Theology 101

I have another theory. Here it is: God is God because He is our Creator, not just because He is "divine" (read, more powerful than we are). Even more important, we are called to worship Him because He loves us; indeed, loves us so much that He became one of us and died out of love because it was so painful for Him that we, His creatures, not love Him.

View from I-70, southern Utah.
God made this.
Okay, I know. It is not perhaps the most original observation--it is in the Creed, after all--but it is one of those things that suddenly strikes you afresh and then changes everything about how you see the world.

Think about it. Why should we worship God? Because He is all-powerful? Because He knows everything? Because He could crush us like bugs? No, although it sometimes seems that this is why some would say we should. But this is to worship God as a bully, not as a Maker Who Loves Us. God is not a bully, however much some would like to feel that He is (and so either idolize or reject Him). God loves us like a father loves his children, like a mother loves her daughters and sons, like an artist loves his or her work. He wants only good things for us and suffers when we turn from Him to worship other gods, that is, when we make the good things that He wants for us into gods, thinking that they are the source of our life, happiness, and meaning.

And that's that. Proof, if any were needed, of the existence of God. Or, rather, not the existence (God does not "exist" like one of His creatures), but the reality of our existence as creatures. Who, indeed, can look at the world and not be overwhelmed by its grandeur and beauty? Who can suppose, even for an instant, that it is we who brought it into being? As God asks Job (38:4), "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding." Yes, human beings have great abilities to make things out of the materials that God has made, but it is philosophically absurd to insist that we "make" the world through our perception of it. Reality exists outside of us, it is not--pace those philosophies that would insist otherwise--an illusion of our imaginations or desires. Nor is it--pace the Gnostics and Cathars so beloved of contemporary skeptics of orthodoxy--something that we should desire above all to escape. Reality--existence--is good, not evil. We only experience it as evil when we try to control it as if it were something that we had made.

Which is why it is a mistake to imagine God as anything other than our Creator. The temptation is there almost constantly. We make God in our own image--fallen, sinful, proud--whenever we imagine Him as we would like to imagine ourselves at our most powerful. It is what the serpent promised, if only we would eat of the tree: "You will be like God (Genesis 3:5). You will be able to control others. You will have powers beyond imagining. You will be able to make everything happen the way it should. Nobody will suffer, nobody will want. The world will be a perfect place in which to live because you will be able to make it so. There will be no evil because you will not allow it. Everyone will do exactly what he should. Everyone will think exactly what he should. All will live in peace and harmony because you have made it so. All will worship you because you have ensured their comfort and happiness. Nothing will ever happen that you do not will." Hitler had this dream, as have many others. "If I were God, I would not allow it."

And yet, God does. God allows us to make mistakes, go against His will, do things that He wishes we wouldn't. Because He loves us. Because, unlike every god whom we have imagined in our own image, God is not a bully. God does not want control over our wills. God does not want to force us to behave in the way that He wills. Rather, God forgives us, over and over and over again. More times than we are willing to forgive each other. More times than we are willing to forgive ourselves.

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