51: Generalize Not Globalize | Chap 7 of The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford

In this episode John and Gregg discuss Chapter 7 of The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells About God by Darin Hufford. John begins with a quotation from page 72, “Why did God create us? Because love requires expression.” John finds this notion startling and compelling while wondering about its validity.

Gregg believes two factors, in combination, are necessary to validate the truth of an assertion about God. First, one must have the best understanding of who God is and what Christianity is about. Second we must bring our own self understanding. And so the discovery of truth comes through the bi-directional and mutually informing tension between the biblical text and our understandings from human experience / knowledge.

We need to allow our understanding of God that comes the biblical text to aid in solving conflicts between the competing understandings we have of divine and human identity.

This understanding comes from three things. First, our experiences of relationship with God. Second, our experiences of living in the world generally. Thirdly, our experiences of relationship with God and of living in the world strike a balance with our scientific understanding of the world. We cannot arrive at our best understanding if we favor one of these three approaches or sacrifice one of them for the other.

So while we need to allow room to form understanding from our experience (both of being in a love relationship with God and of living in the world), we also need to use scientific knowledge to guide us in adjudicating between competing interpretations of the Bible.

To confirm Darin’s notion of “Why God created,” Gregg begins by noting that love and God’s love (for humanity, creation, etc.) runs through the entire Bible. Further, the nature of love often points to the excess and the ‘more’ of love, which is in keeping with the desire (and even, perhaps, the need) to create.

In turn, Gregg notes two major concerns with Hufford’s approach. First, Hufford formulates the issues he presents rather loosely and sometimes unrealistically, which makes his conclusions unconvincing (see page 69 for an example). Second, Gregg notes Hufford globalizes his experiences to his readers, assuming everyone has more or less experienced the same things he has.

Gregg believes it would be more helpful if Hufford generalized from his experience in order to derive principles that could be broadly accessible to his readers (see page 70 as an example). Gregg notes his experience of feeling alienated as a reader when authors globalize their experiences (assuming everyone has felt or experienced what they have), particularly when Gregg cannot relate to those experiences. And so the author’s point (and sometimes his credibility) is lost.

Gregg reiterates that information sources from the world around us (including scientific knowledge, general knowledge from “living in the world,” and knowledge about God via being in relationship with God) are in a productive, mutually informing tension with our understandings of the biblical text. While each is “vying for the fore,” when integrated well and taken as a whole these act as “checks and balances” to ensure better, truer understandings.  The result?  Better modes of living and being.

John and Gregg discuss Darin’s view that God made God-self vulnerable to have relationship with us. For John the notion of God’s vulnerability seems to be contrary to God’s divine nature. He wonders how hard such “vulnerability” is to God?

Gregg suggests viewing our hearts as a stringed instrument’s “resonance chamber.”  If God, who is love, has a similar resonance chamber it must be so much richer and fuller than ours. God’s chamber is orchestral. Thus, God likely feels far more deeply and truly than we do. And God does this without the detrimental effects humans often have in the face of extreme emotions. For example, becoming crushed, overwhelmed, or bi-polar as a result.

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