Is God Great?

Previously published on my Tumblr page,

I know that the foundation of my “life in the exile” started with reading “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” by Bishop John Shelby Spong. I find it important to note that I started reading a lot of others books that have affected my view, as well as lots of different blogs that I have reblogged on Tumblr.

Christopher Hitchens, an atheist, answers the question “Is God great?” with the title of his book, “God is Not Great (How religion poisons everything)”. It’s a pretty inflammatory title, but despite what you might expect, Hitchens is pretty cool-headed when he presents his facts and information.

He more or less follows the history of religions around the world and looks at them objectively, from the sweeping generalizations they have assumed, to their wars, to how Catholic and Protestant churches have stood against human rights and scientific progress. I found it to be a very well-rounded and interesting read.
Of course, people are probably asking me, “If you’re reading all these books about pseudo-Christianity and atheism, where are the apologetics?”

The truth is that I haven’t read much Christian apologeticism- unless you count all those Christian books I read that are based on the assumption that the Bible is just true, because it is- besides a copy of “Mere Christianity” that was given to me by a friend of mine. I didn’t make it all the way through the book, because i didn’t find it particularly helpful.

For one thing, C.S. Lewis claims that if we try to remove from Jesus all of his divine identity, then he wasn’t a man to be admired- he was a man with a grossly inflated sense of self who made outrageous claims. “I am the Son of God”, “I am the bread of life”, or “I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of lights”. No, the only way, supposedly, to reconcile such claims is if they were literally true.

C.S. Lewis also claimed that, if all of morality was subjective, then we couldn’t really tell right from wrong- because where from, or on whose authority, were we making that claim? Or maybe a better example was this- if we say that God is unjust, then we have to admit that someone or something imbued us with a sense of right and wrong and that had to be the very God that we were accusing.

I don’t feel that any of Jesus’ “outlandish claims” disqualified him as a great moral teacher and a good example to live by. I also don’t feel that a healthy conscience is particularly connected with religious adherence or a belief in God, because history has provided us with examples of many unconscionable acts performed in the name of God.
That being said, I still believe in God. I don’t believe that Jesus was any more or less a child of God than anyone living on the earth today. I even would go far enough as to say that I still believe there is a certain “power” in his name. I believe that when people believe in something as fervently as most Christians do, there is a certain power in it. I don’t know what to call it yet, though some people would say it’s “mind over matter” or some kind of “collective positive energy”, but I definitely still feel strong emotions whenever I’m a part of a worship service where genuine believers are pouring their hearts out.
Bishop John Shelby Spong, however, brings to attention something very interesting. At one point his wife, I believe, became very ill with a certain disease. Being a bishop, he received prayers from hundreds, maybe thousands of believers world-wide. His wife eventually did recover, and these faithful believers credited their combined prayers with her recovery.

This got Bishop Spong to thinking- if it was the multitude or magnitude of their prayers, would that mean that if he was someone less popular, and unable to rouse such an emphatic response, that his wife may have perished? What about people world-wide, whose needs go unknown by the majority, and only have a few praying for them? If they experienced less effectiveness in prayer because of being fewer, wouldn’t that mean that God was a respecter of persons, in that he respected people who were more “famous” or “well-known”?

It’s the little things that cast shadows over the effervescent light of Evangelical Christianity. Of course, if Kenneth Hagin were still alive, he wouldn’t agree that multiplied prayer produces better results. He said sometimes it can actually be harmful, because you “get too much unbelief mixed in.” No, the prayer of faith shall save the sick (James 5:15).

If I go into the whole “faith healing” or “word of faith” movement then we’ll open up a can of worms and I’m really not ready for all of that yet (maybe next time). What I do know is that whether God is said to respect multiplied prayers, or just amped up “faith” then he is in effect neglecting those who lack either one, sometimes by no fault of their own.

I guess this makes things complicated, because I don’t believe that God is totally devoid of involvement in human affairs. I do believe he is above being totally influenced by human desires or whims, but I don’t believe that he is so distant that he is completely above responding to us when we’re in a time of need.
I don’t really have a “label” for my spiritual beliefs yet, and I’m sure they will become more clearly defined as time goes on. For now I’ll go with the term “patchwork religion” which basically just means that I take a lot of things from various religions, self-help, and spiritual programs.


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