Friday, August 16, 2013

Squishy Love

Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, has a thoughtful article called "No Squishy Love" on the wrath of God and how certain strands of thinking have a tendency want to think of God as love only. He quotes H. Richard Niebuhr on certain theological projects:
A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.
He also quotes Tertullian of the Marcionite sect:
a better god has been discovered, one who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts punishment, who has no fire warming up in hell, and no outer darkness wherein there is shuddering and gnashing of teeth: he is merely kind. Of course he forbids you to sin – but only in writing.
The Latin of this is:
deus melior inventus est, qui nec offenditur nec irascitur nec ulciscitur, cui nullus ignis coquitur in gehenna, cui nullus dentium frendor horret in exterioribus tenebris: bonus tantum est. Denique prohibet delinquere, sed litteris solis. (Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem 1.27).
The god of Marcion looks very similar to the god of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. His description is as follows:
God is not demanding. He actually can't be, because his job is to solve our problems and make people feel good. In short, God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process. (Christian Smith, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, with Melinda Lundquist Denton [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005], 165).
So the obvious question for those who believe in a god of squishy love: What happens if you are wrong?