Religion has left us with a very wrong picture of Father God. Let me illustrate using two simple scenarios. Let’s see which one you have been taught, and which one you believe to be the truth.
There’s a certain teenage driver is warned by his Dad that driving drunk would get him killed. The teenage driver disregards the warning, slinks away from his Dad, drives drunk, slams into a lightpost, gets crippled, and dies sometime soon.
There’s a certain teenage driver is warned by his Dad that driving drunk would get him killed. The teenage driver disregards the warning, slinks away from his Dad, and starts driving drunk. Now, his Dad catches on, and says “let’s teach him a lesson”. He gets into his huge Ford F-350, catches up with his son, and drives him off the road. His son slams into a lightpost, gets crippled, and dies sometime soon.
The outcome is exactly the same. It’s the father’s role that’s different. The first scenario gives us God the Father. The second one gives us the Godfather.
What’s your picture of Daddy from these two scenarios? Would you want the No. 2 Dad (the Godfather) as your heavenly protector? Would you be quick to run into his arms? Probably not.
Well then, there’s a problem. The universal church has taught scenario No. 2 for nearly two millenia, for the most part. The’ve indoctrinated countless multitudes into fear-based “obedience” to the heavenly Godfather. Trust him, or else.
However, you can’t get anyone to trust God that way. And Jesus calls us to the obedience of trust (faith). But how can you trust the Daddy behind door No. 2? It’s a self-defeating proposition.
Eventually, a much stronger motivator was needed to aid the futile effort of overcoming this dilemma. It had to be something big, never-ending, fear-based, and inescapable, which now needed to be front and center of the “gospel” presentation. And so the good news turns into bad news. It becomes “the offer that you can’t refuse”. It violates your basic God-given freedom of choice, and robs you of your dignity. Believe, or else. Turn or burn.
And instead of the joyful marriage of Jesus Christ to his church, this theology turned the upcoming ultimate consummation of the amazing union of the two into a shotgun wedding.
I think a lot of the modern preaching’s focus is severely skewed. Sure, you can tell your son “if you steal, you will go to jail”. And “if you rob a bank, they will arrest you”. Or “if you rape, you know what they do to rapists in prison”. All of those facts are true. However, if that’s your main mode of parenting, I would very seriously question your judgment and even your general parental aptitude.
Often times, with our preaching, we are not raising sons. We are raising potential criminals whose main control mechanism is fear of punishment. And once that mechanism wears off (and it eventually will, in most cases), we have nothing else left holding them back. And someone brought up that way is quite likely to be tempted to do and to get away with what he’d been told during his formative years that he couldn’t.
Let’s go to the very beginning, to the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. Genesis 1-2 clearly and unambiguously presents us with the analog of scenario No. 1. Find me one instance of God saying “I curse you”, or even God being described as angry. That’s right, you won’t find any.
“Cursed is the ground”, etc. in Gen. 3:17-19 are the statements elaborating on what had just transpired. These are the statements of fact. That’s scenario No. 1. “I curse you” would be scenario No. 2, and it’s not found in Genesis. A lot of honest to God Christians don’t even realize that there’s even a difference between the two. And that difference is immeasurably vast.
Regarding the past 2000 or so years (looking back from our perspective), here’s what Jesus says on the matter:
22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son,
23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
The Father doesn’t condemn, and Jesus doesn’t condemn. The word spoken will judge, and will condemn those who fall under the condemnation criteria. In other words, people will reap the consequences of the fact that the rescue boat was there, but they let it pass them by. Both Jesus and our heavenly father are in salvation business.
Just over the past few decades we have been seeing more and more correct teaching on the subject in the mainstream. Incidentally, the Eastern Orthodox tradition got this much more accurately ever since its inception, as compared to the ancient and medieval Roman Catholicism. This is really sad, since had there been an equivalent of the Protestant Reformation in Eastern Orthodoxy (the latter isn’t perfect in all of its theology, by any means), we might have seen a lot of fruit coming from this teaching already, relative to what we are just coming to now in Western Christendom.