Wednesday 14 April 2021

Getting to know the Christian God

Christians are often confused about how they can love God, as they are instructed to do - because they feel that they cannot get to know God. 

This confusion mostly derives from the (un-Christian) error of regarding God as primarily a philosophical-deity, an 'infinite' 'God of the philosophers' - a God derived-from concepts; and especially from the philosophical Supergod or Omni-God concept that pre-dated Christianity.

This error has plagued has plagued Christianity throughout its history - early theologians having (uncomfortably) inserted Jesus's teachings into this pre-existing framework, rather like the legendary Procrustean Bed - with this abstract/ infinite/ conceptual Super-/ Omni-God often being imposed from the highest levels of theology and the churches. 

The Supergod error and its incompatibility with knowing and loving God does not prevent Christians from loving God in practice, in real life (as many 'simple' Christians attest) - but it does introduce a contradiction, an incoherence, a mutual negation into Christianity - a contradiction between theology and living faith - which is a weakness that the enemies of Christianity have exposed and exploited. 

This is also a contradiction that may prevent conversion or lead away-from faith. 

Supergod is God conceptualized primarily in terms of abstract and infinite attributes; especially omnipotence and omniscience. Other attributes include God being outside the universe, outside of time, and having created every-thing from no-thing - such that God is therefore qualitatively different from every-thing. 

All these combine to make God alien, unhuman, and incomprehensible. 

When God has been thus conceptualized so abstractly and in such a way as to make him infinitely remote from the human - how can God be known, personally? 

We cannot 'get to know' the infinite. We cannot even get closer-towards knowing the infinite - because we are always (whatever we do, whatever happens) infinitely far away from knowing the infinite. 

And if not knowable personally, how can Supergod be loved? And (more important) how could we know that Supergod loves us?

Well, the answer is that we can only know secondhand, by being-told, by 'revelation' handed-down - especially by scripture; and via the authorities that interpret this revelation. 

Therefore we can only know Supergod at one (or more) removes; secondhand, via trusted authorities and sources, and via language. 

We cannot - even theoretically - know Supergod for ourselves. 

And how can we love such a Supergod? 

Supergod can only be 'loved' by redefining love; by making Love something qualitatively-other than what love is between humans (something more abstract); and such a 'special' kind of (infinitely-different) abstract, divine-love can end-up as being so alien to our understanding that it does not seem like normal love at all. 

Supergod is therefore difficult/ impossible to distinguish from the monotheistic God of Judaism or Islam; who is not meant to be understandable, whose 'love' for us is not understandable - whom we can only obey, and to whom we should submit uncomprehendingly (by following the law and prescribed rituals). 

(Perhaps this is a reason why the 'pure monotheisms' have a special attraction for intellectuals? - often more so than Christianity; because at a philosophical level they are more coherent.) 

Yes, the monotheistic God and the (qualitatively similar, but mystically triune) Christian Supergod are meant to be 'loved' - but the nature of this love must be different-in-kind from (and not an amplification- and perfection-of) the love a child should have for his mother or father in an ideal family.  

(This, I think, is why it is that the more that the Supergod concept dominates Christianity - the more similar the religious-social structure will resemble that of the other monotheisms.)

If Supergod is neither knowable nor love-able - at least not in the ways that knowing and loving are applied between people - then how can we know and love God? 

Do Christians , indeed, need to know and love God? Surely to know and obey God's will, God's laws, should be enough? 

Well, probably it was enough in the past - when there were Christian nations, and when those nations had churches that were (overall) faithful and good; and when nearly-all Men were spontaneously religious and spiritual. 

But that is far from the case now. 

Now, Christians need to know and love God directly, for-themselves; and without reliance on scriptures that have been corrupted and corruptly interpreted by Churches and denominations that are corrupted, worldly; and aligned with a global, secular, leftist, totalitarian regime that is an agent of supernatural evil. 


So how can one get to know God, and then potentially love God? 

In other first place, we need to know something of what we are trying to get-to-know; and that is a God who is our 'Heavenly Father', that is our parent. We are God's children - and God loves us like an ideal and perfected earthly Father and also like a Mother.

(I personally believe that the Mormon theology - that we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother - two beings always and eternally distinct yet bound eternally by love - is correct; but the argument here works the same even if one believes that God is a Father only, or a unified Father-Mother.) 

Everyone who is himself capable of love contains an innate understanding of the ideal love between child and parent - even when he has not himself experienced such love. We know this because we want it (and those who have not had it may want it all the more strongly). 

