Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

God Actually Wants Us To Break His Laws

In Deception, God, Love, Suffering, The Bible on April 10, 2011 at 8:02 pm

If “the heavens and the highest heaven” cannot contain God, I’m not sure why we would think a single religion could contain him…. The Christian religion might be correct in staking a claim on the representation of God. The only problem, as I see it, is that it claims to be the only representation of God. And that’s just ludicrous.

While the average Christian might not come right out and state such a thing, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it from the pulpit disguised under some deceivingly subtle undertones. Basically, according to many Bible teachers, anyone outside of “Christ,” or in other words, the Christian belief system, is destined to end with the wretched elements, melting with a fervent heat. What Christians do not seem to attempt to hide is just how hot hell is going to be for us infidels.

But of course, we had a choice during our life on earth and we made the choice to be tortured for eternity – uhhhh, possibly excluding souls aborted in the womb, those under the age of accountability, the mentally handicapped and the tribal dude who never heard of Jesus, that is.

Since I have never met a human who is inclined to brutally suffer, nor a parent who would refuse to rescue their child from a burning building because the child didn’t “choose” to be saved, this belief sounds ludicrous too. I’ve got plenty of other issues on all kinds of levels with this God-rejecting idea, but that’s not our topic today.

So what about all of those scriptures which seem to portray a God who is going to punish the wicked which, apparently includes every single human being unless one “believes on the Lord Jesus Christ?” That’s what I would like to address here.

As long as we’re taking an honest look at the Bible, I don’t think we should stop at “sinner” to describe those who “rebel against God.” Unless we possess that faith in essential Christian theology, we are eternally unrepentant, disobedient, breakers of God’s laws, we have hearts of stone, a seared conscience, we made Jesus die in vain, we have committed the unpardonable sin by rejecting the Holy Spirit… and we would continue to do so no matter how many chances God should give us. So we must now receive the just recompense for our deeds. Praise the Lord.

In the next breath we are told that no man is saved by works. As a matter of fact, we must be punished for our evil works unless we get that get-out-of-hell-free card sometime before our last dying breath. How do we get our free pass? That’s where Bible theology comes into the story and you’d better know how to read.

Besides the proper statement of belief, there should not be any blatant and ongoing sin in your life because that might be evidence that you were never saved in the first place. See your local church for a list of bad works which may endanger your salvation. Just remember that you’re not saved by works – but you must be punished for them unless you practice the works acceptable to God, or at least acceptable to the church denomination of your choice.

Furthermore, the Bible also says that we are not saved by the will of man but by the will of God in Romans 9:16. Non-calvinists tend to forget about that scripture while pro-calvinists like to leave out its last phrase – by the will of God who shows mercy. But we’re getting way off topic.

So, according to the Bible, or according to at least some very popular interpretations of the Bible, a good God created the world which includes very bad people. “There is no one that does good, no not one.” But us bad people must choose a good God, which apparently means that we must possess a belief in the Jewish Christ and we must obey God’s laws, or at least not break one of those laws for a certain length of time. (I believe it’s called “living in sin.”)  But we do not choose God; God chooses us because God is more sovereign than us. But we have a free will and we must choose God.

The amazing logic behind these beliefs is phenomenal, but hey, can the clay question the potter? Absolutely not! That is another sign of our rebellion against God.

Somewhere along the way, I think we have misinterpreted the Bible and traditional Christianity has ignored some very key principles that might iron out some of these and other contradictions. Instead of resorting to the excuse of, “It’s one of God’s mysteries and we just need faith,” I think our souls long to believe in something a little less ridiculous.

Still, what do we do with all of these seemingly contradicting Bible scriptures? More importantly, how might we interpret the verses which describe a good, holy, and loving God crushing the skulls of his enemies, seizing our infants and smashing them against the rocks, destroying the earth and showering plagues upon its inhabitants? What is the purpose and point behind the violence in both the Old and New Testaments alike? And what’s up with threats such as, “If you do not obey my commandments, all of these curses and more will come upon you?” Read on, my friend.

I think it’s vital to understand the Hebrew and Jewish culture before we apply their words to our modern day, western lives. The Bible is a set of writings that concerned one specific culture although, like any book, we can appreciate and enjoy it’s unique intent.

As far as I understand, there were two covenants in the Bible, the first which was given to the nation of Israel and the other also given to Israel yet seems to innately apply to the entire human race whether one believes it or even knows about it. The glorious second covenant replaces the limited, failing first one, and for a very good reason such as the fact that the first one fails.

The first covenant is a religious one: Do this, do that, and then you will live a happy life and live in heaven for eternity. If you don’t do this, or do that, then you will suffer a violent and long-lasting death.

