Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The 4 Faces of God

Baylor University (with Gallup, the noted polling organization) has completed a study called "American Piety in the 21st Century: New Insights into the Depth and Complexity of Religion in the United States" in which they examined how people percieved God. A fascinating article about that can be found here.

They categorized the four views of God (according to the above source) as:
— Authoritarian God: Individuals who follow this model feel God is highly involved in their personal lives and world affairs, they give the Deity credit for their decision-making, and they feel God is angry and meting out punishment to the wicked.

— Benevolent God: These believers also think God is very active in their daily life, just not as wrathful. They believe Benevolent God is mostly a force for positive influence in the world, and reluctant to condemn individuals.

— Critical God: The faithful of this subset believe God is not meddling in world affairs but is nonetheless looking on in disapproval. These people tend to believe that God's displeasure will be felt in another life, and that divine justice is not of this world.

— Distant God: Individuals in this group think that Distant God is not active in humanities affairs, and is not especially angry, either. Believers consider the Deity more of a cosmic force who sets the laws of nature into motion.

Although this study was broader than just Christians, it is easy to see why Christian liberals and Christian conservatives cross swords. They may in fact believe in entirely different images of God. Christianity Today also has an interesting summary of the results, for example "About 20 percent of Americans have read one of the 12 Left Behind novels or megachurch pastor Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life. Nearly 50 percent have seen Mel Gibson's feature film, The Passion of the Christ. About 40 percent say that born-again or Bible-believing best describes their religious identity."

This study will also be done in 2007 so that comparisons can be made.

The different natures of God are not nuanced, they are dramatic. It has me despairing that we will ever be able to find a way to meaningful dialogue. Still, miracles happen.

Commentary from Baylor: bottom of page links to a pdf of the report


Blogger Maggie Rose said...

one of the faces of God that means the most to me is that of the Son: Jesus...the incarnation that puts a human face on an unknowable Power and the One with whom I can have an actual relationship...both of comfort and of challenge. he leads me. and him, I follow willingly.

when God's face is too abstract and comes off of laws or regulations, I have the greatest difficulty and my faith suffers the most.


7:31 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

yes, and how do you bridge the gap between yourself and others who believe in a deeply judging and angry God? That is such a dilemma.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Maggie Rose said...

right. that IS a tough one. got any suggestions? *seriously* (other than remaining calm, being attentive to their point of view, and praying for them. that's all I've got.) this is a serious question that you ask. very serious. it is rampant. I am currently (re)listening to a Joseph Campbell tape collection that I have and he is brilliant in so many areas of explaining the metaphor of myth. but each time he refers to Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, his voice literally changes tone and becomes repressed and angry. I can just "hear" his frustration.


12:00 PM  

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