God reveals the God we need

As God progressively reveals himself through time, God reveals those aspects of himself that we need most at the different eras of human history and development:

  1. Early humans’ prime concern was sheer SURVIVAL – Food, Safety, Reproduction. So, in Genesis, God revealed Himself as the PROVIDER who graciously gives those things. Hey Noah, do you need to know how survive a Flood?  God has blueprints for an ark.  Hey Abraham, do you need land that will feed you and your family?  God has a place all picked out for you.  Speaking of which, do you need some reproductive assistance?  God has your back.  Oh no, an enemy tribe kidnapped your loser nephew Lot?  God will make your raiding party succeed at getting him back. Hey Jacob, is this drought threatening your family’s survival?  God has had a rescue plan in the works for years; it involves a trip to Egypt to see your dead son Joseph…
  1. As humans made the shift from nomad-shepherds to settled farmers-ranchers, we became concerned more and more about SECURITY – victory in the fierce inter-tribal competition to claim and protect real estate. Some tribes, the Egyptians for example, found security by conquering and enslaving their neighbors. In that context, God revealed himself as a WARRIOR. Hey Hebrews, do you need freedom from slavery?  Good news – your God is bigger than your slavemaster. Hey Joshua, do your people need space to exist? God will do what it takes to make sure you win that competition. Hey Israel, do you need relief from your oppressive neighbors? God has a plan for giving superpowers to a long-haired dude with a temper.

Now, it must be said here that the brutality and gore of these stories are deeply troubling for many of us, and I have no interest in trying to explain it away or to un-trouble anybody.  All I want to say here is that these people needed a God who would give them an edge in a life-or-death competition for land, and they received the God they needed.

  1. As history moved on, it became clear that the best way to secure your land was by concentrating POWER in a single leader. As Israel became a monarchy (in the books of Kings and Chronicles), they became more receptive to God revealing himself as a KING – One who issues decrees and is obeyed (This didn’t jive perfectly with the long Hebrew tradition of arguing with God until he changes his mind, but we’ll leave that alone for now).  This image of God dominates the rest of the Bible, not to mention the Church up through the Middle Ages.
  1. Through the rest of Israel’s history (and much of Church history), it became clear that monarchs are not always all that great. Jesus is a great king, for sure, but all the other ones *most* often kind of suck.  So we experienced a growing concern for FREEDOM.  Our political systems became less about kingly judgment and more about laws and constitutions that people could have some control over.  Church became less about popes and priests and more about the Bible – a kind of God-Constitution full of spiritual laws we could study and use for our own benefit.  God revealed himself more and more as a God who cares for INDIVIDUALS, a personal God who offers personal salvation to anyone who wants to choose it.

In our current era of history, it seems to me that we are continuing to wrestle with Freedom and Individuality. For one thing, we’ve found that we’ve been good at giving freedom to wealthy white men, but our record hasn’t been so great with the non-wealthy, non-white, non-male parts of the human race.  So we’re working on that.  And we’ve found that when individuals are encouraged to do whatever they want as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of other humans, the results can be disastrous, not only for human communities, but for the non-human communities and natural systems that make life on our planet possible. So we’re working on that too.

Here is what I see going on:   God is now re-revealing himself as the Holy COMMUNION of Father, Son and Spirit.  We are rediscovering the God in whom perfect Freedom and perfect Community go hand-in-hand.

And in the midst of this, God is still the Provider who will somehow give daily bread to all from the soil of our damaged planet.  The Warrior who is on our side, not against our enemy tribes but against the inter-tribal hatred and violence that threatens all of us. The King whose Power is self-sacrificial love.


NOTE: My thanks to Brian McLaren for the overall idea of looking at the Bible this way, as well as for his labels of Survival, Security, and Power.

1 comment so far

  1. John on

    Hi John

    Thanks for the write!
    I also want to thank Mike Miller and Father’s House Ministries where the Spirit is seeding, so I may come to a change of my mind.

    I think your write has to do with the principle whereby reality is structured, Logos. What I mean is that the word we have perceived about God’ exclusion and violence is unable to turn until He chooses to reveal the inclusion reality of the Word, Jesus and non-violence for all humanity.

    He has always revealed who He is in the midst of our own mythology, and sacrificial systems, leading to the ultimate submission to the first Adam’s race of sin and death and their violent sacrifice of Himself on the cross, so that the Father could raise all humanity to the Spirit of life in the last Adam,Jesus.

    When our principle believe is LOVE, who God is, (Father, Son and Holy Spirit} than we start to resonate through renovated thinking about man’s mythological thinking in relation to sacrifice, scapegoat, wrath, justice, vengeance, heaven, hell, and eschatological judgements.
    Does this mean I have got it all figured out, off course not, never will!

    God is innocent towards humanity and all creation, always has been and always will be, never doing any harm. He is everlasting goodness and mercy, from ancient times to forever.
    He is much bigger and better than I could ever imagine. This is Good News for all mankind!

    Thanks Holy Spirit we will have some more reformation! John

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