Wednesday, July 11, 2012


USA Today conducted a national survey of 1,721 Americans. This survey asked 77 questions with nearly 400 answer choices that burrowed deeply into beliefs, practices, and religious ties.

The results are as follows:

Though 91.8% of those interviewed say they believe in God their views varied widely. How they see God's personality and engagement in human affairs can by classified into 4 overarching categories. These four categories were dubbed by researchers as: Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical and Distant.

The Authoritarian God (31.4% of Americans overall) is angry at humanity's sins and engaged in every creature's life and world affairs. He is ready to throw the thunderbolt of judgment down on “the unfaithful or ungodly.” Those who envision God this way “are religiously and politically conservative people, more often black Protestants and white evangelicals."

The Benevolent God (23% overall) still sets absolute standards for mankind in the Bible. This group, which draws more from mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews, sees primarily a forgiving God, more like the father who embraces his repentant prodigal son in the Bible.

The Critical God (16% overall) has his judgmental eye on the world, but he's not going to intervene, either to punish or to comfort. “This group is more paradoxical. They have very traditional beliefs, picturing God as the classic bearded old man on high. Yet they're less inclined to go to church or affiliate seriously with religious groups. They are less inclined to see God as active in the world. They are definitely not liberal, but they're not quite conservative, either.”

The Distant God (24.4% overall) is “no bearded old man in the sky raining down his opinions on us.” Those who hold this view of God see a cosmic force that launched the world, then left it spinning on its own. This has strongest appeal for Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jews. It's also strong among “moral relativists,” those least likely to say any moral choice is always wrong, and among those who don't attend church.

Maybe your view of God doesn't fall in line with any of these. Perhaps, to you, God sounds more like "a mean kid over an anthill with a magnifying glass. And [you're] the ant. He could fix [your] life in five minutes if he wanted to, but he'd rather burn off [your] feelers, and watch [you] squirm!"

Let's turn a corner for a moment, open your Bible and read Romans 1:19-25.

If you've done that, let me offer an explanation where I'm going with this. In this passage we read how these individuals who knew God started to lose sight of who God really was. Why they made this turn we aren't entirely sure, but I'm almost certain it started with their exchange of the truths of God for seemingly insignificant lies.

From Scripture, we are sometimes given a clear and concise depiction of who God is. However, most of what we read about God is a bit murky at best. Because of that, God offers some room (I said some, not a lot; don't deem me a heretic yet) for our varying beliefs. Thus, we have a plethora of varying denominations, translations of Scripture, and ideas of who God really is. That is why I am a firm believer none of us has the market on God. If you look close enough, you will see things you don't agree with in any church. You might find various translations of Scripture that don't seem to paint the picture you have in mind. When it comes down to it, they may not be entirely wrong; however, there still has to be some common denominators that fall in line with his true character.
Due to human nature, the way our mind functions, our perceptions of reality, and our varying experiences, some of us tend to relate to a “different” God. What I mean by that is this, we find it easier to understand and believe some characteristics of God more than others. How about an example? A person that values justice (that would be me) has a hard time grasping the merciful side of God. Is this wrong? Not entirely! Bottom line, we may have a somewhat incorrect or at the very least a skewed view of who God is.

There is always a danger this will inadvertently lead us to exchange the truths of God for lies. For that reason it is good to read books and listen to speakers outside our comfortable paradigm. It challenges us and helps us to sort fact from fiction...when it lines up with the overarching themse of Scripture. In the posts to follow, we will take a look at some of these truths we have exchanged.

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