Hooking up with Jesus: how NOT to talk about God’s love

Joel , Scott, and Jim West have already alerted us to John Piper’s disturbing tweet about well, I can’t even say it, it makes me want to puke:

On the contrary, the problem is with sex, but not in the way you think. As one of my Reformed acquaintances noted over a phone conversation today, evangelicals obsess over sex and how much God’s love is like having sex with followers of Christ. Thus, they dwell and dwell on the little used metaphor of the Church as the Bride of Christ (Ephesian 5:21-33 and Revelation 19:7-8). It would also explain the general exclusion of the concerns of single Christians (both young and old) when it comes to ministry.

However, none of these verses refer to God’s love as eros; in Scripture, God is love (1st John 4), but it is agape, or non-selfish/self-disinterested objective affection. The greatest problem today that we have in these here United States of America is that people confuse love with eros. Eros is something that is seen as uncontrollable, yes? In God, however, there is no desire to lose control, and literally in the greek, it connotes a sense of a loss of sanity. The great difference between the One True God of Israel and the pagan deities of Greece and Rome is that YHWH is not going here or there, making babies on a whim. God, therefore, in not some HEDONIST, doing what He pleases for the sake of his own self-vindication and glory but God is inherently self-giving, and has chosen self-restriction/humiliation as God’s own way of loving all of creation. How do we know what God’s love is? It is in the Cross, plain and simple, where the God-Person Christ Jesus died as fully human and fully divine. This is what some theologians call Suffering Love. Now, it is not that God wipes a tear every time we do; that would be just as anthropomorphic as a select few people claiming to be God’s Friends With Benefits the Elect.  However, God does respond, and sometimes not in the way we like, such as wrath, solidarity, persuasion, anger, zeal, and even forbearance.

I just don’t see how a group of Christian thinkers dedicated to divine impassibility can continue to dwell on God as some sort of Significant Other and Spouse.

Boggles the mind, I tell ya.

I leave you with Clement of Alexandria:

“He is beyond space and time and anything belonging to created beings. He is contained by nothing.”

The Carpets (my translation of Stromata), Book 2

h00die_R (Rod)

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11 thoughts on “Hooking up with Jesus: how NOT to talk about God’s love

  1. I really enjoyed your post but does not your quote from Clement of Alexandria counter what you had written in the body of the post?

    • The main thing I want to get across, in Clement’s historical context, is that the One True God, YHWH, is unlike the gods and goddesses of paganism, since that was what Clement was arguing against. Its sort of like arguing God’s way of feeling is different than our, but God still feels.

      • If that is the case why does Yehowah God articulate things in a “human” manner, a perfect way mind you but human nonetheless? I agree he is not in any shape comparable to pagan gods and goddesses because they generally demonstrated human frailties and character flaws. I feel that Piper is wrong as you demonstrated but it just seems that Clement is over stating the truth.

        In addition, some have inquired as to whether your associates’ interpretation of Piper’s words harmonizes with his theology. Some have claimed that it does not correspond with what is generally taught by him.

        • YHWH does accomodate in someways to communicate and relate to human beings, because God wants to live in covenant with us.

          “In addition, some have inquired as to whether your associates’ interpretation of Piper’s words harmonizes with his theology.”

          I would say that Piper’s comments are completely compatible with his theology. His theology is all about God glorifying himself and making Himself happy. i really do see consistency.

  2. “The great difference between the One True God of Israel and the pagan deities of Greece and Rome is that YHWH is not going here or there, making babies on a whim. ”

    Hold the phone. He impregnated Mary without her consent.

    “God…is not some HEDONIST, doing what He pleases for the sake of his own self-vindication and glory but God is inherently self-giving, and has chosen self-restriction/humiliation as God’s own way of loving all of creation.”

    Everything purported to be done by god in the bible points to him self-vindicating and self-glorifying. Beginning to end. God loves himself most. We see him destroying the planet (or more likely just a region) with a flood because the people he made make decisions he doesn’t approve of. We see him sanctioning his chosen people for 40 years because they liked a statue more than they liked him. We see him ordering the slaughter of other tribes, men, women, and children because they’re playing in his yard and thinking about other invisible non-entities instead of him. We see him sending his sonself down and demanding that we disregard our families, our loved ones, and do as he says…or else. Oh, and then there’s the or else…We see him promising destroy the planet again because he’s upset that eventually most of the world will have forgotten to prostrate themselves at his feet (even though he probably doesn’t actually have feet). Just to name a few. God loves himself most. He’s very human in that aspect.

    ” It is in the Cross, plain and simple, where the God-Person Christ Jesus died as fully human and fully divine.”

    The fully human/fully divine claim is balderdash. It is an impossibility. It’s not a mystery. It’s simply impossible. Nothing can be 100% human and also 100% god. One being cannot add up to two beings. It’s one or the other or some mixture of the two. Only one of those three options is actually plausible since the evidence for any god’s existence is null.

    • “Hold the phone. He impregnated Mary without her consent.”

      That’s way to simplistic way of looking at the Conception; the texts say that the Spirit over shadowed her. But YHWH literally did not have sex with her. It was more of an act of creation, remember, since God did not have a body, prior to Christ. On the other hand all the pagans gods do.

      “Everything purported to be done by god in the bible points to him self-vindicating and self-glorifying. Beginning to end. God loves himself most.”

      That’s because you share the same reading of Scripture as Calvinists. I do not.

      “It’s not a mystery. It’s simply impossible. Nothing can be 100% human and also 100% god. One being cannot add up to two beings. It’s one or the other or some mixture of the two. Only one of those three options is actually plausible since the evidence for any god’s existence is null.”

