Deconstructing our Christian mythology

Zeus_ReligionWhenever I get into a thoughtful discussion with one of my agnostic friends (or honest inquirers) about how they see God, they usually respond with some picture of a stern-faced deity up in heaven, lightning bolts in hand, ready to punish all who anger Him.

Of course, the description they’re giving me is of Zeus, not the God of the Bible.

Sadly, this isn’t far off from what a lot of Christians believe about God. And all of these people infer this from Scripture. Especially, about the God of the Old Testament.

But here’s the real interesting part: none of them think of Jesus this way, even though He’s said to be the exact representation of God (John 14:7; Heb.1:3).

As I’ve said in the past, this conflicted view of God happens whenever we read the Bible indiscriminately. In other words, if the genocidal God of Joshua and the sinner-loving God of Jesus are different in any way, we are the ones who need to change our view of Him. Because, taken literally, God cannot be both.

Mythology is a collection of widely held but false beliefs having to do with religious or cultural traditions. And we have lots of mythology in our evangelical traditions!

I agree with people like Michael Hardin (The Jesus-Driven Life) and Derek Flood (Disarming Scripture) when they suggest that the apostolic church read Scripture quite differently. They read Scripture like Jesus did, and had a Jesus-centered view of Scripture, not a Scripture-centered view of Jesus. In other words, Jesus defined theology for them, and they let Jesus re-interpret their understanding of Scripture, not the other way around.

Bible-thumperWe tend to call our Bible text the Word of God; the apostolic church called Jesus Christ the Word of God. In fact, they didn’t have our “Bible,” and what they called Scripture included books and letters that we don’t.

This brings up an important side point. Your theology is not God. In fact, your Bible is not God (John 5:39). God Himself is God. Our interpretations of Him are often something else, and as long as we’re confused about this we’ll never be able to grow in a spiritually healthy way. We’ll only listen to teaching we already agree with, calling anything that disagrees with our theology “unbiblical.” But that’s another subject for another time.

The reason this is important is because when we try to figure out who God is by doing a word study, we end up collecting a hopelessly conflicted list of adjectives about the nature of God…especially about the Trinity. God becomes a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde deity with some unsettling anger-management issues.

And how we see God will determine how we see ourselves, and how we treat others.

Yin_yangWhen we try to “balance out” God, making Him loving and gracious, but also legalistically “holy,” retributive, and even hateful, we create a god of pagan mythos.

We end up with a friend of sinners whose eyes are too pure to look at sin. God who never changes, but apparently He does with Jesus. He supposedly abandoned Jesus on the Cross, even though He said he’ll never leave us or forsake us. Jesus tells us to do what God doesn’t do Himself. His love is unconditional as long as His conditions are obeyed. He’s the Savior of the whole world, who shows no partiality, but damned certain people to hell before they were ever born.

This is precisely the argument atheists make against the “God of the Bible.” Ironically, they get this by reading the Bible exactly the same way many “Bible-believing” Christians read it! We’re just not as honest about the conclusions.

I’m sure you’ll want to argue with some of my observations. Perhaps I’m painting the picture unfairly. Maybe so, but my point is still valid.

When we have a “flat” view of the Bible (all words are given the same weight as full revelation of God throughout), we fail to realize that Jesus was actually subversively deconstructing what His own people thought God was like.

Unnews_angry_godJesus often quoted Old Testament passages, leaving out parts that made God look retributive. The apostles did the same thing.  But first century Israel saw Messiah as a militaristic avenger, coming to crush their Roman oppressors. Jesus showed them an enemy-loving, forgiving Father who came to put an end to the scapegoating oppression in them…and in us.

Of course, that’s what got Him crucified.

Jesus makes this startling statement about knowing God that we should not miss…

27 “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matt.11:27 NLT)

I’ve asked this many times on this blog…do we realize what Jesus is saying here? He’s saying that no one really knew God except Him! Abraham didn’t know God, not Moses, not Samuel, not David…. Let that sink in for a moment. While they certainly had a relationship with Him, it was through the darkened veil of Adam, not the revealed light of Jesus Christ. This is significant because it’s this “Jesus-lens” that’s the only way we’ll ever understand God rightly.

