This week John and Gregg discuss Chapters 4 and 5 from Darin Hufford’s book The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells About God. While Gregg generally sees the book going in the right direction he expresses concern that Hufford has potentially mis-formulated or not formulated certain aspects of his message. This risks confusing or alienating the audience he’s trying to reach. For example, on page 43, Hufford states his view that our hearts are the centre of God’s attention whereas Gregg’s view is that God seeks our entire selves.
Gregg argues that understandings about God, based on personal experience in the context of Christianity, must be matched with understandings via good exegesis. Yet Hufford barely references a Bible versus, let alone demonstrates any exegetical rigor. Gregg is concerned that given Hufford’s target audience (those who are miserable and frustrated in their spiritual lives) his approach seems somewhat self-defeating.
John agrees with Gregg that Hufford’s globalizing his experiences to his readers is off-putting. To John, Hufford’s personal examples seem like rants against his own negative church experiences. Without scriptural support for these critiques the examples remain unconvincing. Gregg suggests that instead of globalizing it’s better to “generalize” from a person’s experiences–highlighting general themes that can apply to everyone, or emphasizing the general effect versus the specific experience.
John asks Gregg to re-frame Hufford’s perspective on jealousy, in Chapter 5, in a way that Gregg believes makes more sense. Gregg begins by questioning Hufford’s definitions (such as distinguishing between jealousy and power-mongering, fear, selfishness) and a critical distinction between “how” and “why.” For example, historically Christians have followed Augustine in focusing on the question of “how” God created. Gregg believes that thishow needs to be complimented with why: both the “why” of impetus (from what motivation?) and the “why” of goal (toward what end?).
How did God create? Ex nihilo. Why did God create? Ex amore.
So where John notes Christians’ claim of their inability to answer the question of “why” as it relates to God, Gregg notes that Christians must have a sense of why God created, without necessarily needing to claim (absolute) certainty. This is also why some people have such a hard time with God’s love. But if we understand that love has played a crucial role since the beginning of all things, God’s love is more comprehensible.