71: Does God Act Individually or Personally?

In this episode John and Gregg again discuss “God meeting our needs,” and God doing so within the context of furthering / in order to further God’s kingdom (as discussed in episode 68). John is particularly uncertain how Gregg is able to hold this view given the parental sexual abuse that Gregg experienced in his childhood—how Gregg can possibly still see God as good, given these experiences?

Gregg first explains that his view of evil is that people are responsible for their actions—God is not causing people to act in certain ways (i.e., God is not causing parents to abuse their children). Yet John replies that at one time Gregg did seem to hold God responsible. Gregg notes that it was more so that he viewed God as being incapable of doing the right thing—incapable of acting to bring goodness—and that God’s justice was useless: even though he was extremely angry at first, Gregg never ultimately wanted his father punished but rather wanted the relationship to be reformed and renewed because he loved him (see episode 32 for a fuller account).

John nevertheless wonders: isn’t it true that God takes care of Christians? Gregg challenges that in his view there are certain realities that God has set up and does not “tinker” with, like gravity or even the reality that parents are vested with a certain authority over their children. So while Christians may well receive a Spirit or an indwelling that enables a new and better orientation toward God, Gregg is loathe to put too much stock in Christians being better “taken care of” than non-Christians (and notes that such comparisons would need to consider a number of factors, including starting point and context).

John comes back to Gregg’s reasons for becoming a Christian despite God not seeming to “meet his needs” during his abusive childhood. Gregg replies that God’s action in the world remains crucial. So his view is that God acts personally yet not necessarily individually. In other words, we should expect that God acts in an intimate manner—in real people’s lives—yet this is not something that happens individually, to everyone. So part of having one’s “needs met” is encountering and engaging with the stories of such divine action: assessing such testimonies regarding both their credibility and effectiveness.

Next, Gregg argues that it’s important to consider what needs God is aiming to meet—understanding how God acts and what God’s priorities are relative to human beings. Here Gregg returns to God’s central concern being to bring about God’s kingdom, while human beings remain “epicenters” of God’s love. So one the one hand, where love and truth are central to God’s character and to the nature of human relations with God, God may well need to mend our human brokenness in these two regards (and in doing so would “meet our needs” by empowering us to be in right relationship with God, ourselves, etc.). On the other hand, Gregg explains that engaging with God on these terms will typically involve two things: a) better understandings (of oneself, God, the physical world) and b) richer experiences (again of oneself, God, the physical world).

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  1. Pingback: 77: Was That Experience Really God? | Untangling Christianity

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