Two-Headed God?

Yeah, maybe I complain about everything, and I cry a lot, but I have the joy of the Lord deep down in my heart. I’m uncomfortable with ex-cons, drug dealers and gays, but I love them with the love of the Lord. Okay, maybe I stress over finances, but in my soul I have a peace that passes all understanding.

Can we stop all this ridiculous double-talk and call a platypus a platypus? No more Christianese.

There is another thing that believers claim that seems to contract logic. This one, however, is actually in the Bible. We say that God is loving, slow to anger, compassionate and forgiving, but also that He can lose his temper or get jealous and strike down individuals, families and entire nations. Does the Bible contradict itself? Do we have a two-headed God?

One solution is to break God’s apparent schizophrenia between two members of the Godhead. Jesus hangs on a cross, forgiving sin, setting captives free, loving us “this much,” while his Father is hiding his face, having his wrath appeased with a blood sacrifice. This would help make sense of the dichotomy between the God who appeared in thunder and smoke on a mountaintop, commanding Moses to stone rebellious children, and the God who came as a baby in a manger, encouraging little children to come to him.

But Jesus insisted that to know him was to know his Father (John 14:7 – 10). Well, I guess that makes sense of Revelation 19 where Jesus shows up with a two-edged sword in his mouth leading an army from heaven to smite the nations of the earth and rule them with a rod of iron. Like Father, like Son, right?

Atheists love this topic. Agnostics squirm over it. Some Christians avoid it. But I don’t think we need to. Here are three analogies that might help to make some sense of this, though I’m sure there is much more to explore:

The Surgeon:

When a surgeon looks at a body, he plans to do whatever he can to maximize the health of that body. Usually a surgeon is facing some sort of antagonist—a failing organ, a diseased appendage, a tumor. He is trained to recognize when a disease or infection has spread too far, setting the entire body at risk. Better to lose an arm than the entire body.

Sin is symbolically compared to leprosy in the book of Leviticus. In fact, the ritual associated with cured leprosy is one of the most beautiful and symbolic portrayals of Christ, involving the killing of one bird, then dipping another bird in the blood and watching it fly away with a bit of hyssop, red string and cedar tied to its foot. Unscramble that!

If God sees sin as a disease, and God is the great Healer, shouldn’t we expect a least part of his healing efforts to involve removing things from the earth that might cause greater damage over time?

In Genesis 15 God tells Abraham that he will send Israel into Canaan at a time when the sin of the Amorite is “full”. In Deuteronomy 18 we are told that these nations were displaced because of their sorcery. They were making their children pass through fire, practicing divination, casting spells and calling up the dead. God lays the same expectation at the feet of his own people, telling them if they will not be the holy nation that he called them to be, they would share the same fate at the nations they displaced. Ultimately, this is what happens, though God does preserve a remnant in the end, keeping his promise despite the persistent unfaithfulness of Israel.

How can the God who said, “Thou shalt not kill”, lead his people directly into war? Israel was God’s scalpel. It was not the judgment of Israel upon the pagan nations, but the judgment of God through his people. For someone like Hitler, genocide is an atrocious evil. For God, as Creator and Judge, it is a responsibility of grace, and we should trust his wisdom.

The Gardener:

Men are often compared to plants in Scripture. Yahweh mentions cutting down Judah like a tree, leaving a stump. Out of that stump would come a sprout—Jesus. That same sprout claims to be like a vine, and his people are the branches. His father is the gardener, pruning the branches to maximize production.

It may seem like a gardener does violence to a garden as he rips up the weeds and dumps them in a wheelbarrow, or tackles the overgrown branches or dead wood from his flowering plants. Maybe the plants would tremble when the gardener approaches, having no power to stop the ripping and tearing and cutting, but also having no perspective of what a beautiful, healthy garden should look like.

A conflict of vision can lead to a conflict of values. For God to prune his own people, or uproot the weeds may seem to contradict any claims to God being kind or generous or good. But does anyone think of a gardener as violent or vicious? Only from a plant’s point of view.

The Parent:

Confession: my parents spanked me. In today’s PC culture, spanking may seem like child abuse, but I knew better. My parents loved me. All day, every day. They never wanted to discipline me, and after I got what I had coming to me, they would always hug me and talk me through it. That’s why spanking was affective for me. I knew I was wrong, I paid the consequence, we hugged it out, then started over.

I think that our lack of connection with our heavenly father leads us to see his discipline, pruning, or even cosmic surgery as violence rather than love or grace. We hear him tell Saul to wipe out the men, women and children of the Amalekites, and wonder if God is a bit of a tyrant, though we’d never say it out loud.

Isn’t this what Satan tried to do with Eve? Tempting her doubt the goodness of God? Presenting God as a self-serving megalomaniac rather than a concerned parent, a lover of beauty, or a preserver of righteousness? Let’s not make the same mistake.

14 thoughts on “Two-Headed God?

