The thing that drove me to searching into understanding the Person of God is the hope to find something that could help me to understand the way God relates to humans, and to me. Love is the most overused and misunderstood word in our vocabulary, and I needed to grasp the quality of love that God has for me. Some big questions that I could see haunting myself and my peers growing up were: if God made me, why did he make me? For what purpose did he choose to create me? Am I a piece of machinery in a great big mechanism of life? Was there some selfish motivation for why he made me? Do I rebel against God for his potential neglect of me? Or do I seek to gain his approval by performing worthy deeds, to make myself an object of his love?
Media’s perceptions of God
I honestly believe it is these questions that continue to surface in the mass media, especially through films. I understand that God is being represented as one who has created humanity with a sense of family love, and intimate relationships, however this is just an illusion that is masquerading to deceive humanity into a lie for the purpose of manipulation and control. It is a horrible thought that strips away the worth of the human soul. It is sickening to think that so many people are being fed this perception of God, which further works to make people reject the belief in a loving God. This false conception of God I believe has come through an ancient Jewish sect of thought: Gnosticism. The belief is basically that the Hebrew God that created this world is evil or imperfect who is the creator of the world, or namely the architect or Demiurge (meaning architect), but sought to oppress and tyrannically rule the human the race through fear, manipulation and control. See Wikipedia: Gnosticism. Through my experience teaching youth in high schools and interactions in many forms in including church I can see that some of these ideas have transmitted through to these young minds. I just want to scream, you are God’s precious child, and he loves you more than you will ever know!
A children’s film, of all things to be communicating loaded messages, Astro Boy showed me something shocking. A Father had his son tragically killed and to remedy the situation partnered with an inventor/scientist to put his son’s DNA into a robot. The son, Astro boy, when he came to life saw his father and embraced him, resuming the relationship he thought he sustained to him, unaware of his invention and robotic nature. While Astro boy loved the one he thought was his Father, his Father couldn’t conjure feelings of love towards this robot. Astro boy noticed his Father’s withdrawal and one day heard him speaking with the inventor/scientist saying: “He is not my son. I though this would work. But he is not my son”. Astro boy entered the room heart-broken only to hear his “father” say, “you have to understand this: You are not my son, you are a robot with the DNA of my son. I don’t love you. And I don’t want you anymore”. The next scene shows Astro boy flying through the atmosphere with tears welling up in his eyes.
Tears were welling up in my eyes also. Not because I got seduced in by the film, but because of the emotional and relational affects this could have on the children watching it. Due to the fact that this film is dealing with issues of creation, existence, and is potentially existential in nature, it is seemly very likely that this was designed to incite negative feelings towards God. How could people believe these horrible things about God? He is our tender Father. His deep-seated love for us as his beloved children, motivated to give His only-begotten Son to the world. He must cherish us! Else why would He pay such a costly price? “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also, with him, freely give us all things” (Romans 8:32). As the Father gave his Son to the world as a sacrifice to redeem man, He has revealed his character through the sacrifice. To counteract the lies, the feelings of worthlessness and degradation He chooses to give his Son as a ransom. The quality of love He experiences with his Son is the quality of love He experiences with the human family. If we lose Christ as the Son, we lose our childhood also.
To My Father and to your Father, to my God and your God John 20:17
In relation to the Godhead in the Adventist Church, it seems to me that often we appreciate aspects of the Father and Son relationship, yet we deny its literalness and confirm that it is only for a time in history God is manifest in this way.
“A plan of salvation was encompassed in the covenant made by the Three Persons of the Godhead, who possessed the attributes of Deity equally. In order to eradicate sin and rebellion from the universe and to restore harmony and peace, one of the divine Beings accepted, and entered into the role of the Father, another the role of the Son. The remaining divine Being, the Holy Spirit, was also to participate in effecting the plan of salvation.” Gordon Jenson, Adventist Review Oct. 31, 1996, p. 12.
Apart from being a complete assumption, this statement shifts the terms Father and Son from real persons to projected roles. This shift not only completely alters our perception of God but also our perception of ourselves.
As a simple example of how this role projection simply does not make sense take the example of Jesus in his prayer, for those that will believe in him through the ministry of the disciples, namely us, he says “I in them and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me” (John17:23).
I love this so much. It tells me that the quality of love that the Father has for his Son is the quality of love that he has for me! How could the Father love us AS He loved the Son unless He really is a Son. Love can’t be projected, Love is real and if the Father loves us AS He really loves His Son then it is impossible for this to be simply role projection.
The Father giving his Son for me says to me, “If I was prepared to give my only beloved Son for you, than who are you to me?” My response: “Then I must be your child. If you would be prepared to give your son for me then I must be loved with the same type of love. I am your son!” My heart jumps and I remember what it is like to be a boy, a beloved child, and the foundational stone for any true warrior.
I am your son, Oh God my Father, and what a privilege it is to be. I so much want to make you proud, and I thank you that you already are, simply because I am your child. I just feel to have you as my Dad makes me believe that I can be a man of valour. In your presence I feel within me the courage of a lion! And all this strength I boil down to something I can’t go without: that is, that I am free to fail or succeed. Either way I am loved. This is the joy of being a child of God. Outside of this belief in God I have nowhere to turn, no hope to find unconditional acceptance.
One of the final statements from Jesus before he left this world provides a key of understanding. After his resurrection, when speaking to the disciples he said, “I go unto my Father, and to your Father, to my God and to your God”. Here Christ is saying that both he and humanity sustain the same type of relationship with God the Father. Jesus links the words Father and God together and then states that His Father is our Father and that His God is our God. There is no difference.
As you read his text plainly, it seems that Jesus is saying that we have the privilege to enter into Christ, and experience the relationship He sustains to the Father. What are the implications if Christ is not speaking literally, or literally the Son of God? What would this declaration mean? How could we possibly find ourselves in our identity as God’s beloved children? It would read, “I go unto my role-playing Father, and your role-playing Father” Another expression for the following words, “My non-literal God, and your non-literal God”. This is terrible! Can we not see the grave consequences in losing Jesus as the Son of God? How can you find yourself outside of this truth? How can you know that you are His beloved child?
This statement by Ellen White really goes to the heart of the issue when she says:
“O that everyone would realize the great love, the self-sacrifice, the benevolence, and the kindness of our heavenly Father, in giving his Son to die for us that we might, if we believe and do his commandments, have a sweet peace, the Father's joy, the Father's love, and unite with him, heart, soul, mind, and strength, to maintain righteousness and to draw in even lines with Christ. It is not the sacrifice of Christ only; it is the Father's sacrifice also. The Father, in union and loving sympathy, with his Son, subjected himself to suffer with his Son. He spared not his only begotten Son but freely delivered him up for us all. This gift of Christ is the crowning truth of God's love, and his Fatherhood, through all time and through eternity. Here is the love of God in his Fatherhood. Let us drink in this love, that we may know by experience what a real, tender, joyful, experience there is in a realization of the Fatherhood of God”. Ellen G White, Spalding and Magan Collection Page 68.