Then we need to recognize that the creator has this ideal parent and child relationship with us. 

So we should seek to know God the creator and our loving parent - and do so by some combination of prayer and meditation : that is by purposively orientating our thinking and our-selves towards that goal, and being receptive to responses in our own intuitive heart-thinking

We can then know God in the same way that a child can know his Father or his Mother. The gap in knowledge and ability is irrelevant; because what the child needs to know is that his parent loves him and will always be working things to that child's ultimate good; to the best of the parents' ability (given the constraints under which they operate). 

It is this parental love (in an ideal family relationship, which perhaps all families attain - albeit briefly) that enables children to trust their parents: which means to trust their parents' motivations

This is the same as a Christian having Faith in God. Faith means to trust that God loves us and is motivated always for our Good. 

Therefore, a young child continues to love and to trust (...have-faith-in ) his mother, even when she denies him sweets, slaps him for some un-comprehended misdemeanor; even when she compels him to attend a place of misery (i.e. school). 

This love, trust, faith is based upon a perfect confidence of the mother's love; which the child knows is real - and he knows this directly, not by inference.  

Same with our knowing of God. A Christian know God's love for us directly, personally - not by inference, not by hypothesis and proof. 

Such a knowing of God is equally possible to a young child, older child, adolescent or adult - regardless of intelligence, ability, personality. 

The fact that (as the creator) God is vastly (but Not 'infinitely') more intelligent and able, and also that God has an everlasting firmness and constancy of love for us, and motivation for our well-being - are facts not relevant to this basic knowing and loving of God.  

As we get older we may close-the-gap (a little) between God's abilities and ours - but the love, trust and faith in God is not - in principle - something affected by such development; except that we will reach a point in our growing-up when we must consciously choose to love, have faith in and trust God.  

This is closely analogous to the fact that a growing, developing child usually reaches a point (usually in adolescence) when he becomes free to choose whether or not to continue a loving, trusting, faithful relationship with his a parent - or to what degree this can and should be maintained.

In sum, getting to know God is simple if we regard God as our parent, and if we are able directly to know (in our hearts, our heart-thinking) God's love for us, and God's parental motivations for us.

Such knowledge is not affected by 'what happens' to us, nor by 'evidence' - it is a basic assumption that underlies our interpretations of our experiences in life.   

And it is possible because, as parent/s and child, God and Man are related, share an ultimate and divine sameness of kind; and it is this God-in-us, the divine in our real selves, that makes-possible our knowing of God. 


William Wildblood said...

Because many Christians do not know the real God you describe and believe in the Supergod abstraction they focus their idea of love on their fellow men and then make the mistake of thinking that this love means supporting man as he is in his worldly being instead of helping him become more godlike and grow out of that worldly being. This is actually materialising spirituality and they have thereby cut themselves off from spiritual reality, creating a worldly counterfeit of it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - That's a good point. If it is literally inconceivable that Man can become more like God - because the gulf between is infinite; then people will give up on it, sooner or later.

ToTheRightRon said...

If you want to know the Father... learn of, trust and follow Jesus.

We cannot see the Father or the Holy Spirit, nor understand or comprehend them except through revelation, they are spirit.

We can learn of Jesus, we can take up his yoke and follow him. He is an example, He set forth a pattern to follow.

Jesus is the brightness of the Fathers glory and the express image of the Father.

To know the Father, know the Son.

I've heard the accusations that folks like me are anthropomorphizing God.

John 14:9 is Jesus position on the subject.

Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

pyrrhus said...

"The world is charged with the grandeur of God" as Hopkins wrote, because God fills the Universe with love...As many of those who have experienced near death experiences report...

Bruce Charlton said...

@TTRR - Yes, I agree; but for many Christians this simple fact is *confused* by the trinity doctrine/ mystery - i.e. the claim of monotheism, and that Jesus (God) is also his Father (God; as well as the Holy Ghost), and that Jesus's Father (and Jesus) is a Supergod.

Bruce Charlton said...

@p - Indeed, but any deist (Hindu, Buddhist) might say the same - as such, it is an abstract, immanent understanding. A Christian concept of deity is that and *also* God thus also personal; and also know-able, hence love-able.

Jonathan said...

"Supergod" is a great coinage for the omnipotent, omniscient god we inherited (from pagans? from Greeks/Romans?) but isn't really biblical. I even imagine him shouting out "SOOOOO-per-GAAAAAAWWD" as he flies across the metropolis to arrest Satan in the act of heisting some soul-bank. In a profoundly abstract and infinite way, of course.