Dave and Liddle,
The “common terminology” of which I wrote in my first comment meant the buzz words used among Christians and known to themselves alone. Sadly, many of us Christians use those words and phrases with non-Christians seeking a positive response. If you use the phrase “washed in the blood of the Lamb” for example with a non-believer you are more likely to terrify him than convert him.
But, I sense that Christians and Atheists have one temptation in common: to put God in a Box (except for the Atheist, the Box was always empty anyway). That temptation is understandable. We can only work within our limitations. We humans are really proud of our science and logic. We feel noble and empowered when we assert dominion over nature, things, and people. We feel, in a word, “godlike.”
The next step is inevitable: we put God in the box of our logic and human understanding. Once there, he is in the “witness box” of our constant cross-examination. Why God do you hand out parking spaces on the whim of a prayer, while giving that kindly woman over there pancreatic cancer? The cross-examination has a sort of courtroom flair to it. It ends with a the flourish of a rhetorical ending question: “Just what kind of god are you anyway?”
Freud died a miserable death of pain from jaw cancer, and never deviated from his atheistic convictions. Now that is a powerful faith. I sense for him his pain was confirmation of his faith, for the very reason Liddle impliedly states: no god worth his divine salt would do this to me.
So, my atheist brothers, I appreciate the clarity of the issue presented by your honest assessments of “this kind of god.” The book of Job wrestles with related issues, I think. Job’s wife, as I recall, takes an “atheist” posture of sorts. She urges Job to curse God, die, and be done with it. In the last chapter of Job, God, as usual, has the last word: He asks Job where Job was when He was creating the wonders of the Universe? He challenges Job to know the “how” and “why” of things frankly far beyond his human capacities to explain.
At this juncture, for you and me, the “common terminology” ends. You take the “courageous” position of shaking your fist at God. Like Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” you declare that you would spit into the face of the sun itself if it insulted you.
I on the other hand, am overwhelmed by the evidence for a Creator. My logic leads me to a different conclusion: God exists, and He exists as He pleases, for His own purposes. I am in the relationship of the creature to the Creator. As a lower order of being, I have limited understanding. I decline to “overstate the case” for my anthropomorphic ideas of what God “should” be like. [Usually that he should be “fair” and “just” according to my definitions].
The irony of course, is that I believe God’s attributes include that He is perfectly “fair” and “just.” I even believe that we, created in His image, that is, having reason, creativity, intentionality, and logic, also share in limited degree these attributes of “fairness and justice.” Unlike you, I accept the reality of “sin,” that is, the use of freedom to defy God. Much of our suffering originates from our rebellion against God. The quandary we face is that a “perfect” God has either created or tolerates an “imperfect” world in which there is suffering.
I think we Christians and atheists have in common that we value human freedom. Christians value above all else “love” for “God is love” [Gospel of John]. Love is impossible without freedom. Freedom is meaningless if it is without the consequences associated with free choice. We suffer from our own wrong choices, and we suffer from those made by others. In the Christian world view, we suffer generationally from the sins and patterns of sin of the first humans. We even believe that sin is not limited to our arbitrary boundaries of the mental, physical, or spiritual. Sin infects all dimensions of existence, all aspects of culture and consciousness. Our physical world itself is “fallen.” As a lyricist friend of mine recently entitled one of his songs: “All Things Beautiful are Broken.”
Christians believe God entered this broken state of affairs in the person of Jesus. We believe that Jesus offered a compelling and rational response to this broken world: Choose to healed of this brokenness by faith in Him as the Healer of all brokenness. He is the God who restores.
This kind of love is undeserved and it is offered as a unilateral reconciliation. In accepting it, our consciousness is “redeemed” and we will live beyond the decay of this broken world in new bodies that will not decay. We will be restored to eternal life. Living within God’s law, we will know joy, peace, and fulfillment at levels we cannot understand now. Even now, Christ followers have already entered by faith into the beginnings of that life, and already experience some of the satisfactions of “heaven.”
If I could wish one thing for us all, it would be that we encounter God personally, without the baggage of religion. I also would wish for us that we suspend some of our arrogance on both sides of the fence. I could certainly relax the idea that I have nailed the idea of God, or what He is up to. Atheists I think could relax the idea that they have His non-existence nailed, or that, if He exists, He is up to no good. More openness and humility would certainly do the human race good, whatever our positions might be.