Saturday, May 26, 2012
Your God is Too Small!
Book by JB Phillips
I recently finished this amazing little book (Available at your local library or on Amazon.com) and thought I would share some of the insights that I found particularly helpful.
Phillips begins the book by describing what God is NOT. He addresses many of the common attitudes or thoughts toward God. He elaborates on the ways we box up God incorrectly either for our own comfort or because we do not know our Bibles, only what we have heard or been told.
Some of the following is my paraphrase of Phillips' points.
God is NOT:
My Conscience (that nagging inner voice.)
My Father (my actual Father, Mr. Horner - in other words, a parental hangover.)
My Old Man (old, antiquated, old fashioned, weak)
My Teddy Bear (Mild, sentimental, soft)
My Perfectionist (only interested in what is perfect)
My Escape (a place to hide)
My Religion (A Lutheran)
My CEO (involved, started the whole thing, but detached, impersonal, "The Man")
My Hand-Me-Down God (re-hashed conglomerate of everything I hear, read and see)
My Big Let-Down (a god who disappoints because he lets evil & pain occur)
My Big Frown (lacks vitality, stiff, no sense of humor, negative, angry)
My Reflection (A god who feels, acts and thinks the way I do, & we share a moral compass)
My Mystic Saint (a spiritual feeling or experience, a vision)
There is an 'essence' of all of the above, some truth in each, but God is not accurately reflected nor wholly contained in any or all of the above.
Below are some other statements Phillips makes that I found quite amazing. He seems very interested in helping us realize that we way we see and treat God inhibits or stunts our relationship with him and is detrimental to others.
Is God with us? Maybe not.
"There are doubtless many reasons for the degeneration of Christianity into "churchiness" and the narrowing of the Gospel into a set of approved beliefs, but the chief cause must be the worship of an inadequate god, a cramped, regulated god who is a "good church goer" according to the formulas of the worshipper. If Christians believe that God works exclusively through the machinery they have erected, and damns all other machinery which does not bear their label, they cannot be surprised when God "refuses to join their union...no denomination has a monopoly on God's grace and none has the exclusive recipe for producing Christian character."
"If you've got the corner on God, you've put God in a box."
Why do truly beautiful things cause us to feel slightly sad?
"True beauty always seems to bear with it a note of gentle sadness, sometimes very poignant, and it may well puzzle us why this should be? If beauty is so desireable and so welcome, it should surely bring inqualified joy. There is rarely an accompanying sadness in other early joys...in a hearty meal, solving a problem, fulfillment of creativity...there is joy but no melancholy. It is perhaps because pure beauty is a hint of the real and true and permanent so that we feel, "This is what life should be, or what it is in reality." And therefore to compare that to our ordinary everyday experience with all its imperfection and ugliness gives rise to the poignant pain?...Is the eternal spirit remembering in his house of clay the shining joys of his real home?"
Why do some call Jesus just a great teacher or historical figure?
To call Jesus the greatest Figure in History or a Fine Moral Teacher the world has ever seen commits no one to anything. But once the startled mind accepts the fact that this man is really God, may commit anyone to anything! There is every excuse for blundering in the dark, but in the light there is no cover from reality. It is because we strongly sense this, and not merely because we feel that the evidence (for God) is ancient or scanty, that we shrink from committing ourselves to such a far reaching belief as that Jesus Christ is really God."
What really matters in this world?
"If we are really seeing in human relationships fragmentary and faulty but real refelctions of the Nature of God, a flood of light is immediately released upon all the life that we can see. People, and our relatinonships with them become of tremendous importance. Much of life is seen as merely a "setting", its stage, its props - the BUSINESS of it is in the realm of personality: it is people not things that matter."
Example: The setting: Trial & Crucification of Jesus in Rome due to jealousy, fear, hatred of those around Him. Relationship: Jesus with God and Jesus with us. "The fact is wherever and whenever Christ would have appeared: evil would clash with Incarnate Good and whether it was a cross, rope, guillotine, or a gas chamber, Christ would choose to accept death for humanity's sake."
The Beatitudes, in the style of JB Phillips:
"Happy are those who realize their spiritual poverty: They have already entered the Kingdom of reality.
Happy are those who bear their share of the world's pain: in the long run they will know more happiness than those who avoid it.
Happy are those who accept life and their own limitations: they will find more in life than anybody.
Happy are those who long to be TRULY good: they will fully realize their ambition.
Happy are those who are ready to make allowances and forgive: they will kno wthe love of God.
Happy are those who are real in their thoughts and feelings: in the end they will see the ultimate reality - God.
Happy are those who help others to live together: they will be known to be doing God's work.
Your God is Too Small is definitely worth reading and while it's small size makes it an easy read, you'll want to read it slowly and let it digest. What you'll find inside is profound and thought provoking.
As many of you know, JB Phillips does a great modern, paraphrased version of the Bible ("The Bible in Modern English") that is now out of print. To buy a used copy, check out amazon.com or half.com