Thursday, October 04, 2007

Arrogant God

Here's an excerpt from an interview by Brad Pitt (HT: iMonk):

I didn't understand this idea of a God who says, "You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I'm the best, and then I'll give you eternal happiness. If you won't, then you don't get it!" It seemed to be about ego. I can't see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.

I agree with Brad Pitt. I agree that

  • Many people represent God as an egomaniac whose primary concern is that everyone tells him how great he is.
  • Any God whose moral character is less than what he expects from his follower is not worthy of worship.
  • If God has self-esteem issues, then he is not much of a God.

Yes, God said, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). Sounds a little arrogant, doesn't it?

But what if he is the only true God?

Is it arrogant for a parent to encourage obedience from a two-year-old child?

While exclusive claims seem arrogant in our pluralistic society, true claims are not arrogant in substance. They certainly can be made in an arrogant way. But there is nothing inherently arrogant in saying:

Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you (Jeremiah 7:23).

Unfortunately, many people (Christians included) have a distorted view of God. They see him as a petty, vengeful, insecure demagogue. He wants people to tell him how great he is. He gets jealous when people deny him the attention he desires. He punishes people who refuse to acknowledge him.

But this is a warped view of God.

The best information we have about God is what we know about Jesus Christ. "God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him" (Colossians 1:19). John's gospel tells us that "the Word" was present before creation and was the active agent in creation. And this person, being God, became a human being (John 1:1–3, 14).

Jesus is the most complete revelation we have of God. "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only [the Word], who is at the Father's side, has made him known" (John 1:18).

Everything we think we know about God must be understood in light of what we know about Jesus Christ.

Jesus made exclusive claims:

I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35).

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins (John 8:24).

But there was nothing arrogant about his manner:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28–29).

In one of his last encounters with his disciples, Jesus shocked them by washing their feet, a menial task that no Rabbi could ask his students to perform for him. Then he explained:

You call me "Teacher" and "Lord," and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:13–15).

Those are not the words and actions of an arrogant person.

So here's what I have to say to Brad Pitt and others who feel the same way:

Yes, many arrogant people have constructed a God after their own image. And they see God as a big bully who demands recognition and veneration. They worship a God who doesn't follow his own rules.

But that is not the God of the Bible, the God who became human in the person of Jesus Christ.

He is a God whose primary characteristic is love.

Yes, it is necessary to acknowledge him as God. Yes, it necessary to submit to him as Lord.

But these are not arbitrary conditions, hoops that he made for us to jump through.

A patient must take the medicine to receive the cure. But it is not because the doctor is arrogant. (He may well be, but that is a different issue.) The treatment is determined by the diagnosis.

A two-year-old might like a parent who always says "Yes." But that would not be a loving parent. And the two-year-old might never become a three-year-old.

We really don't need God to be a genie in the sky who grants us all our wishes. We've seen enough movies to know how that turns out. What we need is someone who can diagnose and cure what is broken on the inside of us.

Take the real medicine. Don't settle for that cheap, imitation medicine that I keep getting spam about.

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"


Nathaniel said...

This reminds me of what Piper said about God throughout the Psalms. If one was to take an objective look at the claims and commandments of God throughout the bible, they would of course see God as an arrogant deity.

Worship me.
You will have no other gods but me.
Bow down before me.
Give tithes to me.

Some will see this as unflattering. I actually see it as magnificent. I can understand the claim that God is arrogant and proudful. And I think it is a very accurate claim, for He is.

Anyone's theology that attempts to discredit this part of God, and make Him out to be a non-self-exhaulting person, is a bad theology.

If at anytime someone tries to paint God as putting anything but Himself above all, they are sorely mistaken...

Remember that song, 'above took the fall, and thought of me...above all'...


God thought of, and thinks of, Himself above all. And He is perfectly justified in doing so. Why on earth would He tell His followers to worship Him above all, when He does not worship Himself above all? Silly people...

Noel Heikkinen said...

Good thoughts on this.

Oh, and thanks for the link.

Pastor Rod said...


Thanks for your passionate contribution.

I think part of the problem is our choice of words. I don't know if it is helpful to think of God as worshipping himself.

He certainly knows the reality of who he is. But our words arrogant and proud are morally charged.

I would argue that Jesus often put others before himself. And he called for his followers to do the same. The whole incarnation and crucifixion is about selflessness and sacrifice.

Thanks again for your thoughts. I'm sure you have still more to say.


Pastor Rod said...


Welcome. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


M. Pease said...

hi again; late to comment as usual.

I think that we must remember that the 10 "commandments" and the prophesies were given to a people that was already in a long term relationship with God. He revealed himself to them over centuries before He made such "demands".

The arrogance is ours when we take these statements out of context and tell people who do not know God; that there is no other God but Yahweh; that they must worship Him alone; and that they must obey His commandments. Also we have likely already depreciated their own experience/revelation of God as being invalid because they didn't happen in our religious context.

God, praised be His name, doesn't work that way.

JMC said...

I think that Brad Pitt is perhaps talking about the *idea* of what God is according some people, rather then the real, honest to goodness God. The *idea* of what God is no less an idol than the Golden Calf, regardless of whether it is form that idea from shear arrogance, written scripture, or a combination of the two.

Of course, I could be wrong. If Brad Pitt is dismissing the entire Christian religion off hand as faulty, he's doing himself a great disservice; there is more to it then what a few zealots claim there is on TV.

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