Like with the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25-27), when I let Jesus walk me through the Scriptures, I find that, from the fall of Adam to Jesus, it tells me more about myself than about God…how mankind experienced God, not God as He really was. It tells me how I’ve painted my heavenly Father with Satan’s brush, creating a distorted image that’s different than Jesus. If I don’t understand this I will project my own reflection onto God and create even more “Christian” mythology.

We’ll venture further down this theological rabbit hole another time. For now, I would be interested in hearing what you think about this.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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21 Responses to Deconstructing our Christian mythology

  1. Steven Sawyer says:

    Excellent, Mel. I’m going to read this again. Thank you for sharing. I never thought that some folks may consider God and Jesus as separate.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your comments, Steve. The trouble is, a lot of Christian theology makes Jesus different than God. And we believe what we’re taught. Jesus is the totally approachable, gracious, compassionate, enemy-loving, turn the other cheek, give to all who ask, friend of sinners savior. God is the unapproachable, transcendent, retributive, angry, vengeful God who kills all His enemies and who only forgives us because He took out all of His rage on Jesus and killed Him instead! That’s pretty dysfunctional!

  2. bullroarin says:

    Great post Mel…you won’t get any argument from me on this one.

    I want to write some words I wrote in the back of my bible about twenty years ago. I thought they were profound then, I think they are more profound today.

    “The written word of God (the Bible) will not be contrary – ever- to the living word – Jesus. Consequently, no interpretation of any scripture must place it at variance with His nature. Scripture whose interpretation on our part is at variance with the nature of Jesus must be set aside until we have enough light to interpret it properly. It remains as scripture. Scripture used for doctrine or lifestyle that does not harmonize with the nature of Jesus should simply let us know that we have interpreted it wrong.”

    Of course these were not my words, but this was the beginning of a journey from the bowels of religion to the fresh light of day…a revelation of the true nature of the Father reflected perfectly in the nature of the Son.

    Keep preaching it Mel. For some (like me) it takes awhile for it to sink in.

    ~ Dave

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s really good, Dave. Wise words. Too many read the Bible and never question whether what they think it’s saying about God sounds like Jesus or not, or even if it’s moral or ethical. If we would do this we would soon find out that passages that deviate from Jesus means something else is going on. Bill Johnson probably gave us the simplest and most accurate hermeneutic—Jesus Christ is perfect theology!

      Not sure how far I want to go down this theological rabbit hole because it goes very deep and unravels a lot of what we evangelicals hold dear (even if what we hold on to are actually myths). But the benefit is a much healthier understanding of God, especially the Father, and a better understanding in how we see others (and treat them). This is the only reason I’m shaking this tree. Much evil done “in God’s name” throughout Church history comes from these theological distortions about the nature of God. Of course, this is also true in all world religions and of the world construct itself. They all come from the same Tree. It’s the water (Matrix) we’ve been swimming in so we don’t always see it.

      And don’t feel bad. It could take us all about 100 years for this to sink in! Blessings. 🙂

    • AfroScot says:

      Thanks Dave. I love this! It has taken me a wee while too for all to sink in but getting there. I’m glad God has raised up men like Mel and others to venture down the theological rabbit holes that have kept us bound.

      God bless

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. Blessings!

    • bullroarin says:

      Thanks AfroScot…I appreciate the kind words…and you’re right, men like Mel help to navigate those theological rabbit holes.
      God bless.
      ~ Dave

  3. “They read Scripture like Jesus did, and had a Jesus-centered view of Scripture, not a Scripture-centered view of Jesus.” Thank you for that line. Gonna ruminate this in my spirit.

    Also thought about this…

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
    Because He has anointed Me
    To preach the gospel to the poor;
    He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
    To proclaim liberty to the captives
    And recovery of sight to the blind,
    To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
    19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
    20 Then He closed the book,

    He simply stopped short and left out the vengeance part that follows.He doesn’t quote the next line.

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s exactly right, Chris. I believe the synagogue leaders got mad at Jesus for misquoting Isaiah 61! They were waiting for a vengeful Messiah that would free them from the Roman Empire. He came to free them from themselves.