    • You’re right, Patti. So much depends on our choice to engage with God and be obedient to his truth and his process. If we had to make a theme for the Old Testament, it would be all about God wrestling with a rebellious Israel. We may wonder why God didn’t just make himself a more compliant nation, but I think God wants his people to be in a genuine relationship with him, just like a marriage or a good friendship. And that requires trust and yielding your freedoms. Choice is our ability to love him for real. Without a choice, real love is lost.

      Like

  1. I’m sorry, but what else are people calling platypus these days?

    I think your analogies are right on. I do think the layman would have trouble with the parenting one, though. PC world is right and the world’s idea of discipline doesn’t leave room for cutting out sin from the life of the child or family, but rather, fill their head with the notion that they have power on their own to determine what is right or good. God forbid we bring up anything that might fill one’s mind or soul with guilt.

    Why is it we, as Christians, either tend to conform to the world, or in an effort to separate ourselves, create a version of “christian” that makes no Biblical sense? Christianese?!?!?! UGH!!!

    I know I’m guilty too 🙂

    Like

    • In some circles, platypi are called miniature hadrosaurids, which, as we all know, is ridiculous.

      I’m encouraged that you have a solid sense of love and parenting as you head into this next phase of your life. You’re right, poor parenting does not just affect the minds of our children, but our perception of our heavenly Father. I am grateful for parents that allowed me the gift of having consequences for my bad decisions, but also had the wisdom to talk me through it and show me that they “knew the plans they had for me, plans to prosper me, to give me a hope and a future.” If children really understand the intentions of their parents, they will embrace their punishments rather than hardening into a state of rebellion.

      Like

  2. I think this is a very good topic to take on. It can be very confusing for people to see and experience life in relationship with the whole God head. I think that we have many of these parts as well but are so uncomfortable with the conflict that it may cause within and out that many expressions are stuffed. The Body of Christ does not get to experience the many expressions of the God head through His people. They are left with a wholly anemic diet with food that has been processed many times to deem it “safe and effective” I would venture to say that we need the “raw” diet that does come with some risk but the benefits and nutrition are still intact.

    Like

    • Great point. This reminds me of that whole grandparent vs. parent thing. We want the loving, gracious, healing kind of God without the correction. God wants to refine us, to change us, but as soon as the gold gets shoved into the furnace, it starts a prayer chain, begging God to pull it back out. How could a loving God shove us into the fire? How else can the impurities be burned away?

      Like

  3. I’ve never heard a slicing (If you will) of the different parts of God done as well this one….I ~a regular ol’ non-theologian type~ can never articulate what I think I know to be true about an unfathomable God so I default to something like “i don’t know…cuz I’m not God.” Not to say that we shouldn’t strive to understand Him more deeply. And certainly, we should be able to share our beliefs with others….. but I probably use more christianese than you’d be comfortable with. It’s regular-people language. How else do I explain that I cried every day for two years but still had an unexplainable, supernatural joy? it was tough!! I guess I have to rely on deep thinking friends to help me get my words in the right order. 🙂

    Like

    • Sarah, there is a big difference between a soul that is healing, resting on the love and power of God, and a soul that really loves the world, but gives God lip-service. Your situation is of the first variety, and very sincere. And we are praying that when you are healed, you come out the other side stronger, closer to God, and able to reach out to others who are suffering as you have suffered. What a bonus for the people of God!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The thing that I was always hung up on is that God didn’t seem much like a dispassionate surgeon, or a parent loathe to punish in the OT. He seemed…well, very very angry. Does that make Jesus the “hugging it out” part?

    I suppose that lacking the intimate relationship with God that we now can enjoy, and being a rather violent people anyway, the authors of the OT might write to communicate that side of His character very colorfully. Whereas we, now experiencing grace, tend to emphasize the opposite. I like how Lewis depicted God as a lion who could be very violent but also retract his claws and play.

    “‘Course He isn’t safe. But He’s good.”

    Like

    • When I teach my OT class, and go through the story of Israel, the general response is, “Those people were SO bad.” Imagine going out to lunch with a parent that is dealing with a handful of kids that are talking back and running all over the place. I could leave the conversation thinking, “That parent was so stressed and angry,” or “That parent has his/her hands full.”

      I think I could pull plenty from the OT prophets with as much love and sentiment as you would expect from Christ, and pull enough anger and warning from the NT to sound like a rant of Jeremiah.

      Christ said that to know him was to know his Father. And God does not change. Therefore, when Jesus says, “I am meek and humble in heart,” we have to assume that the OT God is the same.

      Can a meek, humble parent get angry or stressed over a belligerent child? Absolutely. Especially if the anger or discipline helps that child to see the error of their ways and turn around. In the case of God and the world, however, it’s more like a belligerent person in a class full of students. Just make an example of the student, kick them out, and keep teaching the ones that want to learn.

      Like

    • Yes! Not safe, but good. And, like Job, can we love when things are not comfortable? Even though we are well in the hell east of Eden, we can still count our blessings.

      After all, our judgements of good and evil are stolen fruit.

      Like

  5. Pingback: Love and War | Barnts in the Belfry

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s