The Bible has much to say about this first covenant. It is all about grain offerings, animal sacrifices, cleansing rites, temples, symbolic rituals, priests and commoners, and lots and lots of rules. If you make one little mistake, such as courageously trying to keep the precious ark of the covenant from falling off the ox wagon, well then, sorry, but you’re toast.

It’s sounds merciless and it is. That is the whole point of the old covenant. Pharisees aren’t supposed to show compassion. By nature, they are supposed to crucify you if they catch you breaking the smallest of laws. And that’s exactly the character of the old covenant God. “If you mess up, and you can bet I’m watching and waiting for it to happen, then I will smite you.”

Bible story after Bible story, we are shown over and over again how God’s people tried to follow God’s laws and then needed to be punished for breaking them. And they got lots of warnings from the doomsday prophets too. The punishment kept them bound as slaves to the law because well, it really hurts when you get punished and nobody wants that. Who cares about relationships? We just want to survive.

The reason why this covenant failed is because religious laws don’t create relationships – they create mindless and heartless doers of the law… which actually destroys relationships. This is because intimacy between two persons – in this case, God and man –  functions best with love, not a set of laws.

The whole point of a covenant between God and man is to bring the two together, not tear them apart. The religious old covenant tore and continues to tear everyone apart as we can see through endless holy wars and judgments of those who rebel against the standards. This is what religion, including God’s religion, was always meant to do:  destroy.

What does religion destroy? Besides genuine friendships, it is also intended to destroy that part of us that tries to live by it, and that is a good thing.

In the days of Jesus, there was a rich, young ruler who thought he obeyed every commandment from his youth. He was missing the point. So Jesus tried to show him how he was failing the law, and how the law will always fail him. Jesus told him, “Ah, but there’s one major commandment you have not obeyed: Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” The rich, young leader couldn’t do it. And that was the point.

Jesus didn’t expect the guy to actually obey this command, and certainly not to attain his salvation, as we know from Christ’s other teachings. He was trying to get the rich man to finally give up on making it into God’s kingdom based on all of his good works. Self-righteousness and obedience is not what the kingdom is about. It’s all about mercy or forgiveness of sins instead. It’s about loving people no matter who they are or what they do.

It’s the same idea with the biblical concept of “Be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” In fact, we are given many commandments in the Bible, and the more we live by them, the more difficult they become to obey.  This is in order to open our very blind eyes to the fact that it goes against the nature of the God-created human being to obey them all, and we were never meant to obey them in the first place, except if we ignorantly think we can.

As long as we are trying to earn God’s acceptance by obeying God’s laws, we should know that we will always fail and therefore, God will have to punish us for failing. If we want to live by the law, then we will have to die by the law too, and that is not a pretty sight.

This isn’t how we naturally grow either. A baby isn’t born with the ability to walk and talk. That comes later as, over time and through conquering certain challenges; through simply living life, one automatically grows. Just looking around at people and the world, it is clear that the life cycle keeps going and there’s really nothing we can do to stop it, as hard as we might try. All was created to naturally grow even through the most horrendous suffering.

The essential issue I have with the Christian religion is that it deceived me into thinking that obeying God will bring myself and God together into a blessed, holy unity. But instead it tore us apart by making me think that God was disappointed in me and I was always in danger of his wrath if I messed up.

I had no idea the unity was already there just by fact that God is my creator and I am God’s creation. So I finally reached a point where I decided to surrender, not by obeying God but by disobeying God. It was time for me to start messing up and facing God’s punishment, or unhappiness in life, or whatever came of it. It was a fairly big leap of faith for me, but one I was desperate to make. I needed to give up on the religious life which was killing me anyway and I wanted to know that God loved me no matter what I did or didn’t do. And if God couldn’t love me at my worst, then how much was God’s love worth anyway?

I started to become many things that I used to judge in other people – divorced, angry, rude, out of control, and even a non-church-attending heretic. Fortunately I didn’t meet up with God’s wrath or unhappiness for my wrong life choices. Life wasn’t much different than before except that a beautiful door opened up a whole new world of unconditional love for me.

I couldn’t go back to the cold, judgmental, religious one even if I was forced, although I am beginning to be able to accept its good purpose too. Now I understand that God loves me (and the rest of the world) simply because we all exist and we are growing human beings, just as intended. We don’t have to fear diversity, or even suffering, which some like to call God’s judgment. This is because, while we might have to endure darkness for a while, that darkness is found within religion as well as outside of it; and ultimately love conquers all.

