No One Believes That the God of the Bible Exists Anymore

[Cross-posted from Exploring Our Matrix]

The title of this post is not a complaint; it is merely an observation. No one confronts the representatives of another tradition with a contest to see which one’s deity will send fire from heaven as Elijah did. No Christian blogger claims that those who comment negatively will be struck with blindness for doing so, as apostles did. God is depicted in many parts of the Bible as knocking down city walls, parting seas and so on. Yet no Christian dominionists are likely to march around Washington D.C. and see it fall into their hands.

Those who claim they “believe the whole Bible” and “take it literally” are being dishonest. Their pastor may have preached recently on the story of the fall of Jericho, but it was applied to God “making the strongholds of sin in your come life crumbling down”, not to a battle plan to take a city.

To be fair, not all Biblical authors view God in the same way. And so there is no single “Biblical view of God”. But certainly God as depicted in some parts of the Bible is not the concept of the deity served by Christians today.

The question a Christian needs to ask is whether they have the courage to admit that their view of God is not the same as that of many depicitions in the Bible. Do you have the courage to take the Bible’s actual words completely seriously, even when the result is that you are forced to acknowledge that you do not accept their literal truthfulness?

Let me end with a couple of thought-provoking quotes from Don Cupitt’s book, which I just finished reading:

“The Virgin Mary may cure many people in Portugal but she is much less active in Libya, whereas vaccination and inoculation are observably beneficial – and equally beneficial – in both cultures, the local religion in the end making no difference at all” (Don Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, p.123).

“To put it bluntly, classical Christianity is itself now our Old Testament…We have to use traditional Christianity in the same way as Christianity itself has always used the Old Testament. In both cases there is a great gulf but there is also continuity of spirit and religious values…When a Christian sings a psalm he knows there is a religion-gap and a culture-gap, but it does not worry him because he believes his faith to be the legitimate successor of the faith of the psalmist. Similarly, since the Enlightenment there has developed a religion-gap and a culture-gap between us and traditional Christianity, but we may still be justified in using the old words if we can plausibly argue that our present faith and spiritual values are the legitimate heirs of the old” (Don Cupitt, Taking Leave of God, p.135).

8 thoughts on “No One Believes That the God of the Bible Exists Anymore

  1. The important thing for a fundamentalist is not to *actually* take the Bible seriously (as evidenced by your actions i.e. works) but to theoretically take it seriously (as evidenced by your words i.e. faith). Because faith is better than works and saves us, this course of action will lead to God’s approval. Sounds silly but I really think this is how contemporary west-ern fundy. evangel. Christian-ity comes out in the wash.

  2. I think it’s worth noting that people who just come out and say, “The Apocalypse will be Thursday during Judge Judy” are at least laying their god on the line. Chalk one up for Oral Roberts and his forecasted death.

    It’s just unfortunate (for them, and those who follow them, wanting to have meaningful faith) that the god of the throwdown is in semi-retirement. Perhaps he is resting.

  3. I often think about this subject. Who is this God in the OT and do I believe anything written about Him? Now, as for Jesus, I can see/feel/follow because my heart understands/connects but that crazy God in the OT? It’s a struggle.

  4. I take the words of the Bible seriously and I believe in their literal truthfulness. Of course it is important to remember that proper Biblical interpretation understands when words are used in a literal meaning, when they are used with a figurative meaning and when they are used in other literary forms.

    It is also very important to know that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. However, the humanity of the Old Testament is very different in many respects from the humanity of the New Testament. Yes, we still deal with similar struggles, but we also have a much greater perspective of history to glean from.

    Just as a child needs to be trained differently in various stages of life, so does humanity need to be trained differently by God in its development throughout history. Just because God used fire and brimstone to get mankind’s attention in Old Testament times does not mean that is the case in the New Testament times.

    I believe humanity, in many respects but not in all, is now in the adult years of life. For this reason God generally deals with New Testament mankind in a very different way, although some circumstances may still require old methods.

  5. We all know that science would win the contest of miracles these days.

  6. James,

    I don’t get this post. Are you saying that Christians think descriptions of events are normative? Are you saying that if someone S doesn’t think that someone elses S*’s past actions must be repeated ad nauseum, then that S must not think that S* continues to exist? Are you saying that if you believe that God did something in the past then he must do so today, otherwise you don’t believe in the same God. And since you don’t believe God did those things in the past, then his not doing so today means you believe in the same God? But what about creation? Do you deny that God created the world? Well why doesn’t he do so today? Why isn’t he creating the world over and over again? Why doesn’t he send Jesus to die today? I really am confused by your post, any help you can offer?

  7. Paul, thank you for your comment. I think your examples illustrate well the sorts of differences I am talking about. Ancient Christians did not believe that God created once and then ceased – that is more a Deistic idea in response to the Enlightenment and science. And ancient believers continued to expect God to send spokespeople to them and to act for their benefit and for their salvation. And so your assumption that God acted in the past, and today it is simply the belief that God once did so that is transmitted as narrative or dogma, seems not to be a challenge to my point so much as an illustration of the sort of thing I had in mind.

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