On the jealousy of God

A few thoughts on the jealousy of God. In order to understand the jealousy of God properly it is important to understand it in relation to other qualities of God, such as the goodness of God, the justice of God, and the self sufficiency of God. Being uniquely self sufficient, the jealousy of God has nothing to do with any neediness on God’s part. On the contrary, it is motivated by our need for God. God wants the best for us and won’t settle for second best.

God is like a loving father who’s daughter is enticed away from him by a modelling agent, who turns out to be a pimp who just wants to exploit her. The pimp definitely does not have the daughter’s best interests at heart, unlike her father. So the father jealousy seeks her back. He has no interest in sharing her with the pimp. If he were less jealous, if he were more open to sharing his daughter with the pimp, he would not be as good or just.

Alexei Ospipov on the limits of experience and the knowledge of God

Is it really possible to deny God only because everyday experience does not give Him to us? But we know that “everyday experience” is in no way absolute, that it encompasses only some superficial sides of events and phenomena, that plain common sense is limited, and that there are many irrefutable facts which do not fit into what would seem to be unshakable, self-evident truth. Everyday experience gives us almost none of the things modern scientists talk about, but we believe their experience; we believe them without even knowing them or having the remotest possibility of testing the larger part of their assumptions and conclusion. On what grounds do we disbelieve the innumerably greater quantity of religious experiences, the testimony of people who are pure as crystal?

The experience of these experts in the “science of sciences” does not speak of unsubstantiated faith, nor of opinion, nor of an accepted hypothesis, nor even simple tradition, but of the fact of their knowledge of God.

The main experience of religion – a meeting with God – possesses (at least in its highest points) such a victorious power and fiery conviction, that it leaves any other obviousness far behind. It can be forgotten or lost, but not denied…. If people of faith began to tell about themselves, about what they have seen and learned with final certainty, then a whole mountain would form under which the mound of sceptical rationalism would be buried and hidden from sight.

Knowledge of God is an exact science, and not a chaos of mystical ecstasies and unhealthy exultations caused by inflamed nerves. Knowledge of God has its own systems, conditions, and criteria. How can we attain the knowledge of God? It begins with a selfless search for the truth, for the meaning of life and moral purity, and by forcing oneself towards goodness. Without such a beginning, the “experiment” of knowing God cannot be successful. These conditions are expressed in the Gospels briefly and clearly: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”.(Mt 5:8).

Alexei Ospipov

What is a god?

A problem with classifying world views as polytheistic or monotheistic or atheistic is that we’re not always using the word theos, that is, god, in the same way. Monotheistic worldviews that emphasise the oneness of God have rarely excluded concurrent belief in angels. Which begs the question: how exactly do we differentiate angels in monotheism from gods in polytheism?

In my experience the difference between polytheistic gods and monotheistic angels is less stark than we’ve made it. In fact I am inclined to suggest their equivalence and assert what monotheists call God is more akin to what polytheists have at times referred to as the unknowable god or formative chaos or ultimate reality from which all gods emerged.

This ambiguity besets dialogue between monotheists and atheists also. For not only are atheists mistakenly inclined to draw an equivalence between the God of monotheists and the gods of polytheists, but I have met many who identified as atheist whilst still holding to belief in angels without seeing any problem with that self identification.

Is Elohim a Plural Word?

Many readers of the Bible have noted that the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is plural given the -im ending and wondered how that squares with strict monotheism. Some, usually with a Christian agenda, have anachronistically read Trinitarianism into it. Some, usually with an counter-Christian agenda, have provocatively read polytheism into it. I would like to suggest both are mistaken.

Elohim is a plural word, but it functions as a plural or a singular word depending on the context. This is not as strange as it sounds. Consider the words: sheep, fish, squid, scissors and aircraft. They’re all words for which the plural and singular forms are the same.

Now let’s read Genesis 1:26-28, the source of this controversy, with this in mind.

Then Elohim said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness … So Elohim created humankind in his image, in the image of Elohim he created them; male and female he created them.

I would suggest that what we have here is a single person, God, addressing a group, the heavenly hosts or divine assembly, what these days we call angels. Then having made the announcement God goes ahead and acts – unilaterally. The others watch, just as they did when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7). Maybe that’s why Daniel calls them Watchers (Daniel 4:13,17).