I’m thankful that I am learning what does and does not work as far as any relationship is concerned. While we can hide behind religious arrogance (or anything, really) in order to avoid facing our fear of love, that is still part of being human. Evil, including religious evil, is just as much a part of the divine plan as goodness, for growing into all that our creator intended for this world.

While I might have suffered by being deceived by religion that accomplished the opposite of what it promised, that was all part of the good plan for my life. And I am thankful.

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  1. Your post intrigues me. Its all very wild and true but I have one question: Do you believe that God’s new covenant is for everyone regardless of whether or not we “accept” it? It seems that is what you are saying. Can you flesh that out a bit? This question is from a curious seeker on a journey from the pit of hell – also known as Gothardism and all its derivatives.

    A few weeks ago, I sort of settled on a paradoxical idea of who God is. Everything revealed in the OT, as well as the new. To believe in only half of him is too reduce the ability to know all of him. That does nothing to his new covenant, it just describes him. Anyway…I was called out on Facebook by my hard-line, Gothardite, spiritually abusive, conspiracy theorist mother. She called me a fraud with no explanation. Sort of hurts, but it pushes me forward.

    Eagerly awaiting your response.

  2. I could have written this one myself. Life circumstances a bit different, but same exact conclusions!

    (I find myself often thinking you are my life-clone!! and I’m very thankful for that! 🙂 )

  3. A Covenant is a contract, an agreement, and as in all contracts, the first order of business is to define the participants, beneficiaries, benefactors etc. The first verse of the fist chapter of the first book of the New Covenant, Matthew 1:1 does exactly that. “The book of the Generation of Jesus Christ.” A close study of that first chapter makes it undeniably clear that we are that Generation, called Christ.
    Every Generation comes from the previous Generation. No child ever chose his parents, but rather the Parents chose to birth a child.
    I won’t spoil the great discovery you will make in this study, but make the list, count the generations, find the Truth that has been hidden from the ages, right before our eyes..Grace to each

  4. In a women’s Bible study several years ago, the leader of the group told all of us that God only hears the prayers of Christians. That pretty much did it for me. Kind of like, some dude in Africa who’s never heard about Christianity falls to his knees and prays to his God, his maker, his higher power, looking for solace and help, and because he hasn’t said the magic words that all fundamentalists insist we say in order to be saved, God ain’t gonna hear him.

  5. I’m just waiting for Christians to find Isaiah 25:6-8 where God explicitly states that He will swallow up death forever and He will wipe the tears off of all faces. There are so many things that Christians don’t understand about God’s absolute love and the power that love has in our world. One biggie is that God went to the kingdom of evil (the darkness) to create our world and He proceeded to create good in the place of evil. After He finished creation with the human race, God proclaimed His creation very good! Sure the kingdom of evil pulled the human race away from God through deception, but Christ took care of that on the cross. Now, any human being can come to God and find the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom he/she needs to overcome the kingdom of evil. Good will defeat evil, light will defeat darkness, love will defeat hate, and life will defeat death!

  6. Amazing insights Elizabeth, truly… I’ll never forget the words of a Pastor I used to work for, who told me behind closed doors: “If none of it ends up being real, it’s still a great way to live.”
    It literally was a “great way” to live for him , as he made a lucrative living at promoting the system. But that is how it works: People get confused by the Bible (which nobody can agree on) and then the Pastor reveals the mysteries of it (depending on his/her denominational take) and then the church congregants get a sigh of relief from their Old/New testament conflicts (or more of it) which holds them over until the next sunday… It’s a system where the Pastor gets paid well and feels important as the revealer of biblical mysteries, and the congregants feel better about showing up on sunday as good church citizens. It’s a bit of a dysfuntional relationship that works.
    May we all find freedom and grace from such things…

    P.S. For the record, I don’t say this as a generalization of all churh folk and clergy – but it is the case for many.

  7. Awesome post E! I was thinking just yesterday of how terrified of love we really are. We don’t trust it. I was trying to get to the root cause of this mistrust but always seem to lose the thread …. it seems never-ending. Our past, our life – all full of disappointments in the love zone. Where is love? Love that can be TRUSTED? Show me please so that i may have it! I have come to HATE religion. Perhaps it’s only in “letting go” that trust can be found? But how is that manifested? Do we suddenly have a better life? Are we suddenly more blessed? What if we let go and NOTHING CHANGES except there is no longer any “saviour” to hope in? Isn’t that being worse off than before we hoped? It is all so confusing. Are there any BENEFITS at all, whether we trust/believe or not? What is the ACTUAL POINT of it all? What defines a REAL RELATIONSHIP with God? How can we KNOW?

