Friday, February 24, 2012

What Do You Think God Needs? - A story I had on my mind today.

A few years ago, a coworker sat down next to me and said, "You know what I never understood about God, I mean, if he exists? Why did he create people then tell them to worship him? Does he need it?" Considering I didn't expect to have a theological sword fight during my lunch hour, I decided not to get too deep into a discussion. Without looking up from my sandwich, I said, "I don't think He needs it. Maybe it just makes him happy."

The guy sat back in his seat and didn't say anything. "I never thought of that before," he said. Then he stood up and walked back into the kitchen. Several hours later, he still had a rattled look on his face. "Are you alright?" I asked. "Yeah," he said. "I just... You really got me earlier." He never thought of God as secure in Himself.

During his message to the Athenians in Acts 17, Paul said, "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything."

Even though I don't fully comprehend it, I think God only does what will make Him happiest. I don't think He needs us to make Him happy. I don't even think our sin frustrates or surprises Him. Maybe our worshiping and serving Him is meant for us to join in the joy He has in Himself.

I wonder how many people like my old coworker view God as either insecure or demanding. I wonder how many people in the church assume this of Him as well.


Lindsey Renee said...

I don't know how you can say that our sin doesn't frustrate or surprise God. Look at Genesis 6:5-6, "The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. IT BROKE HIS HEART." Read the prophets and you see even more how it grieves him. One of the most beautiful things about our God is that He cares, that sin hurts Him too.

When you love anyone you want them to return your love and to appreciate you. You want them to live well because you want the best for them and for them to be their best. Why would love function differently for God? We are made in his image.

But I agree that God isn't insecure. He doesn't NEED our love and worship. He DESIRES it. If he didn't, he wouldn't be a loving God.

Isaiah Kallman said...

Hi Lindsey. Thank you for commenting. I knew that statement might confuse people, so I'm glad you pointed it out. Let me see if I can explain.

I don't mean to say God is happy with our sin. Jesus clearly felt pain as a result of our sin.

But I said our sin didn't surprise or frustrate Him.

Think about this. Scripture describes God as omniscient. This means one of His attributes is the full and complete knowledge of everything past, present, and future. If He didn't know what decisions we would make ahead of time, then this knowledge would be incomplete. To think God doesn't know of our sin ahead of time is to deny one of His attributes. So I don't think anything surprises God.

Then there's frustration. As I know it, frustration means experiencing agitation when things don't go as planned. Graham Cooke once said, "Did you know God isn't disillusioned with us? He never had any illusions in the first place." Not only do I think He lives without frustration, I also think He has a good read on who we are.

Lindsey Renee said...

The thing about "God's attributes" is that most of them are really Greek philosophical terms that have been applied to the Christian God. I don't think they are all very accurate. (It doesn't help that they didn't have our God in mind when they came up with them). So, I have no qualms denying them.

I do believe God experiences time outside of linearity, so he is present in all of time all at once. In this way, nothing is a surprise because he experiences all of it simultaneously and is at work in all of it. But I don't believe he stands outside of it and sees it-like our reality is a movie he has watched and knows the outcome to. Since he is thus wrapped up in time itself, he can experience frustration because he is Present in each moment fully. (Just as this allows God to change his mind, because he is wrapped up in each moment as he is in all moments).

When he sends the flood he is disappointed and regretful (one could even say disillusioned), that doesn't fit with the image of God you're constructing. I might concede that God does not experience frustration, but it would be because he does not lose control. Frustration is usually the result of feeling out of control. But if he can feel disappointment, he can feel surprise. I don't think that lessens God's power or knowledge.

Isaiah Kallman said...

I had a roommate a few years ago who loved to argue. He went to Vanderbilt's Law School, so nobody held it against him. But I can be a contentious guy myself, so I had no problem arguing back at him.

One day, after going back and forth with him on some matter of God's sovereignty, he said, "I don't think I'm doing a very good job at explaining, so don't worry about whatever I've said today. All I ask is that you read the Bible and see what God says about Himself."

From then on, I couldn't help but read the Bible with an eye out for what it said about God's sovereignty.

I use terms like Omniscience and Omnipotence because they represent topics throughout scripture, even if those words are not in scripture itself. Sort of like how the word "Bible" isn't in the Bible. But I don't want to distract you from the point.

I think there's no better advice than what I heard from my old lawyer roomie. If you disagree with me, that's fine. I hope it encourages you to read the Bible with an open eye for what God says about Himself.

Lindsey_Renee_Grace said...

Lovely response. I'll keep it in mind.