Can we limit God to masculine metaphors?

mother-and-childHere’s my view. Though God-as-father-to-Israel and God-as-husband-to-Israel metaphors are prevalent within the New and Old Testaments, they are by no means the only metaphors to be found there and closer examination reveals feminine metaphors for God as well. Moreover, some of the God-as-father metaphor found there are distinctly counter-cultural and not at all in tune with traditional images of fatherhood at the time of their writing. So it undercuts notion that God’s character can be fully encapsulated by patriarchal language, as some would have it.

How do you pray?

prayerI was recently asked, how do you pray, personally? In answer I said, prayer is a fluid thing for me. I do not set aside specific times for prayer, but pray most days, sometimes multiple times a day, sometimes for more than an hour at a time.

I find outdoors is very conducive, whether walking along the road, or standing or sitting on the back porch or in the bush somewhere, but inside is okay too. Prayer for me can involve intercession, or confession, or worship, or just meditative listening, or conversation, or, as is often the case, a combination. Sometimes it can involve visions, sometimes feelings. It is sometimes formal, but more often informal.

The who is very important for me. Core to my understanding of prayer is the Christlike character of God, and that involves an understanding of God and power and guidance that is at times paradoxical.

So, now I’d through the same question out to you, how do you pray?

5 verses where the Bible calls Jesus “God”

Every now and then someone says to me, “But the Bible never explicitly calls Jesus God!”

This is frequently followed by an assertion that Christian teaching on the divinity of Christ was all dreamed up by the Council of Nicaea many centuries after the Bible was written. That “Son of God” language was misunderstood as implying the “Son is God” in a way which totally distorts the original intentions of the authors.

For those that say that however, I’d invite them to engage with these verses from the ancient New Testament scriptures.

John 20:28 – Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Romans 9:5 – …Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Titus 2:13-15 – …our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Hebrews 1:8 – But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever…

2 Peter 1:1 – …the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…

Could it be more explicit? If so, how?

Latest News Headlines

Maybe religion is the answer claims atheist scientist. "The world may have to turn to God to save itself from climate change, claims one of Britain’s most eminent scientists."

God takes back seat at weddings. "Figures just released by the [Australian] Bureau of Statistics show that … In 2008, civil celebrants performed 65 per cent of marriages."

Remains of Jesus-era synagogue found in Israel. "The remains of a 2,000-year-old synagogue where Jesus may have preached were found on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, archaeologists said on Friday. The synagogue, one of the oldest ever found, was unearthed at Migdal, which Christians believe to be the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, a leading follower of Jesus."

Churches put their faith in advertising Jesus. "…the campaign, which is based on the slogan "Jesus. All About Life", was prompted by research that showed Sydneysiders were cynical, hardbitten and ''hard soil'' for conversion."

Is God mysogenistic?

From a conversation I had earlier: To whom did Christ appear first? Actions speak louder than words. In an age where the testimony of women was not trusted, the God we know through Christ entrusted the good news to women first. It was they who told the men. Is that the mark of a mysogenistic God?

God in the Old Testament and New Testament

Old-testament-scroll Do you find the Old Testament and New Testament difficult to reconcile?

I don't know about you, but as a new Christian I found it very difficult to see the Old Testament as inspired in any way, let alone authoritative. I found myself asking, "How could the same God be so angry and vengeful in the Old Testament, yet so loving and compassionate in the New Testament?" I just didn't get it. I found myself wondering how any thinking Christian could ever equate the YHWH of Moses with the Father of Jesus.

So what happened? How come I see the Old Testament as authoritative now? How did I get from there to here? Well, an important part of my journey was learning that much of my understanding of the Old Testament and the God of Israel was deeply deficient; I learned that I had much to learn.

So, if you have ever struggled with this, if you have ever found the Old Testament and New Testament difficult to reconcile, I'd invite you to read and reflect on what the Old Testament says about God's mercy. Here is a sample:

Nehemiah 9:29-31
You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, by which a man will live if he obeys them. Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

Isaiah 63:9
In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

Hosea 6:6
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 7:18
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

Zechariah
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.

Personally I find the prophetic instructions from Hosea and Micah particularly arresting. Their words are not so different from how Jesus summarized the Law, as loving God and loving others. Yet here it is in the Old Testament.