42: Sovereignty, Kindness and Interpretation | Chap 3-4 of The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford

This week John and Gregg discuss Chapters 3 and 4 from Darin Hufford’s book The Misundertstood God: The Lies Religion Tells About God. Chapter 3, “The Hair Trigger God,” asserts that Christians often view God as being impatient and fear that, someday, God will finally get tired of our sin and abandon us.

Neither John nor Gregg can relate to Hufford’s presentation of how fear and the threat of hell is used as a motivator to get Christians to “clean up their act.” Jesus and God aren’t playing “good copy bad cop” with us. Gregg is surprised, however, at agreeing so much with Hufford in some sections and disagreeing so much in others.  Gregg had hoped for more examples to flesh out Hufford’s positions as well as Bible references to support them.

Further, contrary to Hufford, Gregg contends that “God’s sovereignty” is not “the most important thing.”  Instead he argues that is “God as parent” and “God as sovereign” are mutually central and informing, and that both are essential to who God is and to our relationship with God.

Darin’s Chapter 4 considers God’s kindness.  He contends that “the great counterfeit of kindness is manipulation,” where manipulation means threatening people with hell if they don’t follow God.  He further contends that acts of kindness enacted with an ulterior motive are manipulative and that we should not look to get anything from being kind.

John and Gregg both disagree: people are always operating with ulterior motives, even if the motive is hoping that someone will change their lifestyle or understand their value through my act of kindness! In other words, how we act toward others always has an impact on us!  Thus Gregg even argues that we do not love God “for naught,” but for the love of the selves that we are becoming as we are loved by–and in love with–God.

So Gregg notes that being loved affects him positively, and all the more when he is loved by God: he likes the person he is becoming and makes better decisions (and so sleeps better at night), he more easily sees the value in others, etc. Further, for Gregg the reverse of this phenomenon is the problem that many Christians believe things about God and Christianity that, in any other context, they would reject.

Gregg finishes with the specific case that Christians have accepted things about Christianity as being “loving” that, in any other context, they would perceive (or at least question) as being “unloving.” Christians have accepted this inverted understandings because they have also accepted a) that the most basic notion in Christianity is reward or punishment–going to heaven or going to hell–and b) that God’s love is so very different from human love that our own experiences of love (and experiences generally) do not apply to our understandings of God and God’s love.

Yet by failing to allow real life and the real significance of love relationships with family, friends, etc. to inform our understanding of our relationship with God (just as Christians do allow for the reverse), we fail to put our love relationship with God through the proper paces so that it can take on its proper role.  So we learn that tensions (between human and divine love) are not problematic but helpful and necessary.  More so, we need to become those who allow their experiences of God, as God’s love, to inform our understanding of God (as God’s truth, which we understand in the Bible).

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