    • Hard and yet GREAT questions. Worth perusing the answers.I’m resting in “God is LOVE”

  8. It does seem like you are dangling over the abyss when some of those core truths begin to be eroded by simply caring. For me it came down to a couple of things: my endless obsessing over my eternal destination and God’s character – is God someone I can trust?

    I had to put those questions about heaven / hell to one side in order to begin to learn to care about others. Whether or not God is good in the sense that we all acknowledge or is someone that with a sleight of hand redefines good to resemble something that is capricious and evil. Can I trust the care, concern and love in my heart that I have for my children as an expression or image of the creator or do I believe that God gives up on people, that God derives some sort of satisfaction from pain and punishment without a redemptive quality to it? Is this confusing life journey with conflicting messages our one and only chance to get it right?

    And what about growing in compassion and concern and integrity and choosing peace and being a safe haven for the weary and broken? If I / we continue to look at this life journey as one of being perfect or sin avoidance in order to secure a safe after life then what does it say about us? What does it say about the Creator if it all comes down to what happens next?

    I think when one steps outside of religious / societal norms that most do so solemnly and sometimes even dread. But it is not a matter of rebellion but of saying that this life here and now has value and that the journey for now is to learn to invest in others, to cherish the good and live a celebratory life no matter what conditions one finds oneself in. In other words looking outwards and engaging others and making small but worthwhile changes instead of constantly looking towards the heavens for answers.

  9. Not sure what your reading schedule holds, but would recommend the new LOVE WINS by Rob Bell (you might’ve already read or at least heard of this one) and SECRET MESSAGE OF JESUS by Brian McLaren. Both hit on the topics you bring up here, and I’m with you – we need to flesh these out, can make all the difference in the world.

  10. I look forward to your blog every week, thanks Elizabeth!

  11. I enjoy reading your process. Your tongue is anything but tied, and your mind is “unravelled”! 😉 (*grin*)

  12. Very interesting blog. I went on my own journey, what, three years ago now. I asked a lot of the same questions and did my own research. I told a friend, it is a rather lonely journey, one that you must be ready for. Because you’ll either find a deeper faith, or you’ll lose it altogether. I was one of those who lost it. The more I questioned, the more questions I had, and no satisfactory answers to be found anywhere in the church.

    And since I’ve walked away from it all, I’m happier. I’m less stressed. I think I’m a nicer person, because I’m not constantly feeling guilt or judging others. I hold myself accountable, and what a freeing concept that can be. So can the knowledge that sometimes things do or don’t happen, and it isn’t a result of you not having enough faith or punishment for some arbitrary sin. There’s something very freeing in that way of thinking.

    I can’t wait to read more in your blog.

  13. Dear Elizabeth,

    I was an agnostic before I became a Christian; and wouldn’t become one until three (3) things were proven to me (the fallacy of evolution, the existence of God, and the credibility of the scriptures).

    Whether a person agrees with God’s way or not is irrelevant. What the Creator issues is the standard. If you think that there is more than one way, such as God’s and your’s, that produces a conflict. That doesn’t work. An example is the supremacy clause of article VI of the American constitution. If state constitutions conflict with it, they are to be disregarded.

    Those which seek another way than God’s are erroneous. See Deuteronomy 13, John 10, and 14:6.

    A friend of mine expressed his thought about a seemingly unequal treatment by God of Christians and the lost. The latter are going to be burned in hell. But God has a standard for his children.

    You might consider American history in the light of Deuteronomy 28.

    Thanks.

  14. Edward M. McCartney.

    “I was an agnostic before I became a Christian; and wouldn’t become one until three (3) things were proven to me (the fallacy of evolution, the existence of God, and the credibility of the scriptures).”

    I can see the fallacy of evolution. But, for the other two, frankly, you should have stayed an agnostic. To the finite, logical mind, God is easy to disprove in 30 seconds. After all, if you haven’t seen him, everything else that may point to his existence can be explained away by pure coincidences. It always amazes me that people actually think they can prove God exists. Even by archeology and historical records, it is not provable beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    Not to mention the Scriptures are not provable as 100% God breathed.

    You can believe these things, and I choose to believe in God, though a much different God than yours, I imagine, has been revealed to me, FOR me, and not necessarily for you – the beauty of Christianity. I also believe that the word of God is known 100% only by God himself. To say otherwise is making our version less or more than him. After all, like it or not, our version was written by men. You cannot begin to prove to me that all men of old had a perfect pass-through relationship with God that EVERY word that is currently on our biblical canon is God-breathed.

    Anyway, I wonder what the REAL reason for your conversion was. If you are ever honest with yourself, you may discover that it wasn’t due to verifiable proof.

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