49: God as Sovereign and Parent | Chap 6-7 of The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford

Gregg begins this episode by relating how his mediation training can help people be their best selves, which he also sees as both the focus and result of being a Christian.  Part of his excitement concerns the hope that mediation can contribute towards restoring relationships–moving beyond the disposability of relationships to seeing yourself and the other person in new ways.

So in a mediation context each disputant has their view of the truth and each may well have a true view of their position, however putting that truth in the context of the whole often changes things.  John observes how, ironically, Christian culture is typically uncomfortable with “multiple truths” and instead there must be one “right” and one “wrong.”

Next, the conversation turns to Chapter 6 of The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells About God by Darin Hufford.  Hufford observes that Christians have become too fixated on Jesus’ death, which for John parallels Gregg’s recent observation that Jesus came to bring and give life, not death.  John further finds it interesting how Jesus never held his self-sacrifice over people’s heads, yet Christians do it repeatedly in books and messages that ask, “What will you do for God after all that he’s done for you?”

In contrast, Gregg notes how people portrayed in the gospels were deeply moved by the things Jesus did and who Jesus was–how Jesus met and “knew” people.  Gregg goes on to note how Jesus’ actions (and God’s response) to humanity’s situation is set in the context of the covenant.  Gregg also notes how much we lose sight of “God as parent” by overly focusing on “God as Sovereign.”

Gregg observes that Christians are often so focused on God as “truth” and as “sovereign” that they are not amazed, as they should be, by how God fulfilled the Covenant in spite of humanity not holding up their end of the bargain.  In other words, Jesus going to the cross was an act of obedience out of love, such that love is the driving component and the lens through which Christians are to understand God as “parent.”

So Gregg’s own experience of loving God is not based on Jesus dying on the cross as an act of love, but is based on experiences in his own life where he believes that God has ‘shown up’ in particular acts of healing and remaking that Gregg categorizes as being “loved and known,” and that this is in fact what we see in the gospel stories: God is interested in making us whole in order that we may be able to enter into and maintain right relationship with God.

John pushes Gregg on his definition of love in conjunction with duty and obedience.  Gregg, while not dismissing the importance of duty within love, insists that duty comes out of desire and not the other way around.  John relates that, in his experience, duty fails to “deliver the goods” on its own.  John likewise notes how duty seems key to Christianity because, as a Christian, you “do what you’re supposed to do” in order to get to heaven.  Hence duty is key because this form of Christianity is essentially about “trying harder.”

Yet where John accepts that the goal of this flavour of Christianity is having a fulfilling love relationship with God, Gregg asks how John’s expectations about this relationship were set by how those Christians who claimed to have such a relationship either i) demonstrated it or ii) explained those aspects that weren’t visible to others?  John acknowledges that this was mostly intellectual–there were no “real life” examples.

Gregg then returns to the notion that love is to be our guiding preoccupation.  Thus in Gregg’s view God not only loves us but is in love with us (in a manner that can be discernible and compelling).  Gregg also notes the disconnect when thinking about creation such that, since Augustine, we have been concerned with how God created.  Yet the ‘why’ of creation–why God bothered to create in the first place–gives the ‘how’ its proper context (and allows us to understand what is really going on).  And Gregg categorizes this as ex amore: creativity out of and aimed at love.  This concept is also discussed in Episode #45 How and Why.

In this way, Gregg notes that if the “content of the cross that saves the world” is Jesus’ filial obedience, then this is the ‘how’ of salvation.  ‘Why’ did Jesus obey?  Out of love for God the father and love for us.

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