Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Guest Blogger: Can America Avoid Defining God?

The following was submitted to us by Frank Morris.

Signs with “God Bless America” used to decorate much of the landscape following the horrendous attack of  9/11; they’re back up now after the horror of Orlando. Americans everywhere are expressing a sincere desire for help at this time in our nation’s history. But who is this God whose blessings we seek?

What if the issue of being blessed is not as simple as just posting signs? Might we first be required to identify and honor this God before blessings will be given? Perhaps it is time for us to dust off our spiritual primers and learn again the basics of religious thought and devotion. Spiritual homework has not been required of us for years; life’s exams have been relatively easy in these modern times. 

Up until now, that is. Now we are in a struggle to protect all that we hold dear.

Therefore, it is only right that we inquire about this God whose blessing we seek. Does this God have a name or title? Do we mean the God of the Bible, or the God of the Koran, or the God of Buddhism, etc., or just a Generic Type God? If the world’s great religious books are all true, then it appears there is more than one God, for each describe and define God exclusively. 

For example, the Koran defines God simply as Allah, whereas in the Bible God is revealed as Father, Son and Spirit - a radically different concept. Thus, facing the choice of more than one God, we will need to make a thoughtful selection among them. Which is better or stronger? If we choose one, do we alienate the others, or can we serve all and offend none? 

In contrast though, what if all religious books are not true; what if there really is only one true religion, then will not that God be displeased if we follow other paths? We could, of course, try to sidestep this troublesome thought by espousing the belief that all religious books are ultimately discussing and defining the same God, who thus is really just a Generic Type God. 

But what evidence supports this? Certainly the definitions of God derived from the different world religions rebel against drawing such a conclusion. Moreover, can you imagine a powerful head of state, let alone God, not having a name or title or any defining attributes? Besides, a Generic God by definition has no absolute standard, so how would America ever ascertain if we were about to be blessed or cursed?

Furthermore, does this God whom we want to bless America have power or rule any particular territory? I mean, is this God American or International? If only American, how can we know whether this God has any power to influence the International World; if International, how do we know if this God even likes America? Now it seems that we must hope and trust that this God must have real power or it would be pointless to ask for blessing. 

Yet assuming this God does have real power creates other problems. History affords us scant examples of exceedingly wealthy and powerful rulers who simply dispensed blessings indiscriminately; most required that certain criteria or standards be met. It would not be prudent to attribute less to God. Thus, at the very least, America is going to have to meet some kind of criteria before this God will bless us, don’t you think? 

It would be a stretch by any imagination to expect help from someone who is displeased with us! So, what will that criteria be, which ‘holy’ book are we going to follow, or should we mix them all up and take the generic route? The Generic God is of course the least intrusive; but again, with a Generic God you would never really know if your position was favorable.

Now pleasing a very powerful God also brings up the sensitive issue of verification. How would a powerful God know if we were meeting the proper criteria for blessing unless this God was also omniscient? And if this God who is supposed to bless America has really high standards, then our culture, laws, ethics, judicial decrees, amusements, sexual mores, religious expressions, etc. will all be under hard scrutiny. 

Nothing would be hidden, no secret safe. Of course if this were not the case, if America’s God has low standards, well, we may be saved from a righteous eye and therefore not have to mend our ways, but we gain nothing. Humanly speaking, you simply cannot put your trust or confidence in people who lack a moral foundation. They can change their mind, be bought off, or just simply ignore you – why would a God with low standards be any different?

America has rightly identified the target of our new war: terror and those who perpetrate it. We have been brutally attacked. We must defend ourselves. But has America rightly identified the God whose “God Bless America” signs dot the landscape? Their preponderance indicates a seriousness about our concern and felt need to have God bless us. 

The point is, can we logically and honestly believe a God to whom we are uncommitted or unwilling to define has to be committed to us? Can America really avoid doing spiritual homework and still hope for blessing?

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