Why We Like the Sacrificial God
Continuing where I left off yesterday, why would we choose the Sacrificial God? According to Kevin Miller’s (biased) analysis, this version of God leads us toward negative attitudes of ourselves and others and is clearly out of line with the character of God as revealed in Jesus. But many keep being drawn to this God anyway and we should seek to understand why.
The first one is obvious:
For starters, because we have been led to believe it is the only faithful reading of the Bible. We have been taken hostage by a theological system that not only indoctrinates us with a toxic view of God, it effectively inoculates us against anyone who might come along to liberate us from it, placating us with sayings like “God’s ways are not our ways” and warning us about “false prophets” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” It’s the worst of all possible worlds.
There’s no doubt about this. For various reasons we’ve abandoned the revelation of Jesus and preferred to make God operate just like the rest of us but with more power. Some of those reasons – primarily personal/emotional ones – are listed below.
Others are historical. Since the time of Constantine, Christians have had to wrestle with the inherent conflict between the way that Jesus does things and the way that the world does things. Generally speaking, we’ve been afraid of losing power and so we’ve opted to go with the way that the world does things. It removed that cognitive dissonance that the early Constantinian Christians had, and then it was just so assumed that it remained the default way to read Scripture even when Jesus directly said the opposite. Of course there were some who opposed this approach but they were ultimately shut down entirely, allowed under the church’s authority and given its safety so long as they didn’t question it too much (monastic movements), or forced into separation from the rest of the world (the Anabaptists).
Even when people know this, though, and even when they can in theory accept that Jesus is a self-sacrificial God and not a sacrificial God, we still are drawn to that other God instead. Miller lists two emotional/rational reasons. First, the world operates on this kind of framework and it is only natural to assume that God does, too. Greek philosophy has always agreed that this is the most logical nature of the supreme being: all powerful and doling out retributive justice. Second, retributive justice is attractive because we feel like we are the “in” and those other people are “out” and what person, thanks to sin in our lives, does not appreciate knowing that they are better than somebody else?
Miller concludes by discussing how we need to present a viable alternative, which has not been done on a large scale since Constantine, and help people make that transition. It boils down to a completely different paradigm for viewing God and the world. In my own words, it’s the difference between grace and law. We are naturally drawn to law, continually eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but Jesus has shown us that God is far more interested in something incredibly radical: grace.
And this changing of our hearts and lives,changing of the very lens through which we view the world, is what the Bible calls repentance. Repentance is not easy. It requires killing our natural desires to play God by deciding who is in and who is out ourselves. It requires admitting that the “common sense” of the world has got it backwards and that the Gospel of a self-sacrificial god and calls us to do the same does appear as foolishness (1 Cor 1:18).
Update: Miller has given another follow-up post. It makes the very important point that we all tend to vacillate toward the Sacrificial God. Check it out here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hellbound/2013/05/i-am-the-blood-drinking-god/