    Through out my life I have loved to climb big mountains - from Utah's Kings Peak to California's Mount Whitney. The peace - joy and sheer fun I have experienced has been priceless. I have also hunted elk/deer since I was in the second grade. As a second grader I would follow along behind my dad as he taught me what his dad had taught him about the experience of hunting. Bagging the animal is only the final scene of a much larger drama that is hunting. It is a totally addicting and beautiful experience. There have been so many people who have never been able to catch my vision of climbing or hunting. They laugh - they critisize - they just don't get it. They have their own distorted notion of what hunters are and they think that climbing up through near vertical rock into thin air in the cold pre-dawn is just plumb crazy ...but they have NEVER tried either climbing or hunting.

    So many people do the same thing with God. They have their own distorted notion but they have never investigated..not seriously. You can never know what you don't do.

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    July 17, 2014 9:53 a.m.

    As I wrote about last week's column: "In the apparent conflict between a loving God and an angry God, the greatest weight should be given to the actual appearances of Christ in the New Testament and the risen Lord in the Book of Mormon."

    The destruction of the most evil parts of Nephite society before Christ's appearance frankly put a fallen people out of their misery and sent them to a better place. It occurred after years of patience and long-suffering. In fact, those who survived weren't necessarily all that righteous--they were simply "more righteous than they" who died. The destruction does not change the fact that Christ is preponderantly a loving God and that certain bloody parts of the Old Testament likely reflect the nature of the people who wrote them rather than the nature of God.

    Those who follow Christ because they understand his loving kindness and mercy will continue to obey him long after those who obey out of fear have grown tired of it.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    July 17, 2014 1:27 p.m.

    "It is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds."
    ______________________________

    Is it any wonder why some Christians chafe at how preachers talk down to church members as though they’re all ten years old? That’s not a rarity in any church whose clergy's priority is to perpetuate the ecclesiastical power structure.

    The silliness of Elder Holland’s flippant observation aside, is there any perception of divine attributes that doesn’t conform to what some seekers wanted in a god? If your taste in a god runs towards one of vengeance and wrath, you got him. If you prefer one of love and mercy, you can easily enough find one like that too if you shop around.

  • Michigander Westland, MI
    July 17, 2014 2:05 p.m.

    That is the amazing beauty and marvelous wonder of the new heaven and the new earth in eternity. God the Eternal Father [JEHOVAH] will never again be angry or wrathful because there will be no more sin forever.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    July 17, 2014 2:24 p.m.

    I can guess how gods of wrath and retribution might have came into human imagination. Droughts, famines, floods, earthquakes, etc. would devastate a locale taking a huge toll in human life. One day, a man finishes building a dwelling for his family. The next day, his loved ones are buried under a pile of rubble.

    Today we have understanding of what causes natural calamities. For ancient man with no knowledge of meteorology, seismicity, etc. those events must have been a great mystery. Instead of science, ancient man had to rely on priests to fill in the blanks. In antiquity, priests could be agents of a ruling class, intermediaries between man and their gods.

    Think of the infinite possibilities for a shrewd priest who could convinced the tribe that their disobedience to him had angered the gods. That might make the tribal priest a man of considerable power.

    That’s part of our cultural heritage that’s still with us to day.

  • Justin Orem, Ut
    July 17, 2014 3:19 p.m.

    "A supremely complacent atheist took the spirit of this portrayal to its limits during an online conversation 15 years ago when he assured me."

    Said conversation occurred in 2001. See Daniel Peterson, "Reflections on Secular Anti-Mormonism," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 444, and Daniel Peterson, "Defending the Faith: Religion matters in death," Deseret News, August 25, 2011.

    I think you would come across as less polemical in your writings if you would cut down on the practice of applying loaded labels such as "outspoken," "vocal," and "supremely complacent" to those you criticize.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    July 17, 2014 3:59 p.m.

    The atheist who rhapsodized about hanging God drinking Merlot could not possibly have chosen a more appropriate beverage to evoke a tame, unthreatening, go-along, get-along harmless deity.

    Surely the wine the Almighty furnished the Cana wedding feast was more challenging than that glorified fruit punch. Pinot, probably.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    July 17, 2014 4:43 p.m.

    Wow, Justin. Really? "Vocal"? "Outspoken"? Such things are pretty mild, hardly very combative or polemical. Even "supremely complacent" -- which seems pretty obvious, at least to me, from that comment made by an unidentified person nearly a decade and a half ago -- isn't particularly rough.

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    July 17, 2014 10:23 p.m.

    I don't mind your "just" and "merciful" god, in the same way I have no problem with a Santa who has a naughty and nice list.

