Thursday, July 20, 2006

Is God Politically Correct?

Everywhere I turn there is this view of religion that assumes God is more interested in our definition of "fair" than in being specific about what He requires of us. This politically correct view of God is what causes allot of people to come to the conclusion that all religions are basically the same, just a different road leading to the same Higher Power, Supreme Being and a dozen other names given to God that strive, not to inform or edify, but to be as inoffensive as possible. This philosophy is paved with good intentions that struggle to be as inclusive as possible so that, heaven forbid, no single person is left out.

Let me offer this.

Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Cain was a farmer, and gave some of the first fruits of his crop on the altar. Abel killed an animal and gave that as his form of worship. What happened? Cain's sacrifice was rejected by God because it was not according to the manner in which God required.

The "fair-minded" person would cry out, "Injustice! This is not fair!" Why would God reject Cain's sacrifice? Was it not given with the best of intentions? He labored for that crop, planting the seeds, watering them carefully and patiently waited for the seeds to sprout and grow into a plant that produces fruit. Why would a benevolent and loving God reject this man's sacrifice but accept the sacrifice of his brother?

The answer is simple: Abel followed the instructions. God made it known to them both how He wanted sacrifices to be made and left them to choose. Abel chose well and his sacrifice pleased God, while Cain chose poorly and brought him correction. Let's look a little further at God's response.

Gen 4:6-7
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

(From New International Version)

God didn't respond to Cain with punishment, but correction. He gave Cain an opportunity to correct himself and have his sacrifice be accepted. What a benevolent master!

How did Cain respond? He lured his brother Abel to a field where he killed him and attempted to hide the remains from God.
I ask you, is God unfair or unjust in punishing Cain by casting him out of His presence and cursing the rest of his days? I think not.

In the same way that God required Cain and Abel to worship Him in a very specific manner, He also wants us to worship in a prescribed way.

Now that we have a view of God and his requirements, let us take a look at how different religions describe what our purpose is.

  • Atheism: Only humans can help themselves and each other solve the world's problems.

  • Buddhism: Purpose is to avoid suffering and gain enlightenment and release from cycle of rebirth, or at least attain a better rebirth by gaining merit.

  • Gnosticism: Humans can return to the spiritual world through secret knowledge of the universe.

  • Hinduism: Humans are in bondage to ignorance and illusion, but are able to escape. Purpose is to gain release from rebirth, or at least a better rebirth.

  • Islam: Humans must submit (islam) to the will of God to gain Paradise after death.

    (credit to ReligionFacts for the info.)

    There are obviously hundreds more, but I believe the list above will serve us well in our comparative analysis.

    Every one of the religions listed above, as well as those not mentioned, believe and teach that their way to live for God and ultimately (for some) spend eternity with Him is THE way. Obviously they are not all the same, while they all teach ultimately that man should be morally good, they are all very different in describing why.

    Simple analysis brings me to the conclusion that if all of these teachings are fundamentally different, we must draw one of the following conclusions:

    1. They are ALL wrong.
    2. One of them is right.

    What we can not conclude is that they are ALL correct, because they disagree. God is not a God of confusion, but order, and it goes against His character to write a different prescription of worship for every culture that contradicts the way in which some other culture must worship.

    Would God on one hand tell the atheist to ignore Him and depend on man to solve the world's problems, while at the same time tell the Muslim to submit to Him in order to live a good life and get to heaven?

    It is important to remember that God created us and owes us nothing, while we owe Him our very lives. He us fully justified in asking what he wants of us, even if it offends us or violates our sensibilities. He is not obligated to us in any way but He is obligated to adhere to His own character and principles. What is exciting is that He gives us access to His thoughts, character, and principles through what He created: nature, the people around us, and the written word.

    Most significant of all, and more exciting, is that He came into our history as a man by way of a virgin birth, lived a perfect, sinless life for 33 years, was crucified in spite of His innocence on our behalf, was buried in a tomb for 3 days and rose again to conquer death; again, on behalf of those whom He has no obligation as the creatures of His own creation. I am not talking about the Bible, I am talking about history. I am not talking about religion; I am talking about having a relationship with the one who created us, ultimately fulfilling our purpose for existing.

