Thursday, June 16, 2011

Identity Theft

Imagine if you would if I were in a conversation with you and made mention of someone’s name that you likewise know. Further, let’s say that the someone’s name we both mention is not actually the same person at all—different personality, abilities, perhaps even gender—but we go on for a time until we realize that you and I are not speaking about the same person. This is a common dilemma in many conversations with persons of various religious views. We use the same terminology but do not mean the same person. The names God, Spirit or Jesus are empty so to speak until we fill them with content. The content of the name defines who that person is and who they are not…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let us move the discussion to a personal analogy. I’ll use myself so as not to risk offending anyone. I wouldn’t even venture to guess how many other Ian Curtis’s there are in the world, but I am finding out that there are quite a few as I enter the public forum with my writing. Now at the risk of sounding utterly pointless: none of those other Ian Curtis’s is me. How do I know this? There is a defined set of criteria that one would have to meet to be me. Being me, I tend to set the standard for what those criteria are. I am a Christian, a husband, a father of three, I’m (presently) 34, I work at Subway, I live in Minnesota, I never went to college, I am a fantasy writer and I like cartoons. That is only the tip of the iceberg.

What am I getting at, exactly? Just this: simply because you invoke the name of Ian Curtis does not automatically mean that you are referring to me. Even if you think that you’re referring to me, if you happen to have the wrong information (perhaps using an internet search and learning about the wrong Ian Curtis) you are in fact describing someone else entirely and positing this information under my name. If this was an honest mistake and I came along and corrected you, and you accepted the correction, then well enough. No harm done. But if after you met the real Ian Curtis that you were searching for, didn’t like what you found (or just decided your imaginary Ian Curtis was better or more tailored to your tastes) there is no more excuse. It’s identity theft; you have stolen my identity and grafted another in that pleases you more. Your personal tastes, bias or ignorance at this point means more to you than whether or not you have actually been told the truth.

Who we are as individuals is important. There is only one of me in this entire world, and that is all there will ever be! If you were blindly hunting for someone who fit my profile precisely but didn’t have my name, you would have about a 1 in six billion chance of finding the man you’re looking for. Not good odds. Suppose, however, that I knew you were looking for me and wanted to find me. Suppose I knew who you are and how to contact you. The easiest way to overcome the insurmountable odds on your part would be for me to use my knowledge to contact you and satisfy your search with its object: namely me. In this kind of blind search your odds are so dismal as to be hopeless…unless, as I stated, I determine to reveal myself and allow you to get to know me. At that point the ball is in your court. You may decide that you don’t like what you see after all, or prefer the imaginary image you have set up of me, or may decide that I am lying and conclude that I don’t even exist. I think you can see where I’m going with this.

The name of God is the most pointless name in existence until we begin to define the nature of His person. If God is, and has anything to do with us, then we can expect that God is articulate like we are, intelligent like we are, possesses emotion like we do, has a will like we do, and can clearly express His thoughts and desires in a way that we may perceive. This is the very least I would expect from anyone called “God.” If you posit God with a will, then God also has a mind; the ability to think and form abstract thoughts and clearly define His characteristics to mankind. If you forbid God to have a mind or will then I find the usage of the term “God” to be pointless. The name “God” is the supreme good, an absolute expression of what is right, just, beautiful, or awesome. A mindless entity without a will, no matter how expansive or powerful, is beneath humanity because we possess something “it” does not: the ability to think and express ourselves in abstract ways. An effect is never greater than its cause; if this is the “God” you espouse then we are greater than God, and therefore God never really plays any part in our development.

The prophecies of the Old Testament are an incredible proof of a mind and will existing outside of our time and space. The Bible demonstrated that this God was a clearly defined individual who could express in plain terms what He loved, what He hated, His relationship with humanity and our responsibility toward Him. Prophecy, as it were, became a set of criteria (like my list above) to reveal to us the moment we have found the God we have been looking for, because He has been searching for us a lot longer. Fulfilled prophecy painted a portrait of God’s uncanny knowledge of future events, and His ability to ensure that they would come to pass as He stated, as a proof that it was indeed the true God of the universe speaking, and not someone attempting to encroach on His credentials and position. Jesus Christ was shown to be the Messiah by no less than 108 unique prophecies from the Old Testament; all of them fulfilled during his 30+ years on earth. Some were told thousands of years in advance. Some were fulfilled during his conception and birth—things He could hardly have manipulated. God took tremendous pains in Christ to show us who He was; He left a trail of bread crumbs for anyone with honest eyes to spot and follow, and be rewarded for their search.

Yet we seem to want to construct a “cookie-cutter God” that is always less of a being than humanity is. How many times have you heard someone tout “God is love!” I agree; but why stop there? Is that all God is, to the exclusion of all other personality traits? Are you only love? Am I only love? Humans have the capacity to love and hate, we possess a sense of fairness and justice, we demonstrate discernment and prudence, we abhor what is evil and celebrate what is good the majority of the time. Is God less than this? Do we have a higher capacity to perceive, comprehend and execute justice or fairness than God does? Love untamed becomes a complete perversion of its intent. Love was meant to elevate a neighbor higher than oneself; love does no harm to another and seeks the welfare of others. The God of Christianity is this loving God: He seeks the welfare of sinful and fallen man out of love, to repair and restore the ruined relationship we once had with Him. The gospels are replete with incidents of Jesus Christ seeking the lost out of love. Yet to say that Christ was “only about love” ignores huge portions of the gospels where He berated and derided the Pharisees and the proud for their snobbery, cruelty and hypocrisy. Is this the Jesus you’re aware of? Or have so many others been invented you no longer know who He really is?

The name of God has been hijacked by well intentioned but poorly informed religious liberals who want to liberate God from the bad baggage of His former career. That is why the name of God and Jesus mean nothing anymore until we discuss what we mean when we use such words: by doing this (liberating God) we have emptied Him of any meaning or personality. God to me is not a meaning, symbol, cosmic consciousness or mass of unthinking love that forgives without fairness or justice. God is a person, and the only way you can speak with honesty about a person is to know that person. The only way you can know someone is to establish a relationship. A relationship must be mutual; a consensual agreement between both parties. The problem is that God has already offered His hand in the person of Jesus Christ. Through faith in Him we may know God, have a relationship with Him, and be restored into fellowship with our Maker. According to the Bible that is the only terms in which God will meet us. He does not negotiate because He is just; He offered reconciliation because He is merciful. You may continue to seek God while ignoring His clear demands and affirmation of who He is; but you will seek Him unto eternity in vain. May God give you clarity.

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