    What no rational, ethical human being should ever tolerate, however, is the capricious, inconsistent, arbitrariness of the Mormon god.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    July 18, 2014 1:08 a.m.

    patriot

    And to add to your example, there are some who have tried it, and don't like it. Some people don't like killing animals for fun, can you blame them? They would rather take a picture of the animal then blow it away. Some people don't like hiking, they would rather go swimming or bike riding or whatever. That doesn't mean they are missing something by not hiking, it means they found something else to entertain and captivate them. Nothing wrong with that. Same thing with religion, many have tried the Mormon church, and just don't believe in it. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. Personally, Sunday is my day to take my family hiking, fishing, and exploring. That, to me, is much more worthwhile then hanging out at church for 3 hours and then watching TV the rest of the day because everything else is breaking the Sabbath.

  • Commonman HENDERSON, NV
    July 18, 2014 8:34 a.m.

    My friend, "The Scientist" spoke of a "capricious, inconsistent, arbitrar[y]...Mormon god."

    As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints I can truthfully say that I do not recognize the "god" of which he speaks. I recognize in the scriptures, and in the words of prophets and apostles, as well as in the answers to my prayers, the God of Heaven and earth--the God who has always and will always guide his people by speaking to them--to warn them of impending trouble and to mourn over those who will not get out of the way of that trouble's approach.

    This is no more inconsistent or arbitrary than warning a drunkard off of train tracks ahead of an approaching freight train. Surely even "the scientist" would do so, and mourn over those foolish enough not to move out of the way.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    July 18, 2014 8:56 a.m.

    RE: Commonman the God of Heaven and earth True,

    Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD(YHWH). Do not I fill 'heaven and earth'? saith the LORD(YHWH). Jeremiah 23:24.

    God Father,we use both metaphor and analogy. God has no body, why is God spoken of in masculine terms? We liken God to a human father by metaphor, without suggesting that God possesses certain traits inherent in human fatherhood male gender, for example. We speak of God as Father by analogy because, while God is not male, He really possesses certain other characteristics of human fathers, although He possesses these in a different way (analogously)without creaturely limitations. St. Augustine.

    He is not a tame lion. He is dangerous, and an unconquerable enemy, but he is unquestionably good. The lion Aslan is a metaphor for Jesus.

  • artist311 west jordan, UT
    July 18, 2014 8:58 a.m.

    Brahmabull- You say "nothing wrong with that" but in saying that, it seems that you declare yourself as God- or just pretending that there are only your rules to keep and God has not spoken on the subject. You can do that, but to ignore the rules, doesn't mean they don't apply and there will not be one day a price to pay.
    I'm reminded of this when I read your comments "They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol"
    Good luck with that, I don't want to do that- I hope I don't.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    July 18, 2014 9:38 a.m.

    "...What no rational, ethical human being should ever tolerate, however, is the capricious, inconsistent, arbitrariness of the Mormon god." (A Scientist)

    "....As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints I can truthfully say that I do not recognize the "god" of which he speaks...." (Commonman)
    ______________________________

    I do, Commonman. But I don’t limit it to “the Mormon god.” Capricious, inconsistent, and arbitrary describe how conflicting views of the divine develop. Skeptics of Mormon claims ridicule the idea of Joseph Smith burying his face in his hat to ‘translate’ the Book of Mormon. But that image is no more surreal than Moses hearing the voice of God coming from a burning bush, or Mohammed hearing bells ringing to announce the angel Gabriel.

    Mormonism is no aberration from the Western religious tradition. It’s characteristic of it in claiming events that are unprovable, improbable, and often preposterous by standards of rational thought. Why should we act surprised? After all, religion is not about getting people to think. It’s about getting them to believe.

  • Back Talk Federal Way, WA
    July 18, 2014 11:23 a.m.

    Even in a politically acceptible world people understand when a parent might "spank" a child when he runs into the street. It is an action that might put the childs life in danger and therefore it is more acceptible to be firm in teaching the child that his behavior is not acceptible.

    When God punishes us when we chose to repeatedly disobey him, he is doing the same thing as the parent because the eternal life of the child is in danger. It is not an inconsequential thing as most critics make it out to be.

    Actions do produce consequences.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    July 18, 2014 11:50 a.m.

    Dear Scientist and Red Corvette,

    Whenever I read your comments, it always makes me so grateful for the knowledge I have of the True and Living God and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I am also completely grateful that I have a husband with the same knowledge and conviction. I'm so thankful that my husband and I are united in our faith. That is a wonderful strength to our marriage and the only way for two people to truly be one.

    The gospel is true. I know this through living the principles. I also know it through personal revelation that I have received from God.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    July 18, 2014 12:21 p.m.

    Scientist and Craig Clark

    I think and I believe. In fact thinking in my 20s about why I did not believe in God, actually led me to believe in him. What do ya think about that?

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    July 18, 2014 1:07 p.m.