    We are the ones that have fallen away through endless intellectual pontification, by limiting God to what we can understand or conceive, the clay telling the Potter how we must be formed and to what end He must use us. This is the worst form of pride, especially in the face of what He has done in spite of our hearts that have been darkened.

    God exists and created us to glorify and worship him. I don't mean worship as in standing in a church holding your hands up singing at the top of your lungs (this is the picture that always pops into my head when that word is spoken), although this is certainly a valid form of worship, but worshipping God with our thoughts, actions, words, conversations, generosity, and the like. He, as the creator, has the right to require that our worship be done in a very specific manner.

    Do you desire to worship God in the specific way that He requires? If so, you must search and decide what is the "sacrifice of Cain" and what is the acceptable form of worship, because He is NOT politically correct, nor is He interested in our definition of fairness or worship.

    James Manning said...

    An interesting and direct take on it. I agree with you. I think the simple solution to Christianity is be Christ-like. I think the confusing part comes when religion - and I do distinguish a difference between follow Christ and follow religious doctrine - confuses all of the other stuff with being a Christian.

    Should we or should we not tithe? What is speaking in tongues and are all Christians required to do it?

    Bullfrog said...

    I agree that religion, which is following a set of laws consistently, is not what God intended for us. The ultimate purpose of the Ten Commandments given to the Israelites was to show them their sinful state so they would go to God for mercy in their hour of need. Religion puffs one up with pride, while an open and honest relationship with God humbles. I struggle between these two all the time!

    Were those real questions you were asking, or were you just giving examples of doctrine that can be confusing?

    Swim said...

    You're conclusions while interesting, are wrong. All religions, generally speaking, are saying the same thing--in order to 'get to God' there is only one path, Humility. Defined as submitting to God's Will as God defines it through Religion. Or lack of religion as the case may be.

    In your case of the atheist, for example, to paraphase you, God says, "Ignore me, solve the worlds problems..." And the atheist lives that life which is a submission to God's Will.

    You might think I made this argument as an atheist, but I'm not. I have tremendous faith in God and do try to do God's Will everyday. We do all fail on occasions some of us more than others. I came here from Nate's site. I saw your comments and your apology. I thought the apology showed gravitas and thoughtfulness.

    Bullfrog said...

    @swim: thanks for stopping by. I actually recognized the commonality between methods of the religions mentioned:

    "Obviously they are not all the same, while they all teach ultimately that man should be morally good, they are all very different in describing why."

    It was not the means so much as the end result that is very different from religion to religion. Some believe in reincarnation, others an afterlife, which may or may not include fellowship with God, but are obviously designed to be a reward for good behavior.

    You mentioned you are not an atheist and are trying to do God's will every day. May I ask how you know what God's will is? A large part of my argument here is that He does make his will known to us, and it is up to us to find out where.

    Is or isn't said...

    I agree with your point that people impose THEIR notion of "Fair" and "Good" upon their faith.

    Faith is for the strong. It can sometimes be painful.

    But I truly believe the reward, in terms of spiritual peace, is worth the sacrifice.

    Cynthia said...

    LOL @ Jersey McJones...

    Bullfrog said...

    Now you see 'em, now you don't...

    Bullfrog said...

    The problem with your analogy is that most religions have a different destination, as I have already demonstrated.

    If my salvation depends completely on God's forgivness and mercy, how is that arrogant? If I demonstrate that God is very specific about how He wants to be worshipped, how does that make ME arrogant?

    Your issue is with God, you should take it up with Him.

    Cynthia said...

    BF: your problem is you don't appreciate the journey.

    Bullfrog said...

    On the contrary, I LOVE the journey! I am a truly blessed man!

