I am a Biblicist I suppose, for better or for worse (sorry, Christian Smith). I do care what the church thinks and has taught, what scholars teach, and I gather from all of that as well. But the touchstone for me to determine the truth of what anyone is saying is scripture itself. And I hope within that I am gospel centered. The “I” here though is tethered, I hope, to community. In other words it’s not just about what I think, but what the community of God in Jesus thinks by the help of the Spirit. And therefore I probably end up being closer to Christian Smith’s thought, than I might think.
In recent controversies among Christians as well as those past, the differences seem to boil down to hermeneutics: the interpretation of scripture, just what scripture is and does, and the result of that: one’s view of God. One’s view of God is important, since it is both objective in that there is a God who reveals himself and subjective in that we are the ones who receive that revelation. And as our Pastor Sharon has reminded us, God reveals himself in ways that we can understand.
I am uneasy with the image of God many seem to hold to and want to promote. A God who is never angry, always loves, always forgives, whose heart is pure love, nothing more, nothing less. Who affirms us as we are. Of course there is some truth in much of that. God’s anger is so different than our usual human anger. It is slow to arise and completely controlled when it does, even though that doesn’t mean it can’t be devastating. God loves and forgives, no doubt. According to scripture it is in terms of sacrifice, sacrificial death, to be precise. Jesus’ death puts an end to the need for any more of that. What humans in evil did to Jesus ends up being God’s way of saying this is meant to put a stop to that, that is all the violence in the world, and that someday it indeed will. And yet Jesus’ death is also seen in terms of a sacrifice in the same sense sacrifices were offered under the old, Mosaic covenant. Yes, by his sacrifice the need for any more of that is done away with. But also because in some way his once for all sacrifice was a fulfillment of what was done in the sacrifices of animals in the old covenant.
I fail to see, especially after again reading the book of the Revelation the God some insist is the God of the Bible. God is so much more difficult to grasp, even from the pages of scripture. Another strong witness of that is the book of Job. Well, just keep reading the Bible, actually read it from cover to cover (and keep doing so). Yes, we see God in the face of Jesus. As Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Study the words of Jesus. And read about him from the pages of the New Testament.
In the end I don’t think anyone will be so sure about their take on God. For me in the end, God is a God first and foremost of love. “God is love.” This is a love which is holy, something other than we are and completely pure, righteous and just. And God is a merciful, gracious God. But we have to be careful not to press God into our own image, whatever that might be, ending up not with God, but with an idol of our own making (even though we humans are made in, and in Christ are being restored to God’s image). God is God, and that won’t change, no matter what we think should be, or is. And so let’s get back into scripture, read what the church has taught and teaches, along with good scholars, and keep going back to the Book. And above all, we need to keep seeking God and his will in and through Jesus.