Monday, December 19, 2011
The Attraction of a Non-Judgmental, Universalistic God
Americans are opting for an egalitarian, non-judgmental God. According to Barna.org:
• Half of Americans (50%) believe that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God no matter what they do, while 40% disagreed. http://www.barna.org/faith-spirituality/543-top-trends-of-2011-changing-role-of-christianity
What can account for this strong universalistic trend? I think that there are several factors involved:
DETERMINISM: Many no longer believe that we have some degree of freewill and are therefore morally responsible. Instead, we are entirely products of powerful deterministic forces – “nature and nurture,” genetics and social influences. We act and think the way we do because we are programmed to do so. If this is the case, then we’re no longer guilty of our sins, and a reasonable God should no longer hold us culpable.
For many, this is an attractive idea. One atheist friend confided that he likes the idea that we lack freewill – we’re just a collection of electro-chemical reactions. As he systematically practiced reminding himself of this lack freewill and culpability, he would reduce his sense of guilt. However, to be consistent, he would also have to acknowledge that the murderer of his family is likewise not guilty of any wrongdoing.
JUDGMENTALNESS: In the West, it has become a virtue to be non-judgmental of others. After all, everyone is trying their best. Everyone has a good heart. Seen through this lens, God also sees our good heart and wouldn’t judge us for things that are outside of our control.
LOVE: No one seems to argue against the virtuousness of love, and the vast majority of people understand God as love. However, “love” has now taken on a different connotation. According to the updated understanding, love cannot include any offensive message. Love must always be affirming. The understanding that love also entails truth, disagreement and even punishment has been lost from Western culture.
Consequently, a loving God can’t be a punitive God, and the idea that there are eternal consequences for our sins has now become unacceptable, even in the case where the individual might choose eternal separation from God over eternal intimacy with God.
EQUALITY: Radical equality has become the ultimate virtue. It is no longer enough that we are all created in the image of God and are therefore all beloved by their Creator. There must also be equality of outcome. We all must share the same nirvana, universal consciousness or heaven. Reality and humanity are one, and any distinctions are an affront to this supposed oneness.
A God who discriminates is no longer a God worthy of worship, even if He discriminates according to principals of justice and fairness.
However, our beliefs are largely influenced by our situations. If and when a genocidal leader comes to power, we will, of course, be crying out for justice – both human and Divine. And we should. Our God requires it:
• When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:15-17)
It is out of love for humanity that God requires justice! It is easy for Western society to entertain dysfunctional ideas as long as their lives are still being protected by a justice system based upon Biblical values. However, once this justice system and the necessary discrimination that it entails are completely undermined, we will return to the rule of darkness.
We fail to see the very obvious historical fruits of “oneness” theology, a theology that is unwilling to make necessary judgments based on our behaviors. The Hindu Vaishnavite, Prabhupada, in his “The King of Knowledge” gives us a flavor of what oneness theology looks like:
• The hospital making business is being conducted by the government; it is the duty of a [Hindu] disciple to make hospitals whereby people can actually get rid of their material bodies, not patch them up. But for want of knowing what real spiritual activity is, we take up material activities.
However, real love and real justice should not only pertain to our extra-material existence. They should also pertain to our material existence. Eastern thinking tends to be life-denying. Swami Yogananda was founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship, which denies reality:
• Then this cosmic movie, with its horrors of disease and poverty and atomic bombs will appear to us only as real as the anomalies we experience at a movie house. When we have finished seeing the motion picture, we will know that nobody was killed; nobody was suffering.
If “nobody was suffering,” there is no reason to be concerned about suffering! This philosophy inevitably leads to injustice because it refuses to see injustice. If everything is no more real than a “motion picture,” then there can be no concern about love and justice. If we are to preserve justice, we need to believe in a God who is concerned about justice.
We also fail to see the inherent contradictions that non-justice and non-judgmentalness bring into our lives. It not only means that the courts cannot judge the criminals. It also means that parents can’t judge their children, or teachers their students, or supervisors their subordinates. We must judge and so must God!