    @ Justin

    It occurred to me that the use of “supremely complacent” was ironically less polemical than projective in itself. After all, Dr. Peterson is presuming that he better than anyone knows just what kind of deity The Deity is. But what is the basis of his knowledge? The most it can be is his own projection informed by his study of the projections of others at various times in the past.

    Seriously, unless he can produce a selfie with his deity or some other evidence, I don't know why Dr. Peterson's projections should be considered more authoritative than anyone else's.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    July 18, 2014 1:09 p.m.

    happy2bhere,

    "I think and I believe. In fact thinking in my 20s about why I did not believe in God, actually led me to believe in him. What do ya think about that?"
    ______________________________

    If people can walk and chew gum at the same time, why shouldn’t they be able to think and believe at the same time? Just be discreet about it. Religion doesn’t mind if its followers think as long as they don’t start using the thinking process to critique religious dogma. In some religions, that’s really pushing your luck.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    July 18, 2014 8:47 p.m.

    The truth is that we are often blessed beyond our deserts by a loving Heavenly Father, and these blessings come through the mercy of His Son, Jesus Christ through His atonement. On those occasions when I have to suffer, I remember all the times where my suffering was relieved and I was strengthened to endure it. Even in our earthly torment, we can recognize that we are being lifted, protected, and guided by deity. The righteous will eventually triumph in glory, even if they are severely tried in mortality.

    On the other hand, our rebellion can limit what the Lord can do for us. There is nothing hateful about God backing off when we demand that He leave us alone. When that happens, natural consequences begin to fall upon us unhindered,and ultimately the wicked slay the wicked.

  • bj-hp Maryville, MO
    July 19, 2014 7:56 p.m.

    A few years ago I had a humbling experience when someone said the Lord did this to me. I looked back and thought why would the Lord want anything to do with me. Then I experienced something a little similar to what happened to Enos in the wilderness only it happened within the walls of my home.

    In the end I realized that our Heavenly Father new me personally because I reached out to him in sincerity to get to know him. There are times where I have to be reminded of that relationship and experience. In that I have come to know that it is me who is unworthy of his love, that it is me who must humble myself. When someone says the "Mormon God", they honestly know nothing of the Father except what they want to know. Elder Holland is absolutely correct that we want to make God in our image not us in his image. When individuals blame God for not receiving what they fail to get because they feel they have done all they can, they have never done or tried to reach the father because they put their own standards in place.

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    July 20, 2014 8:00 a.m.

    As usual Scientist hit it right on the head.
    Arbitrary is a really nice way to put it. I've never understood the arrogance that only a "few" get to be sent to this earth at this time and place because of their conviction in the preexistence. I thought we came to this earth to prove ourselves. Makes no sense.

  • Lilalips Attleboro, MA
    July 20, 2014 2:08 p.m.

    In a college philosophy class, many years ago, I was challenged by a classmate to provide a reason why the God of the Old Testament should be so "genocidal". I had to do some serious reflection. But that reflection provided me with the personal insight that the God of the Old Testament HAD to provide a clean slate for the Children of Israel because if he did not, they would slide into the idol worship of their neighbors that included child sacrifice and sexual perversions of all types and varieties. I wouldn't have known about the details of the idol worship if I had not at the same time been studying ancient history and culture. Child sacrifice was common with ancient idol worship, a fact that people today may not know. If Israel could have been among other tribes and NOT succumbed to idolatry then perhaps the Lord would not have required the annihilation of those tribes. But such was not the case. The Lord wanted a higher standard from his people. Unfortunately they could not handle being around perversion without wanting to participate.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    July 20, 2014 2:49 p.m.

    RE: Cats, "revelation that I have received from God."

    The Holy Spirit Bears witness of Jesus and that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). The Jesus of the Bible will send the Holy Spirit. If you don't have the right Jesus you can't have the true Holy Spirit, and your testimony is invalid.

    “… the Son of God has come and has given us insight to know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.(1 John 5:20)
    For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form(Col 2:9).

    God's immanence is in Immanuel, God with us. (Mt 1:23). When Jesus was on earth he was literally God with us. Mt 28:20.

    God is transcendent, He is separate from His creation and not dependent on the created order in any way.” He is not a part of his creation but completely different because God wasn’t created. Nor does he rely on creation. You and I are dependent on our everyday substance of oxygen, food, or creation… God isn’t. see, John 4:24

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    July 20, 2014 9:51 p.m.

    artist311

    No, god has not spoken to me on the matter, therefore I have no obligation to obey the rules that MAN has set in the name of god. Why do I have to trust in what other MEN tell me is the right thing to do when god himself has not spoken those things to me? I have no fear of the consequences because I do not believe there will be any (as far as breaking the Sabbath.) Just as I am quite sure you don't follow the laws of god as they have been revealed to the Amish, Muslims, or any other religion. Rules are made up by men claiming to be from god so that people obey. If you want to do that in the absence of any divine revelation, be my guest. As for me, I refuse to do so. Your definition of what god wants doesn't apply to everybody and never will. Good luck.

