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Generic God

• Greg Boyd, Seth McCoy

In this fourth installment of the Mixed Signals series, we explore how humans have historically given God, or the gods, attributes we ourselves have desired. In our present day this trend has manifested itself in a very generic, distant, tolerant, and civil picture of God. God is viewed as an ambiguous force defined by His power, and viewed as merely a giver of moral guidance wanting us all to get along. Greg and Seth expose how this misguided picture of God has led to a large population of Christians still viewing themselves as Lord of their own life.

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As evidenced from scriptures like Psalms 50:20-21, for centuries people have been assigning attributes to God (or the gods) that they themselves crave. We have molded God in our image, emphasizing characteristics we long for like power and control. Religion essentially evolved to appease the power gods. The goal was to court their favor making sure their blessing fell on our tribe.

Although power and control are still common ways in which God is defined, values have shifted some in our pluralistic world. The dream of conquering other religions has somewhat came to an end and now tolerance and civility are seen as key virtues in our ever shrinking world. Given this shift we have now attributed these characteristics to God assuming that must be what He’s like. It’s become the religion of “let’s all get along.” Most folks that have taken this view of a distant, tolerant, and very generic God won’t form passionate relationships with Him, but rather call on Him in times of need and essentially still call all the shots being the lord of their own life.

The most important question to ask when accepting or discrediting a belief is what picture of God does this presuppose and is it lined up with the life of Jesus, especially His death on the cross. This generic picture of God doesn’t line up with the passionate, involved, and incarnate life of Christ. Rather we see God very specifically as He took on our humanity so that we could share in His divinity. He entered in to our sin, taking it upon Himself becoming the judged. One can call Jesus crazy, but not generic. His love, life, and relationships were very specific as He motivated by revealing the beauty of His love, not the strength of a controlling power.

The problem with a generic God is that without passion and a personal relationship we don’t end up doing any soul work. We have a will that has the power to make really big decisions and point our life in new directions, but we also have a body and mind that usually have years and years of toxicity and lies that battle against our will. In order for us to start doing serious work healing and re-ordering our soul we must learn surrender and learn how to follow Jesus’ lead in our life. If our mind, body, and will are disintegrated and we’re trying to call all our own shots, then we have no hope of rescuing our souls. We don’t need a generic God tweaking our lives, we need a specific God saving us.

As we think of how to interact with people who have a generic view of God, there are three ways to improve our interactions. First, having compassion for where they are at in their view of God. We live in a world that, unless we’re intentionally swimming upstream, has a tendency to pull us off balance and draw us in to a life of individualism. Second, anytime another person is looking outside one’s self for help we can acknowledge that as a good thing. Lastly, we need to have courage and not be afraid to share our story. Generic becomes specific when we share how the specific God we’re in relationship with has brought healing in our lives.

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Topics: Healing, Kingdom of God, Salvation

Sermon Series: Mixed Signals

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Focus Scripture:

  • Psalm 50:20-21

    20 You sit and speak against your kin;

    you slander your own mother’s child.

    21 These things you have done and I have been silent;

    you thought that I was one just like yourself.

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3 thoughts on “Generic God

  1. Daryl Walker says:

    I don’t know that I believe in God anymore. I was raised in a self righteous, crooked finger pointing church and I just have so many questions. I have been going to Woodland on and off ever since the Harding High School days. I learn sooo much coming to Woodland and believe it to be true yet just cant shake the angry just like me God image. Every preacher/ church has their own view which makes Christianity just like every other worthless religion. I don’t pray anymore because I just don’t know what to say to a God that I don’t believe in anymore, and if I did pray it would only be to ask for a favor. I believe that I’ve been brainwashed to believe and fear something that doesn’t exist and yet if I’m wrong I’m going to hell or as you say non-exist. So what’s the difference I’m damned either way.

    1. Joanna Hallstrom says:

      Hey Daryl, Thank you for your very honest comment. Expressing doubts, confusion and skepticism about God, the church and prayer are welcome here at WH. You are not alone and we would love to come along side of you and help you process these questions — if you feel it would be helpful. I will email you directly with contact information of someone from WH you can talk to.

  2. Peter says:

    Hi Daryl, your not a hopeless case (most of us could echo similar experiences)…..given the information you have written is true, it would seem that notwithstanding your association with various Christian groups, you may not have come to a full understanding of forgiveness through the Cross and being born anew. While not impossible, a post like this is not (necessarily) going to be the appropriate forum to fix your situation. It is going to the likes of WHC (as you have been) and being involved with appropriate counselling and guidance staff to talk and pray through your issues. If you have already unsuccessfully tried this then escalate your request to the more senior staff.

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