Is Our God Too Small? On Martin Luther King’s day we were reminded of the massive hurt experienced in the years of slavery and after in the United States. We were also reminded of the courage and principles that King and the many marchers drew from their religious heritage. They had the rights, and the freedom. They did not use their freedom in acts of violence. They were reminded of Jesus’ command, “Love your enemies.” They suffered violence and even death without fighting back. They earned the respect of society at large. People began to change. Laws were changed. Many civil rights were recognized. And slowly society changed.
Sometime ago I was told, “Your God is too small.” I smiled at the time thinking that I understood God after my years of study and prayer. And, I had read Philip Yancy’s book “Where is God When It Hurts?” and “Your God is Too Small” by J.B. Phillips years ago.
After reading Karen Armstrong’s “Battle for God” I am much more aware of God’s activity in Judaism and Islam and Christianity in the last two centuries. After viewing Moyer’s interview on the Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith in which they explore the essence of the world’s great religions— Islam, Confucianism, Hinduism and Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism, A Personal Philosophy—I have an even greater appreciation of God’s acts of enlightenment in the world.
Then I saw and read The New York Review of Books excerpt from Ronald Dworkin’s “Religion Without God“. It requires rereading and seems to contradict itself in places but does seem to hold that values are more important than God. He thought the core of religion has two values: that all human life has meaning or importance and innate ethical and moral responsibilities. Secondly, he thought that everything in nature, or the universe, is “sublime: something of intrinsic value and wonder. Together these two comprehensive value judgments declare inherent value in both dimensions of human life: biological and biographical.”
Dworkin’s writing reminds me of neurologist Sam Harris and his “End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason” Harris insists on the need to maintain and defend certain values that the great religions hold dear while chastising religion for its part in war and terror. From recent experience in this world, I think atheistic materialism’s tendency toward profiteering militarism, war and terror also should be examined.
All of which brings me to some of Jesus’ short stories about a final judgement.
In Matthew 21 : 28-32 (RSV) Jesus poses a question to the chief priests and elders, “What do you think? A man had two sons, and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today’ And he answered, ‘I will not”; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’
“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy (ritualistic use) in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me you evildoers.’ Matthew 7 : 21-23 Revised Standard Version.
Then in Matthew 25 : 31-46, Jesus tells another story, about some people who were told, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and yu gave me drink, I was a stronger and your welcomed me, I was naked and you clotghed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you cam to me.'” They said, “When? When? When ?When ?”….”And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me'” And he said to the others….(go read.)
Then read Rob Bell’s “Love Wins::A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate oWhenf Every Person Who Ever Lived”
What do you think? How big is God?