    Would you like to talk about the premise of the discussion:

    If all religions are varied in the way they portray life, death, the afterlife, and God, how can we intelligently come to the conclusion that they are "all the same" or "different roads leading to the same God", unless we are just being PC?

    glory said...

    your own words say that of the various faiths, either all are wrong or one is right - IF all of the teachings are fundamentally different. you have concluded that they disagree just because each faith has claimed a monopoly on the truth. you're taking their subjective self-righteousness for proof that the faiths are different on their fundamental tenets. doesn't that conclusion also depend on what "fundamental" is? you also said that they all ultimately teach that we should be morally good. is that not fundamental? who decides what fundamental is? the Talmud? the Christian Scriptures? the Qur'an? the Bhagavad Gita? can any faith claim a monopoly on truth with conviction beyond what they subjectively believe?

    the different destinations show that people want different things for living righteously and that they relate to the Creator in different ways. (and the more cynical truth is that different things scare different people.) but even in those differences, righteousness for peace from the Creator is the common refrain.

    your analysis and reasoning - "would God's character be to prescribe different worship for each culture," is inherently biased in that your conception of God's character is informed and defined by your faith tradition. in the same way that people impose their definition of "fair" on God, you are imposing your (or your faith tradition's) concept of what God's character is on God. for example, it wouldn't work right to ask an atheist if God told him to ignore Him. the atheist would laugh. because to him, there is no God.

    we are all flying by the seat of our pants here, doing the best we can with what our cultures and personal experiences have informed us with. and in light of scholarly, historical, scriptural and spiritual confusion, the best we have to go on is faith. beyond that, the agnostics are right, there is no proof. that is why it is faith, and the merit for the believer lies in that truth. the resurrection is not objective history. it is subjective faith. history tells us only that the Man lived and died, not that He was resurrected. that's why those who believe without seeing are truly blessed.

    i do find value in your assessment that the Creator is not politically correct and that He owes us nothing, though. and i respect your stance and your faith. but i think it's difficult to make your point without being highly subjective, and that it would be good to acknowledge that its limitations are the boundaries of your faith tradition.

    Bullfrog said...

    @glory: your statement,
    "the different destinations show that people want different things for living righteously and that they relate to the Creator in different ways." is exactly where I am focused in this discussion, as it seems to put God at the mercy of our sensibilities. It suggests we invent Him as we go along based on personal bias, which makes Him less God, and more a figment of our imagination.

    I believe this is how a majority of world religions came about, through man's invention. Assuming that is true, how do we know we have found "the way"? I believe we have to study the history of each religion as well as it's texts.

    Your assertion that the resurrection of Christ is not historically accurate but objective faith needs some explanation as it is that single event that divides most of the world religions.

    It is true that I am a Christian, but I am trying to look at this issue from the standpoint of someone who is searching for God. Where would I start, and how do I reconcile the differences between world religions?

    glory said...

    the Creator is who the Creator is - says Moses' Torah. I AM who AM. this is based on Judaism's understanding, but i think most monotheistic religions believe this. i don't think that the various faiths invent Him as they go along, but i do think they each have invented their CONCEPTION of who He is and how to worship Him as they go along. i think that even polytheistic religions fit in this way - their beliefs are shaped by culture, and their culture just happens to believe plural when everyone else believes singular. that makes much of religious traditions to be more of a cultural expression of belief in a higher Someone.

    i personally agree that there is a Supreme Creator who exists independently of our conception of Him, and i think most known faiths believe the same.

    also, i was careful with my words - i didn't say the resurrection wasn't historically accurate. i said it wasn't HISTORY. as in, turn whichever book to page 328 where the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is chronicled. historians will not go on record about the resurrection because that is a faith issue and they have no proof beyond oral tradition. the resurrection is only real to those who believe in it so far as non-Christians are concerned, and objective history as an academic discipline does not, and should not, turn on what a subset of people believe but can only back up with their faith. this doesn't necessarily mean Christians have made up the resurrection, though.

    my opinion is that the differences between world religions are not to be reconciled. i don't think it works like that, all neat and tidy with no strings loose - not when talking about traditions that have been living and growing over thousands of years, being constantly complicated and added to, to please the whims and imaginings of millions of mortal people. i do think there is wisdom all over the board, but that we would do better to recognize that there is no monopoly of it in any one place because the Creator is supreme and we cannot limit Him.

