Notes from Andy Stanley’s talk “Gods of the No Testament”, part 2 (of 6) from the Who Needs God? series.
Everyone has religious doubts. Certain things about God are unsettling. Our circumstances can make God seem distant or vengeful. Science can make God seem unnecessary. Those doubts can cause us to abandon faith. But maybe our perspectives are wrong. Maybe the gods we abandon never existed to begin with.
Where did your view of God originate? To what extent do those influences continue to shape how you view God?
Maybe at some point, you received faith-based answers to your fact-based questions, which were not sufficient for you.
For many of us, the framework we were handed as children did not survive the realities and rigors of adulthood.
“…many of us have been left stranded with an incoherent concept of God. We learned about God at about the same time as we were told about Santa Claus. But while our understanding of the Santa Claus phenomenon evolved and matured, our theology remained somewhat infantile. Not surprisingly, when we attained intellectual maturity, many of us rejected the God we had inherited and denied that he existed.”
-Karen Armstrong, The Case for God
We probably all have some version of a somebody-told-me-so god. The gods we grew up with really don’t exist.
Our growing-up gods:
- The god that will protect you from bad things (and not allow bad things to happen to good people).
- The god who always responds to fair and selfless requests, the way we would (of course!).
Boyfriend (or girlfriend) god
- The god whose presence should always be felt.
- Leads to the wrong thinking of: “If I don’t feel his presence he is not present.”
- Andy describes: we are least aware of the things that are most constant.
- The god who controls you through guilt and fear.
- If it’s enjoyable, the answer is no.
- This god loves you, but he doesn’t like you.
- The god that forces you to choose between undeniable science and unreliable religion (which asks you to live with your eyes closed).
- The idea that you need to quit thinking and just start believing.
- Andy explains: God or science is a false alternative. If everything was explained and explainable, it would not explain away God.
- The god that conveniently shows up as an explanation for everything we can’t currently explain.
- Andy taught: Unexplainable is not evidence for the existence of God.
- Unexplainable today may be explainable tomorrow.
Where did your view of the god you struggle to believe in originate?
Do you still have a “mommy’s tummy” faith? (Watch the message for context 🙂
Faith in No Testament gods— the bodyguard god, on-demand god, boyfriend god, guilt god, antiscience god, gap god, and angry-Old-Testament god—leads to unmet expectations, childhood explanations, ill-informed interpretation, and blatant manipulation. We invent these “gods” based on expectations we put on the true God. That’s an irrational way to determine if God is real.