My dilemma, pt. 1
I begin this post with the realization that, as an American 20-something, my grasp on true or classic Protestantism is notably flawed and incomplete. This is merely a post expressing the current state of my “fear and trembling.” Over the pas few years, I’d say my view of the bible, the gospel, and the God who Is has been changing pretty rapidly and radically. I do not attribute this change really to any special books I’ve read, any “progressive” or “enlightened” discussions, or any one person. All I can say is that I am a sinner, radically saved by grace, and God in His goodness uses a great many people in my life to direct me to Himself. Notably, reading the Bible for the first time in my life as the Story of God and His work in His Creation has fueled what I can only call a Spirit-driven transformation in my heart and life.
Historically, I would say that the god I was taught about was a bit of an eccentric. I don’t have any specific blame or angst to lay or hurl. I just had a lot of versions of a lot of gospels handed my way throughout time. But the one troubling message that seemed to come up quite a bit boiled down, at its most base level, to this idea:
God (the Father,) is super angry. Really, really angry. And beyond this, He is entirely incapable of even looking at sin. This is due to His holiness. Sin is, in essence, God’s only weakness. His kryptonite. The moment a person sins, he/she pulls a Frodo Baggins and disappears utterly from the sight and sovereignty of the Lord. God becomes utterly powerless to help us, heal us, bless or redeem us when we sin. This sounds utterly heretical, and I can’t help but think that it is utter heresy.
The next important lesson I learned about God the Father was that, despite His oath to never again wipe out humanity, He really really wants to smite us. All of us. All the time. In His holiness and justice, He’s obsessed with wiping us out. He’d really like nothing more than to rain down fire and lightning and remove our very existence. But luckily for us, God Himself is thwarted at all times by the “Hero” of the Bible: Jesus.
Jesus (God the Son) plays out in this story less as a fully-God trinitarian member, and more like the Silver Surfer taking up arms against the unstoppable Galacticus. Because God is at all times looking for a reason to send us to hell, Jesus stands in between us and God, shouting “No! You can’t kill them! Remember? I went to the cross to prevent you from doing it!” I was taught by numerous pastors that this was the genuine role of Christ. Rather than serving as a once-and-for-all propitiation, Jesus instead is all that stands between us and the horrible wrath. Understandably, God is wrathful. But the Bible seems to portray a God who is working at all times in all things to redeem His world. I was taught by a lot of pastors that God instead is working at all times in all things to send people to hell, but lucky for us Jesus stands vigilant thwarting the affairs of an angry god in heaven.
The Holy Spirit existed in the stories of my youth in an even lesser role. Not so much fully-God, the Holy Spirit was more of a spiritual force working almost unbeknownst to Father and Son. He exists to make believers feel spiritual, perform miracles, speak in tongues, and more or less be good people. The Holy Spirit of my youth seemed more or less content to let Father and Son duke it out and argue at all times over the fate of humanity, while He went about more or less doing His own thing.
Now, I’ve presented some fairly extreme examples of the theology I learned as a young person. But truly, this was the view of the Trinity I went most of my life with. God is angry, and bent on the damnation and destruction of earth. Jesus is a superhero, protecting us from the wrath of God and at all times telling the Father why He can’t destroy us. The Holy Spirit is a difficult, mysterious entity whom we are content to either disregard or compartmentalize as a lesser, esoteric member of the Trinity.
I do believe there will be some resolution to this post, but I felt I needed to start by as clearly as I could stating the theology I inherited and gleaned throughout my younger days. I am far from an old man now, but as one just beginning to understand the endlessly loving, redeeming work of the God who IS, I needed to take the time to exorcise this false idea, this shattered trinity.