  • Aurelius maximus Berryville, VA
    July 21, 2014 6:47 a.m.

    @ Craig Clark "Today we have understanding of what causes natural calamities. For ancient man... those events must have been a great mystery. Instead of science, ancient man had to rely on priests to fill in the blanks...."

    So basically your God is the God of science. It is interesting how in your full commentary you fail to acknowledge that science itself still hasn't filled all the blanks or the blanks they filled in they've come to a wrong conclusion.

    Science like religion provides you with plenty of assumptions. Whether those assumptions are true or not is for you to find out.

    What I find interesting is how oft times those that don't / won't believe pick examples where Religion persons have failed to be perfect. Whether it is with LGBT relations today or weather forecasting thousands of years ago.

    They do a great job finding all the faults of religion and yet don't give religion any credit for the good it does. With science it is the often the opposite. They will give science plenty of credit and ignore the detractors of it.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    July 21, 2014 11:19 a.m.

    @Sharrona re. "If you don't have the right Jesus you can't have the true Holy Spirit, and your testimony is invalid."

    Cats' testimony is perfectly valid. There was/is only one Jesus; only one ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. One can read about Him in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Those who claim "Mormons believe in a different Jesus" need to back up 5 yards and punt: there is only one Jesus Christ.

  • Aurelius maximus Berryville, VA
    July 21, 2014 2:11 p.m.

    Brahmabull,

    God doesn't work that way. He isn't going to come down and tell you personally to obey the commandments.

    God calls prophets he always has and always will until his son returns and rules.

    Why should God re-reveal stuff to you or anyone personally when he has already revealed it. There are multiple ways you can know.

    I highly recommend the recent talk "If ye lack wisdom" from the most recent conference.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    July 21, 2014 9:43 p.m.

    RE: Moontan,”LDS 'do not believe in the traditional Christ.' 'No, I don't. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.'" (LDS Church News Week ending June 20, 1998, p. 7).

    J S, Lectures on Faith, Q. What is the Father? A. He is a personage of glory and of power. (5:2.). What is the son? First, he is a personage of tabernacle.

    The “pale” of Christianity believes the birth of Jesus was a unique miracle by the Holy Spirit (Pneuma). Luke 1:35,“l know not a man”? Mary knew the reality of her own virginity. She declared that her pregnancy was the result of the miraculous overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, not from a sex act with a man (even if that man is the immortal God in a human body

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    July 22, 2014 9:30 a.m.

    @Sharrona ... Semantic differences only. Both groups are still referring to the same personage, Jesus Christ. Just as siblings may have disagreements 'about' their mortal father, Christians may and do have disagreements 'about' their Heavenly Father. But we are called to believe 'in' Him, not 'about' Him.

    Salvation cannot depend upon one having exhaustive knowledge about Him, because that is impossible. He has given us all the information we need to know for now in order to return to Him. We must believe 'in' Him, His instructions, and act accordingly.

    Disagreements 'about' Him are simply diversions.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    July 22, 2014 9:49 a.m.

    @ Aurelius Maximus

    "...science itself still hasn't filled all the blanks..."

    Can all of the blanks ever be filled? It seems to me that the more we learn, the more we learn how much we don't know. But claiming "God did it" only gives the illusion of filling in the blanks. Being willing to say "I don't know" seems more factual and honest to me.

    IMO, the expectation of certainty is unrealistic. Change seems to be the natural order of things. I wish we'd incorporate this concept into our culture more so that children were raised to be more comfortable with uncertainty rather than looking for ways to pretend it's otherwise.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    July 22, 2014 1:22 p.m.

    RE: Moontan, Disagreements 'about' Him are simply diversions??

    (Jesus) you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am(ego eimi=God) he, you will indeed die in your sins."(John 8:24 NIV)

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word(Jesus) was God.(John 1:1) Verse 14 God becomes man not man becomes God.

    Mormons fall short of saving faith is their belief that God is merely an exalted man who earned his position by good works. This directly contradicts the Bible, which states that God has existed in His position as God of the universe from eternity past." the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever",1Tim 1:17.

  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    July 22, 2014 5:27 p.m.

    @Sharrona ... Yes, diversions. What I mean by that is: we humans would do well to focus more on His message and less on the particulars of His precise nature, especially since we cannot know 'about' Him completely and totally to begin with.

    Was He left or right handed? 5'9" or taller? An eternal being, or once a man? Just exactly how did He arrive on earth, and why only about 2,000 years ago in our history? Where did He come from? Etc., etc. I don't think He requires us to have a belief one way or another concerning such questions. But we very well should worry if we choose not to love our neighbor as ourselves.

    Re. John 1:1. I wish people would never forget to add verse 2 ... "He was in the beginning with God." (ESV).

    That is two beings, friend.