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).
In this episode John enquires into the result of Gregg’s 6 month stay in Switzerland, at Swiss L’Abri. Gregg recaps his time by noting that his writing has been very productive, and especially his most recent topic: “everyday” experiences versus exceptional experiences (particularly, ‘experiencing’ God). Gregg is concerned not only to lay out the content of such experiences–his own included–but also to offer sufficient theoretical, theological, philosophical background for the discussion to appear credible.
In brief, Gregg’s view on the matter is that we should expect such exceptional experiences—experiences of God acting currently, in people’s lives—to be personal but not necessarily individual. In other words, we should expect God to “show up” and act in people’s lives but not necessarily our own lives, which raises both the importance of testimony and of understanding who God is and what God’s priorities are (so as properly to set one’s expectations, relative to God’s action, within Christianity).
In this episode John and Gregg discuss a recent conversation Gregg had with a person at Swiss L’Abri concerning their expectations that God should “meet their needs.”
John’s sees the idea of “God meeting our needs” as one that was over-sold in his Christian experience. John feels this way because he felt that God has rarely met his needs in the way he expected or understood that God was supposed to do so. John’s expectations come from the experiences he’s heard other Christians describe. Gregg is curious how the people giving these testimonies actually validated their experiences of God.
John gives an example of someone in a difficult time who prayed to God for help and support. The person then opened their Bible to a random page where they read something in the Psalms that they found to be very comforting (and so helpful). Gregg replies with some skepticism: by randomly opening a Bible it’s fairly easy to open to the Psalms (which are right in the middle) and the Psalms is very full of supportive, comforting material. Continue reading →
Today we talk about love and being loved by God. Should we think that “Jesus died for me, so the least I can do for Jesus is love and obey him”? Gregg suggests that we compare this view with someone what might be a realistic response if you believed that someone had saved your life or the life of your child: Would you respond by loving and obeying that person? John proposes something different.
The discussion moves on to consider the goodness of God relative to the typical Christian understanding that those who reject God merit eternal punishment. How can we see God as good if we embrace this view?
Next, with reference to Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, Gregg focuses on the nature of love. What does it mean to ‘understand’ love? Gregg suggests that love is foremost a relational reality to be experienced versus an idea to be grasped.
We end by considering why John does not experience God’s love.
This episode looks at Chapter Two of Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. In light of Kyle Idleman’s view that Christianity must “cost us” and that authentic Christianity is marked by Jesus “interfering” with our lives, John opens the question of what constitutes Christian commitment.
So we explore Idleman’s view that Nicodemus, while being impressed by Jesus’ love, remained only a fan (which cost Nicodemus nothing). Gregg disagrees: Can we remain untouched by love? And how does the notion of “interference” fit within a love relationship—do my children mostly “interfere” with my life, or is there a better way of seeing the matter?
We go on to consider believing in God versus following God, and so discuss the implications for monotheistic Jews “believing” that Jesus was the son of God compared the implications for us believing the same thing today.
Bringing together the question of Christian belief or commitment and the idea that Christianity involves a love relationship with God, Gregg argues that Christianity is not about reward (going to heaven) or punishment (going to hell). We examine this by contrasting love and the experience of love—as a law written upon the heart—with an orientation to God that stems from will and duty.