      Like the Calvinists I criticize, you, my friend, have not come to understand the Incarnation. Again, I believe that God is capable of being Incarnate and that God isn’t something transcendent, way beyond in a world far away. That much, you and calvinists share when you all talk about God.

    • Um, the question is a little off topic, but I have no problem with God limiting our human options to promote obedience. He does the same with Ezekiel. I don’t see why it’s any different from Mary

    • Against her will? Luke 1:38, “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” I’m not sure what would’ve happened if she said no, but…she didn’t say no. Not only did she accept it, her soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God, her savior. That’s why all generations call her blessed! :)
      (Luke 1:46)

  3. 1.) You misunderstood me. Sorry, I wasn’t clearer. I’m well aware that the bible says, “the spirit overshadowed her,” but what does that mean? What is a spirit? We have both very shaky definitions for it (mostly defined in terms of things that a spirit is not), and no evidence to suggest that this spirit, whatever it may be, actually exists. As far as human parthenogenesis goes, we know that women do not spontaneously conceive…ever, so if we assume that she did get pregnant, a far more likely explaination is that some human contributed the necessary genetic material. I am confident beyond a reasonable doubt that spirits, whatever they are, do not have the necessary human genetic material to create a zygote, and it falls to you to show otherwise. 

    On a lighter note, I will concede that god did not impregnate Mary by means of intercourse. You are absolutely correct. However, I disagree with your assertion that this makes the “One True God” any different from the gods of the pagans. The mythological gods of the pagans didn’t impregnate any women either…because they’re not real. The Minotaur was not the result of Zeus sleeping with a cow. The Minotaur didnt exist! Zeus didn’t exist. Hercules was not the offspring of Zeus and some mortal woman. Hercules wasn’t real. Zeus wasn’t real. Aphrodite was not the mother of Achilles, any more than King Arthur’s mother was Hannah Montana. They’re fairy tales; imaginary beings in fictitious stories.

    2.) Forgive me, but this a painfully typical “not MY god” response, and I didn’t expect such a pedestrian brush-off from a respectably educated man like yourself. The bible says exactly what it says, and we have no reason to read it otherwise, unless we have preconceived notions about what it *should* say. I’m not suggesting that your preconceptions are founded in what the scripture should say. 

    I am, however, suggesting that you do have preconceptions about what a god *should* act like, and you (at least) seem to have developed your own idea of a one true god and then managed to personally interpret scripture in a manner that justifies your beliefs about him. I admit, this is extremely interesting to me, because in my time of belief I worked in the opposite direction. Is it your belief that I will end up suffering because I read and interpreted the bible the only way I knew how and found it grotesque and lacking?

    3.) “Again, I believe that God is capable of being Incarnate and that God isn’t something transcendent, way beyond in a world far away.”

    My first inclination is to remind you that your beliefs about god do not make them so. But I’ll admit this is a trifle rebuttal that could be turned right around on me in the form of, “disbelief does not make it not so.”

    That said, I will move forward to a more thought out assessment of your claims. If you say that god is not “transcendent,” then he is “immanent.” Immanent means, “Existing or operating within.” If this characterizes your god, which it must according to your claim about what he is not, then if he exists, there should be some evidence to suggest it. However, as I’ve already stated, there is not. I assure you calvinists and I have precious little in common. Our interpretation of god’s existence is not one of those commonalities.

    • 1) “However, I disagree with your assertion that this makes the “One True God” any different from the gods of the pagans.”

      I have no need to get into apologetics, about Christianity versus all other religions, and I don’t think I need to. Really, the positivism that you are looking for I just do not affirm from a theology stand point since you require that “it falls to you to show otherwise. ” However, one of my favorite Christian thinkers Bonhoeffer said something to the effect that a god that we can defend ends up being an idol. I agree with him on this notion. I think apologists like Ray Comfort, yes, I did bring him up, lols, are chasing after an idol based on certitude.

      Really, I do not see anything wrong with “They’re fairy tales; imaginary beings in fictitious stories” especially since everyone depends on story, whether it is theistic or otherwise. Telling stories is a part of what it means to be human.

      2) “Is it your belief that I will end up suffering because I read and interpreted the bible the only way I knew how and found it grotesque and lacking?”

      I don’t know about the suffering part, but I do think that your assumptions about what you believed what God was influenced what you believe about God now, which is not at all. What I am saying is that there are alternative readings to what you see as “God as self-glorifying”; in fact, there is a whole tradition dedicated to rejecting that point of view. It’s called Eastern Orthodoxy, which is way older than Calvinism. In fact, on early Christian thinker Irenaeus was known to say that “the Glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Not only do I affirm this interpretation of God’s glory, but in Scripture, I submit that Calvinists/people who interpret god as some vain Johnny Bravo reject much of what Scripture says about God’s glory as being God’s presence with humanity, here on earth, and not just his vain use of arrogant power (but there is a history behind that, which I have argued against): http://politicaljesus.com/2011/03/24/quip-of-the-day-5/

      (that’s just one example, there are several other posts)

      “I am, however, suggesting that you do have preconceptions about what a god *should* act like, and you (at least) seem to have developed your own idea of a one true god and then managed to personally interpret scripture in a manner that justifies your beliefs about him.”

      Who doesn’t?

      3) “I assure you calvinists and I have precious little in common.”

      But if you understand that God only exists to make himself look good, for his (God’s) own glory, then you share a reading of the Bible with Calvinists. This is what I meant. Nothing more.

      I have come to reject any notion of God as pie-in-the-sky transcendent for many reasons. I could point to “evidence” if I needed to, but you would reject what I would propose, and vice versa. For example, maybe I would claim God is present, say, in our hopes and dreams for a better world beyond what we have right now (think MLK Jr or visions to eliminate poverty). You would say, there is no need for g*d for that since our dreams come from us, and I would argue the reverse.

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