    i think many people would disagree with me, but i think that a person who is looking for the Divine Creator will find if they seek within and get in touch with who they are as a person. i think it's different for every one. i think some people won't find because of their ego, so they're not finding Divinity so much as affirming what they want Him to be (or that there is no one higher than the individual). and others may be lazy and just accept what they're told without question, so they haven't really sought, either. i personally think (based on my faith tradition) that the Creator has given us intuition enough to know when we find Him, but that we have to subject culture and personal ego and everything we've ever learned to scrutiny in order to be sure we're in the right spiritual place. and you can only do that if you know yourself. but in any case, i believe that it is not mere allegiance to any faith tradition that will bond us to the Creator, but our individual efforts to seek and find and love that Creator that ultimately matters. i find faith traditions useful and guiding and wise, but not the end-all be-all of seeking and finding.

    Mr. Grey Ghost said...

    Vengeful, but loving, definitely not politically correct....that's God in my book. He provides the path, it's up to you to walk on it. Rewards for those who do, dire consequences for those who dont.

    Outside the Box said...

    Hey Bullfrog,

    I was hoping you wouldn't mind answering a question for me. I ask you over others because you seem to put a lot of thought and effort into your beliefs.

    I was wondering what the criteria is for getting into Heaven or Hell according to your religion.

    I'm not looking for a debate at all. I was just discussing this with someone and I thought of you. (Don't worry, I don't think of you that often nor at inappropriate times.)

    I hope the answer doesn't take too much of your time.


    Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

    08 01 06

    I think you are a good writer, but I disagree with you on a coupla points. Regarding fairness, I DO think that the notion of a fair God stems from many things. Particularly in the tradition of Black American Liberation Theology-"God is not an oppressor and God does not sanction evil against his children," was the idea. And it empowered people to fight for their civil rights. God being fair and regarding humans as all being his children was the underlying thought. Not to say that it hasn't been bastardized a bit, but I see the logic.

    I don't think the definition of Buddism was accurate at all. From what I gather, the purpose of Buddhism isn't to avoid suffering at all; it is to get purified via suffering. I have read some tracts that even say that the only way to get to nirvana would be to live a life of suffering and want.

    If you believe that there is only one way to salvation, then you are damning millions of people to hell who aren't Christian. I have a problem with that. Many of us in the US are pro Israel, but Jews aren't Christians. Do you find something wrong with their belief system, or feel that they are wrong? Or what about those who live in parts of the world that aren't Christian, but are good people?

    To me, I believe in the Existence and Uniqueness Theorem; try all sorts of ways to solve a problem and once you get the solution, it is THE solution so you must have found it in the right way. Yeah, it may sound cockamaimee a bit but it works. I have a really difficult time believing that good people who have a different belief structure are dammned to an eternity of torture. I figure if they were a good person and their ACTIONS were consistent with the good works, then God will both reward and judge them accordingly.

    Stimulating post;)

    Bullfrog said...

    @OTB: I have been meaning to write a post about this and have been planning it for a couple days. I have published it as, "The Good News". Enjoy and please repond with any questions or if I can provide clarification.

    @Mahndisa: I believe that we inherited sin from Adam and as a result can only sin constantly apart from righteousness given to us by God. In light of this universality of sin, the only "fair" thing is for us to die apart from Him. Thank God that He is not fair, but merciful.

    I don't have the power to damn anyone to hell. I am merely stating what is written in the Bible, that if any man die apart from Christ, he is cast into the Lake of Fire. It is God who saves not me.

    My most recent post, "The Good News" provides a more detailed explanation.

    Dave Miller said...

    Hey BF, just returned from summer missions time. This was a great article. I loved reading the discussions from everyone.

    It is always interesting to me to see how many people get involved in a topic like this. I believe it shows what I have come to believe. People want to be spiritually connected.

    Yeah, I know that is an open statement, but in the end, that connection really must be with Jesus.