      Jesus often did this. For instance, in Luke 7:22-50, in response to John the Baptist’s question, He quotes several passages (Isa.61:1-2; 29:18; 35:5-6; 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 5:1-27), talking about miracles of Elijah and Elisha. All of the Isaiah passages (Isa. 29:18; 35:5-6) have references to vengeance in the prophecies, but He purposely leaves them all out. John the Baptist saw Jesus as a retributive Messiah (like all the OT prophets), and was questioning whether Jesus was actually the one because he was in prison. He had the wrong paradigm and Jesus corrected it by giving healing and miracle passages, leaving out all the retributive verses.

      Jesus has to correct James and John’s view of a retributive God when they wanted to call fire down on the Samaritans, like Elijah, because those people didn’t receive Jesus. Jesus rebukes them, telling them they don’t know what manner of spirit they are of. He came to save, not destroy (Luke 9:51-56).

      Matthew’s inspired commentary on Isaiah 53 says this prophecy is about healing and deliverance, not that God was going to pour out all His wrath on Jesus (Matt.8:16-17). Furthermore, Jesus quotes Moses’ serpent on the pole (Num. 21:7-9) to equate salvation with healing (John 3:14-17). It’s about restorative justice, not retributive justice. It’s all over the New Testament once you see it.

      I think we’ll all get this eventually! We’re going to eventually believe that God is ALL good! Blessings.

  4. Pingback: The Jesus Hermeneutic – Part One | In My Father's House

  5. “It’s about restorative justice, not retributive justice. It’s all over the New Testament once you see it.”

    It’s also in the Old Testament once you see it. I came to be a believer in Ultimate Reconciliation of all of mankind about 5 years ago because I began to dig deeper. Jesus said the first will be last, and the last will be first. That single idea says that the first and the last “will be”. Praise God!

    • Mel Wild says:

      I can totally understand why you would hold that position. I had a close friend (died a few years ago) who was a believer in Ultimate Reconciliation. He loved Jesus fiercely and held that this is more in line with God’s nature. And there is Scripture that seems to back it up. I personally believe that love, by nature, requires freedom to reciprocate or reject God’s love, and the Scripture also seems to indicate the need for active faith…to believe or not believe. But I wouldn’t mind at all if what you’re saying is true. 🙂

      C.S. Lewis said the gates of hell are locked from the inside (The Great Divorce), which would align more with the Eastern Orthodox view of the afterlife than our traditional Dante-version of hell in the Latin West.

      If you haven’t read Brad Jersak’s book, “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut” already, it’s a good look at the subject, showing the various views of hell and the afterlife in Church history. I think many Christians would be surprised to find out how many differing views were, and are, held by “orthodox” believers. I think we’re starting to see this subject in a whole new light, and it requires that we honestly wrestle through these things with grace for one another, instead of being stuck in our traditional dogma on subjects we cannot possibly fully comprehend.
      Thanks again for your comments, Chris. Blessings.

  6. AfroScot says:

    Hi Mel

    I know this post is a few days old but came across this verse in my devotion – Exodus 6:2-3. I think this buttresses your point about Abraham and Moses not really knowing God.

    Blessings to you as I am now getting a deeper revelation of the old testament.

  7. hobbyie says:

    Decode hindu mythology blog by vineet aggarwal is a neat read for the creation story and first man woman tale with time dilation 🙂

  8. hobbyie says:

    Indra is a jealous insecure god of Swarga Loka 🙂

  9. hobbyie says:

    Shukra the god of morning star Venus and teacher of demons, master of ressurrection 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Interesting, hobbyie. I’m not familiar with Hindu mythology, but I do understand there are a lot of similarities in ancient religions and mythology around the world, of fickle gods who needed appeasement or else, they got angry,were jealous, insecure, etc. A lot of this paradigm is what God was deconstructing in Israel’s mindset. They saw God a lot like the gods of Babylon and Egypt, which, “when the fullness of time” had come, Jesus came to give us a better picture of what God is really like.

      Thanks for your comments. Blessings.

  10. Pingback: Jesus exegetes God | In My Father's House

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