Some thoughts on God and love (1)

On this blog I’ve reflected now and then on ‘losing faith’.

Here’s a proposal forming in my mind (in other words I’m airing a half-baked formed idea for discussion – but hey that’s what a blog is for!).

For a committed Christian to walk away from their faith (not just the church but from belief in orthodox Christianity towards agnosticism or atheism) there has to be a ‘falling out of love’ with God.

Now I don’t mean this in any romantic sentimental ‘Jesus is my girlfriend’ sort of way.

I mean that somewhere deep down there has to be a disbelief, an apostasy if you will, in the moral goodness, the loveliness, the sheer beauty of God and in the compelling attractiveness of the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ.

Scripture is packed full of praise and adoration of a God worth loving with our hearts, souls, minds and strength. Worth loving for what he does and who he is – in whom there is no darkness, only light. One image I like is from David in Psalm 52

8 But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.

Rooted. Flourishing. Fruitful. Unfailing love. Community. Praise and thanksgiving. Hope. All flowing from a knowledge and experience of the sheer goodness of God.

Therefore a negative view of the doctrine of God or ‘theology proper’ is a fundamental element of Christian apostasy.

And is it significant therefore that it is the doctrine of the unadulterated goodness of God that is most under attack in the new atheism and other anti-Christian movements within contemporary culture? Here is the redrawing of God as a moral monster full of bile, injustice, violence, racism, etc etc

And what happens do you think when an experiential belief in the goodness of God leaks away in a Christian’s life? What’s left at the bottom of the bucket?

One symptom may be an unhealthy and negative attitude to the church itself. Once love for God goes, so does love for his (imperfect) people, perhaps manifesting itself in deep-seated frustration at the church’s failings or cynicism towards others. For if the love and grace of God are not central then all that is left is participation in what is often a frustrating and amateur organisation.

Another symptom of disbelief may be a sense of sadness and loss – there is no actual hope beyond the broken and unjust world we see every day. Like Douglas Coupland years ago saying that God isn’t there and he ‘misses him’.

Or perhaps love for God gets replaced by church politics, positions, power, factionalism and so on. Plenty of that around.

So the most spiritually searching question a Christian can ask him or herself is this: am I loving the Lord with all of who I am – mind, heart, life? If not, why not? What has ‘displaced God’?

And a follow up question – what does loving God in this way look like in practice ? In the specifics of daily life?

Comments, as ever, welcome.


8 thoughts on “Some thoughts on God and love (1)

  1. “For if the love and grace of God are not central then all that is left is participation in what is often a frustrating and amateur organisation.”

    That’s a quote for the fridge.

    If this is true, and our doctrine of God is what’s most at fault, our doctrine of the church must be a close second? The ‘experiential belief in the goodness of God’ of which you speak surely comes largely through our church family… So one faulty view can lead to the other.

    She said, thinking “out loud”…

  2. Thanks for thinking out loud with me.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that love is the core – love for God in focus here and it’s link with apostasy, but as you point out, love for God can’t be separated from love for (and from) others.

    Continuing to think out loud here – if Christian faith is relational through and through, thus so spirituality is ultimately relational; and evangelism, worship; studying theology (got a post on that tomorrow) and so on ….

    which all has profound implications for how we view qualifications for ministry. Historically rational competency in theology has been exalted yet that narrow skill is a pretty poor guide to how someone loves others.

  3. Thanks Patrick – questions worth exploring. I read many years ago “What comes into a person’s mind when they think about God is the most important thing about them.” I partly agree – I’m guessing that what comes into a person’s heart when they think about God is just as important. And I think that’s what you are saying. Truth that doesn’t touch the heart can’t transform the person, or transform a relationship. Relational truth has life giving potential – it never operates in a vacuum. Each time I learn something about God I face the question, What does this mean for how I live with him? If it doesn’t come to that then I am just playing intellectual games. Maybe the work being done on the area of emotional intelligence has relevance here. Is it the gut instinct that “God is good and that there’s no one and nothing better” that is key? And if gut instincts are developed from life experiences and how I respond to them then it’s how I respond to God in the everyday that will determine whether or not he becomes “the best” for me.

  4. Sean, thanks for getting to the ‘lived’ reality of faith. Personally, I find it all too easy to separate the rational/cognitive knowledge of God from actual worship, prayer, thanksgiving and joyful faith.
    And moving quickly on to generalities – isn’t this the crisis of Christendom Irish style? 90% of the population ‘believe’ God exists but for most he is peripheral at best to daily life ….

    • Yes I do think it is the crisis of Christianity in the west – either the relationship is peripheral or else utilitarian; we engage with God’s presence at some kind of formulaic level – if I say the right prayers, do the right deeds, push the right buttons – then God will deliver the goods. And that approach is death to any relationship – ” I .. take you … to be my spouse, to have and to use from this day forward…” Ignoring or using will both such the lifeblood out of any relationship so why would a relationship with God be any different?

  5. Hi Patrick, you wrote : “For a committed Christian to walk away from their faith, ….there has to be a ‘falling out of love’ with God.”

    Twice I did try to walk away from God. Somehow, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the love of God.

    The first time I said I’m not going to be a Christian anymore, it was due to man, Who had hurt me so deeply that I would have nothing to do with him, including to have the same religion. But I bounced back to the faith, after days of “holding a conference with God.”

    The second time I said “this faith is dead” was due to circumstances. Years of tiring and trying times had depressed me again and again. The question came to my mind, ” Either God is powerless, or He does not really care.”
    Is my faith like the seed that fell among thorns, as I go on my way I’m choked by life’s worries, so I do not mature. (from Luke 8:14)

    Maybe I’m what you said that “deep down there is a disbelief in the moral goodness, the loveliness, the sheer beauty of God and in the compelling attractiveness of the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ.”

    This is something I’ve to think about. Thanks, Patrick.

  6. June, thanks for sharing your experience so openly. Maybe another way of looking at this is that it is God’s love for us and our love in response that ultimately sustains relationship through the trials, suffering and struggles (and joys) of life. and every person’s story will be different.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s