My Picture of God: Stages 1 and 2

In my last post, The God Mirror, I talked about Deepak Chopra’s How to Know God. For Chopra, our picture of God reflects who we are and where we are at spiritually. Here, I want to discuss my image of God and what that says about me. I’ll focus specifically on stages 1 and 2 of Chopra’s schema.

This post is actually harder than it looks! I can write something like the Westminster Confession, as I list various attributes of God and support them with Scripture. My problem is that there are ideas about God that I can intellectually accept, yet that doesn’t mean they form the God whom I carry around with me on a day-by-day basis (if that makes any sense). When I’m doing my quiet times on one of my itineraries, how am I seeing God? When I am sitting in the classroom, what is my picture of God? And does my image of the divine impact my day-to-day life?

As I read Deepak Chopra’s book, I identified with stages 1 and 2. Stage One is “God the Protector (Fight-or-Flight Response),” and it envisions God as “vengeful, capricious, quick to anger, jealous, judgmental–meting out reward and punishment, unfathomable, [and] sometimes merciful.” He’s somewhat like Don Corleone: you want to appease him so he’ll protect you–from himself and the challenges of life.

Stage Two is “God the Almighty (Reactive Response).” Here, God is “sovereign, omnipotent, just, answerer of prayers, impartial, rational, [and] organized into rules.” Do you want blessings in your life–a new car, a nice house, a hot babe? This is the God you come to! Do you want your enemies to suffer? Then it’s a good thing this God is just!

My image of God includes a lot of stages 1 and 2. I want to be blessed in my life, in that I desire success in my academic career, the hope of a bright future, etc., etc. And this was my image of God way back in high school. “Lord, please help me to do well on this test,” or “Lord, protect me from anyone who wants to pick on me.” I wanted control over my life, and God was a way to have it. But I had to make him happy to receive what I sought–through prayer, reading my Bible, etc., etc.

Today, a lot of that stuff is still going on, for I continue to seek God’s blessing when I take tests or write papers. And I also hope that he favors me with a nice, attractive woman some day. But one thing that I think about more today than I did before is the safety of my family. I want God to protect them. And I’m virtually superstitious about it! What would happen if someone in my family died in a car accident, and I forgot to pray beforehand for his or her protection? Would I be able to forgive myself? Would the death be my fault?

I’m somewhat like Job in Job 1:5: “And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ This is what Job always did.” That was Job’s way of maintaining control over his life. He wanted to keep on receiving blessings, and (like a good parent) he sought the well-being of his family. So he tried to appease God through sacrifice. And he made sure that he covered all of the bases too–he didn’t want God to kill his kids over some sin that they committed!

I know that this kind of makes God out to be an ogre, but I didn’t come up with these ideas! Christians are always praying that God will protect them and their loved ones from danger. “Travelling mercies” is one term for it. And we see this concept all over the Book of Psalms. But what are we supposed to do with it? Do we have the power to prevent accidents? And if there is an accident, is it our fault for not praying?

I think that being in stages 1 and 2 is one reason that I like Joel Osteen, who emphasizes hope for the future and includes material prosperity as one of God’s blessings. Life is really scary for me! As a person with Asperger’s, I wonder if I have much of a future. Will I get a job? Will I have security? Will my life ever turn around for the better?

Many Christians think that Joel’s Christianity is rather shallow, and they want a Christianity that is a lot deeper. And I can see where they’re coming from, since I don’t just want stuff. But is it wrong for me to desire security–financially, physically, socially, etc.? Sure, I can go deeper, but don’t I need some basic things at the outset?

In a coming post, I’ll talk about my interaction with God’s love. Some of it will be old hat to my readers, and other parts will be new. Stay tuned!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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