Saturday, 19 December 2015

Why should we obey God?

Why should we be obedient to God?

Answer: because we are his children, and he is our loving Father.

We therefore know that God has our personal best interests at heart. It is God's love for us that is the reason why we should obey him.

In other words, obedience not the bottom-line, but God's Love is - obedience is justified in terms of love.

The other major monotheism is not based on God understood as a loving Father, but on an almighty God. The reason for obedience is God's absolute power - for them, obedience is the bottom-line. Obedience is justified in terms of supreme authority.

It is the difference between obedience to your own loving Father, and obedience to your Emperor.

10 comments:

Nicholas Fulford said...


Are you referring to doing your best to fulfil the two primary commandments given in Mark 12:30-31.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.


Or do think you perceive the voice of God in other ways, and how do you parse out your own voice from that?

This always bothered me because believers often act in ways which seem at odds with the above when claiming they are being obedient to God.


Cui Pertinebit said...

Obedience is justified by lawful authority. God's omnipotence and charity give us special confidence in the obedience we show him, but, considered thus separately, His love is not the justification or reason for obeying Him.

Of course, God is perfect simplicity, so in the end all of these attributes, operations, etc., are an integral whole. But the distinctions for theoretical purposes are not without value - such as indicating, for example, that even if our earthly king or schoolmaster does not love us, or even given the certainty that the book of laws does not love us, they are nevertheless vested with legitimate authority and that is the justification for obedience, without regard to love. If God bore us no special love, we would still owe Him obedience as the fount of justice, the maker and master and owner of all that is, including ourselves.

Rasmus said...

This realization -- the diffence between trust and submission -- is essential in understanding the dynamical differences of the East and the West. We Europeans have moved a significant step towards God when we have evolved to nations that build on trust and love. Accordingly, turning our backs to God has meant our nations are declining to a state only controllable by fear, anger and agression. We need Christianity, a clean break (but one that resonates with our heritage), good unselfish deeds (helping the world by compromising the future and safety of our own nation is NOT unselfish), true safety (safety that depends heavily on succession of anti-crime operations is NOT true safety), trust in each other and trustworthy leaders. And most of all, beyond all analyses, we need God.

God cannot help us until we realize we need Him, we want to live with Him and that quite simply we love Him.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CP - I think you are wrong! I gave the reasons - why are *they* wrong?

Geraint Apted said...

"Obedience is justified by lawful authority."

God made everything. In a strongly Catholic or Orthodox mindset, this would be sufficient reason for obeying God. God is 'maker', 'master' and 'owner' of everything, and it follow that He has 'lawful authority' over everything, and so everything in the created universe must obey Him.

Both Catholicism and Orthodoxy value obedience as the first quality required. Both are hierarchical. Both would be shocked by the idea that obedience follows because God loves us. For both, this sounds as though we think that obedience is conditional on the existence of God's love for us. Obedience as conditional is not true obedience. Taking it further, disobedience begins to sound acceptable if God's love falls away. In this sense, both Catholicism and Orthodoxy share to some extent in the Judaic belief that God is to be obeyed because He has lawful authority.

Protestantism eroded the authority of the Catholic Church by its assertion that believers could talk directly to God. This suddenly made the relationship of believer and God an intimate one. God felt close, someone to look up to yes, but also someone who would pick you up and hug you if you were crying. The whole relationship moved psychologically into a parent/child dynamic. Any believer brought up in the culture of the Protestant tradition would feel strongly that God loves us like a Father, and we love Him back because of that love. I would say that even Catholics brought up in societies that are culturally Protestant would feel this.

For me, the culturally Protestant position is the most 'natural' to feel, but I am acutely aware of the fact that Catholics might accuse me of conditional obedience; saying that my obedience to God is conditional on His loving me. They might go further and say that my state of conditional obedience is close to the satanic position of pride.

My answer to them would be that my obedience is unconditional in intent, but that I am a sinner, as well as a believer, and God recognises that. Like a good Father, He tells me the rules, and even tells me off when I disobey, but ultimately, like a good Father, He forgives me over and over again, so long as I believe in Him. This is God being merciful. Basically, He knows that we are rubbish at total obedience, and gives us a 'get out of jail free card', which is mercy based on faith in Him, and not based on unquestioning obedience. He is a relenting God, which is why He sent Christ. He transformed Himself into a man, came down to our level to show He understood our feeble ways, our broken promises, and our never ending capacity to sin, and sin again. It is the dispensation of Grace, and the behaviour of a loving Father, not a remote Emperor.

