The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

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Do you fear God?

Hi everyone. Good conversation today. One issue that I thought of but didn't have time to discuss is the idea of fearing God, or God requiring our fear. It is commonly said, and I believe mostly rightfully so, that there are two different Gods in the Bible, the Old Testament God that we must fear and the New Testament God that we should love. While I understand the two are not mutually exclusive, in my own life I can say that I love God, but I do not "fear" Him, in the sense that I worry that he is going to make things bad for me or something. Rather, I just recognize that those things will happen.

Today we were talking the story of the Garden of Eden and we were discussing how much God seems like a total jerk. It occurred to me that when this story was written (divinely or otherwise) there was a great need to fear God. This was a time period when people prayed for rain or saw all sickness as a result of sin. For them, it made perfect sense to fear God because if he got mad at you, things could go very badly. Now, we understand when it is going to rain and why people get sick - most of the mystery is gone if you will. I am not worried that if I don't fear God then He won't let it rain on my crops. Instead, I watch the weather channel and irrigate if I need to (okay, I don't do that...but I'm sure there are people that do).

The question is, should modern Christians fear God, since we now have the knowledge of Jesus?


Jane Johnson said...

A question that goes along with this one and perhaps encompasses it - is fear of God a human construct that the Revelation of Christ abolished? Do we see, in the depiction of God as punishing humans when they are disobedient, the influence of Middle Eastern culture of the time when it was written down? As Nick has said, my understanding of ancient, Middle Eastern religions is that in their theologies god was always the direct source of life's necessities and had to be appeased through sacrifice and obedience, or he would punish the people and withhold his bounty. Perhaps the chief architects of the Genesis story were influenced by this way of thinking. Throughout the OT I think there are hints that the Jewish God wasn't this kind of God, such as the wonderful "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice" of Hosea. Even the enlightened Greeks and Romans believed that their gods had to be appeased for blessings to flow. So it seems that when Christ came along and preached that God required only a few things from man, and that appeasement was not one of them, this was still a pretty radical idea.

Adam Newby said...

I won't get real theological here. I'm not even sure of the meanings of the original Hebrew words in the OT or the Greek words in the NT. I'll just say that I don't equate fear with being scared. I feared my parents when I was a kid. But I wasn't afraid of them. In fact, when I was afraid, I went to them for comfort. However, I feared them. I feared them enough to listen to them when they told me to do something or not do something when they told me not to. I loved and feared my parents simultaneously.

Mike said...

Something that I wanted to mention tonight, but was unable was Ezekiel 18:23,32. God says that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Rather, he wishes them to come to repentance. Earlier in chapter 16 of that same book, he forgives them for all for their wrongdoing.

I think the more you read about God in the old testament, you see a different picture of who he is. He may make very profound statements, but behind it all he cares very much for his people. He loves them so much, that he would honor the covenants he made with them, even if they didn't themselves. Jane mentioned the book of Hosea, which I believe provides a beautiful picture of God's faithfulness to Israel.

Paul Rimmer said...

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 1:7)

I suppose in my own thoughts on this, coming from outside the Emerging conversation, the Authorship of the Scriptures, if truly inspired, would not allow anything to be within the Bible without a reason. And the split between Old and New Testaments isn't so complete.

Acts 9:31 mentions the blessings of the fear of the Lord, and its being linked so deeply to the comforting of the Holy Spirit. Also speaking about fearing God is Acts 13:26, 19:17, Romans 11:20, 2 Corinthians 7:1, and many others.
But this sort of fear cannot be a fear of wrath, but something else.

St. Teresa of Avila said "I am more afraid of those who fear the devil than I am of the devil himself..." though later she reconciles this by noting that fearing God perfectly results in not fearing anything else at all.

C.S. Lewis was always bothered by the presumption that God was safe, because if God is safe for us, then God is in a box, under our control to a greater extent, and so if God is safe, we are not.

I, personally, desire to worship a dangerous God. And I do think this is important for modern Christians.

My two cents.