Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Christian God isn’t Vengeful Enough

Humans are designed to seek out answers. We need to know what caused what and why. Faced with an incomprehensible and complicated natural World, Prehistoric Man created stories to explain what he saw about him, and this quickly metamorphosed into Religion, which is still with us today. Partly because it provides a ready-made and simple explanation for the world as we see it.

Most religions are founded on the concept of Gods who exhibit much the same traits as ourselves. They can be kind or petty, generous or spiteful, merciful or mean, only to a much greater degree. When Gods get angry they can kill on a vast scale, making them the ideal scapegoat for natural disasters of almost any kind.

This neatly fills the human need in society today for Placing the Blame. The God of the Hebrew Bible was perfect for this role – a vengeful and capricious God whose motives were unknowable and who could be blamed for anything. However the God of the Christian New Testament is a loving God, a kind and merciful God, a God who is willing to forgive any transgression providing the transgressor repents.

Unfortunately such a God is pretty useless for taking the blame for unexpected tragedies. This leaves Christians in a bit of quandary. They have a perfect repository for any blame they would like to apportion. Earthquakes, sudden death of a loved one, incomprehensible bad luck, all could be happily laid at the door of a vengeful God – except the Christian God isn’t vengeful anymore. Although there is plenty of precedent in the Old Testament for a destructive God laying waste to whole regions – the Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah – the New Testament gives us no such examples.

Christianity therefore offers us someone who can be blamed for anything we like…except we’re not allowed to. The closest Christians can come is the phrase “God’s Will”. Yet we find this difficult to reconcile with the image of God as presented in the New Testament, where Jesus continually reinforces the idea of His Father as a kind and loving entity. Who do we therefore blame for the sudden and inexplicable death of a child, or a Good Man? Although God is the only person with the power to have caused any disaster we can name, he’s unfortunately far too nice.