Today's blog on obedience links intimaely with yesterday's blog on original sin. The following link is good on sin/original sin, giving another view.

https://answersingenesis.org/sin/the-first-sin/

The Crow said...

Obeying God is as simple as refraining from imagining Him, and then imagining what laws he might demand we obey.
There is in fact nothing to obey. One does not obey life by simply living it. One simply lives it.
It is the meaning of living life that should concern us. The method by which we fully live.

We either slot seamlessly into life, or we don't.
If we don't, we're doing it wrong (or disobeying).

Nicholas Fulford said...

GA said:My answer to them would be that my obedience is unconditional in intent, but that I am a sinner, as well as a believer, and God recognises that. Like a good Father, He tells me the rules, and even tells me off when I disobey, but ultimately, like a good Father, He forgives me over and over again, so long as I believe in Him. This is God being merciful. Basically, He knows that we are rubbish at total obedience, and gives us a 'get out of jail free card', which is mercy based on faith in Him, and not based on unquestioning obedience. He is a relenting God, which is why He sent Christ. He transformed Himself into a man, came down to our level to show He understood our feeble ways, our broken promises, and our never ending capacity to sin, and sin again. It is the dispensation of Grace, and the behaviour of a loving Father, not a remote Emperor.

Do I need to believe in order to experience?

Certainly not, and too much regard for belief easily results in the creation of an idol. Idolatry is subtle when it takes the form of unwavering commitment to belief. It is like the Sufi allegory about veils upon the Beloved. A groom who is focused upon the outer garment is not a faithful lover. It is in being drawn in towards the object of his love that the groom demonstrates that he is faithful. To part all the veils, to not stand before any single one of them, but to rip each one away to approach his Beloved is fidelity. Neither frozen by fear nor seduced by the value of the veil, the true lover continues parting the veils until there is no separation. If God is, then the only valid motivation is to bridge the distance that separates, to cast aside any and all veils out of a desire for unity that by its strength bridges the gap.

Obedience born of a dogmatic commitment is flat and legalistic. Obedience born of longing is the true variety, because it requires no effort but devotion, following as easily as the return of the sun follows the night. No will is required but that there be no distraction that can garner the attention of lover from Beloved.

Though a non-theist - having long ago opted not to be transfixed upon the veils of belief - I know that adherence to an image as God is idolatry. It makes my path an easy one, unencumbered by challenges to beliefs.

Anonymous said...

God should be obeyed because he spoke to our fathers in ancient days and promised us great blessings if we obeyed his word.
The other major reason of course is because all the other things we might potentially put our trust in (technology, society, money, intellect, humanity) can only offer us so much, and will eventually let us down, whereas God will come through no matter what.
But the whole idea of being obedient to God is dependent on God giving us commandments to obey; without a sacred history containing commandments and God's promises, everything would be founded on mere speculation.
Of course, then the bottom line becomes "obey God because the ultimate outcome of doing so is positive".
-Carter Craft

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nicholas - I thnk you need to separate two beliefs - that there is a God, and then being confiecnt in your knowledge about God. I think you jump ahead to concerns about the uncertainly of human knowledge. the possibility of error - without acknowledging that these concerns only make sense if real knowledge is possible.

So, yes you DO need to believe in order to experience - in the sense that you r experience means nothing unless you believe that there is some basis for it. This level of beliedf is not in a personal God, and certainly far short of the CHristian God - but is a belief in the necessity of Deity for rationality.

This is not about the psychological necessity of belief for experience, but the logical necessity of belief - this was a discovery of the Ancient Greek philosophers. This is the understanding that has made so many deep thinkers in mathematics and physics to be at least Deists (usually Platonists) since they recognize that without Deity their work is meaningless: Deity is the pre-requisite of meaning.

Without Deity you *can* have experiences but they have no significance - and this awareness/ understanding itself undermines the experience until the self awareness is of consciousness as a merely subjective pattern of 'stuff'.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Carter - My point is that your type of explanation is part of Christianity but not distinctive to Christianity - it is not a Christian explanation.

It misses-out the difference made by the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and his teachings. We are supposed to re-interpret the Old Testament in light of the New.