Friday, March 03, 2006

God as Giver

In the first chapter Volf is concerned with the gods we create in our own image. He states that:

'Yet the Most powerful and seductive images of God are not the ones we craft in the privacy of our hearts. They are the ones that seep into our minds as we watch TV, read books, go shopping at the mall, or socialize with our neighbors. Slowly and imperceptibly, the one true God begins acquiring the features of the gods of this World. For instance, our God simply gratifies our desires rather than reshaping them in accordance with the beauty of God’s own character. Our God then kills enemies rather than dying on their behalf as God did in Jesus Christ.'[1]

Two common (mis)conceptions of God that Volf wants to expose are those of god the negotiator and god as Santa Clause. God the negotiator is a god who is petitioned conditionally, if you give me X now, I promise Y later. This god is prominent especially in times of crisis, but certainly not limited to such times. The main problem with this conception is that it necessitates that we have something to negotiate with. The other problem is that even if we could broker a deal with God, an all powerful being can break any negotiated contract, we have no power to make sure God keeps his end of the bargain. The main point Volf is trying to make is that God doesn't make deals. God gives.

God as Santa Claus is a god that showers us with gifts. He does not lay down any prior conditions to the receiving of gifts. In fact he comes out of nowhere, showers us with gifts, then returns to nowhere. This is the god that is most akin to consumptive materialistic culture many of us find ourselves in. God gives freely, solves our problems, grants our wishes, and fulfills us. The problem with this conception of god is that it ignores what it means to be created in the image of God. It forgets that God creates with purpose. It fails to remember that we were created to be like God, not in all his divinity, but like God in 'true righteousness and holiness' (Eph 4.24). We are to be like God in loving our enemies, we are to be like God in loving our Neighbors, and we are to be like God in humility (renunciation of status). Volf comments that 'to live well as a human being is to live in sync with who God is and how God acts'.[2] 'The Santa Claus God gives simply so we can have and enjoy things; the true God gives so we can become joyful givers and not just self-absorbed receivers. God the giver has made us to be givers and obliges us therefore to give'.[3]

[1] Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 22.

[2] Volf, Free of Charge, 27.

[3] Volf, Free of Charge, 28.


Anonymous said...

Interesting, and oh, so true... making God in our image. Perhaps sometimes our identities are transformed by the 'Word of God', but predominantly it is that God is perceived within the constraints of our personalities and culture, whatever we allow God to be, and the paradigms for God's word, are similarly subjectively and/or culturally conditioned.

metalepsis said...

So right Minna! It is nice to have someone finally agree with me.

How do you suppose our identities are changed by the 'Word of God', I know that it is true from experience, or at least I think I do, but one can never be sure, huh. Any suggestions?