God All-Matey

Yesterday morning in a sermon the speaker (Dr Rick Thomas) lamented the fact that often God Almighty is reconfigured by us as God All-Matey. Classic! And so right. It never ceases to perplex me why many Christians seem to want a nice, cuddly God who can be their buddy.

Granted that God is not actually like this but why would people even want 'him' to be? That's what perplexes me.

I don't want God as an inflated version of my best mate (who is always in a good mood and just wants to cuddle people when they fall down). I want a God who smokes (in the Sinai sense). I want the transcendent-immanent God of the Bible. I want to know the God who surpasses knowledge.

Don't give me that slushy-puppy-God and don't teach my kids that God is like that!

Give us the God that makes us fall down on our faces in wonder, love, and awe. Anything else is in danger of being an idol.


Anonymous said…
Does this mean God in NOT good and NOT in a good mood?
Anonymous said…
I think the "God As-Matey" is a reaction to the harsh, God as despot and torturer image we've been given by certain theologians.

While God is not my mate, He is my father, and He does love me, though He is King of the Ages and the Almighty.

It's the balance that is always the problem...
Barry Huffman said…
"I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends" John 15:15

What do you make of this? Who is Jesus talking to? The disciples? Or does this apply to us today as well?

When does Jesus ever call his disciples (or us) slaves?

And if we have seen Jesus, we have seen Daddy, the Daddy who we have been adopted by and to whom we cry out "Daddy" to.

Is God sovereign and King? Yes, but He's my daddy.
Robin Parry said…
Anonymous 1

No it does not. God is good but God's goodness is not constituted by his being like a giant comfort blanket.

I don't tend to think of God being in any moods. I am not against the language of God being 'in a good mood' so long as we acknowledge that it is highly anthropomorphic and only gestures at a truth.
Craig Gardiner said…
i think the All Matey comment was coined by George MacLeod founder of the Iona Community
Robin Parry said…
Anonymous 2

You are correct and what you say about the balance is spot on. (Or so I think)
Robin Parry said…

I was not suggesting that God considers us as slaves (although there is a place for us to consider ourselves as 'slaves of Jesus Christ', as Paul did). Nor was I objecting to the language of God as friend (though it is rare in Scripture). I love the idea of us a children or friends of God.

I was objecting to the language of God as 'buddy', 'mate', 'geeza', and other terms which, it seems to me, diminishes God.

Consider the song "As the Deer" with the line

You're my friend and you are my brother, even though you are a king." Spot on! Contrast it with the idea of God like my mate having a chat over a pint.

Re: Daddy. I did not mention that. Personally I am not keen on God-as-Daddy. The problem is that 'Daddy' to a modern westerner does not have the same kind of overtones that 'Abba' would have had to Jesus. (Years ago James Barr wrote an article on this entitled "'Abba' is not 'Daddy'"). The language of God as Father in the Bible is indeed intimate and wonderful but it is not sentimental in the kind of way that many contemporary uses of 'Daddy' language are.

So I am not opposed to the use of 'Daddy' language but I am cautious. I feel that 'Father' gets us closer to the biblical notions but it does depend on different contexts of use and different users
Barry Huffman said…

I never meant that you were suggesting that God considers us slaves. Just asking the question "What did Jesus mean by his statement?"

While I agree that some may take it too far, I truly believe that there was a definitive, even ontological, shift in how we are to relate to God through Christ that Jesus himself revealed to us.

So while Paul did call himself "a slave to Jesus", I believe he was describing the fact that though through Christ he was set free, he chose for himself to remain a bond-servant.

To me, God as my friend does not mean I think he "is always in a good mood and just wants to cuddle [me] when [I] fall down", but it also means he is not "a God who smokes (in the Sinai sense)."
I can't stand the 'God All-Matey' tendency. Probably one of the worst tendencies in modern evanglicalism.

I think it distorts the biblical picture of what a relationship with God really means.
BarryHuffman said…

In you interpretation, what is the biblical picture of what a relationship with God really means?

To know God as protector, lord, healer, provider and redeemer.

When we see the words 'friend of God' in Scripture, we have to be careful not to read into that our own modern conceptions of what friendship entails.

There is practically no evidence that the writers of Scripture saw a relationship with God in terms of having a conversation with God everyday, as a lot of Christians, particularly charismatics view their relationship with God.

Every Blessing in Christ

Robin Parry said…

I think that we almost agree. I suspect that the only point on which we differ is that my view is that God that we know as Father IS "the God who smokes". Or, the God who is close to us IS the transcendant God.

I do think that Christ inaugurates an ontological change in how we relate to God but not in the God to whom we relate.

So I suspect that we don't really differ ... much
BarryHuffman said…

OK, you told me what you don't think it is. He is not a friend as we understand friend. How should I understand friend in a scriptural sense?

Our relationship with God is not in terms of having a conversation with God everyday. What then is our relationship with God?

I truly want to hear your opinion.
BarryHuffman said…
I agree with you that we are mostly in agreement.

I also agree that the God who is close to us IS the transcendent God. I just think that our OT understanding of "the God who smokes" comes from the human perspective.

I guess this has more to do with how we define the bible as inspired. As God breathed his life into humanity, so I believe he breathed his life into texts that this humanity produced.

I also think that Christ not only inaugurated an ontological change in how we relate to God but also in the perfect revelation of the God to whom we relate.
Robin Parry said…
I see where you are coming from but ...

The God who smokes is in both OT and NT so it is not clear to me that it is just a human idea nor that the NT moves 'beyond' it in the sense of leaving it behind.

I think that the NT allowed us to situate such an image of God in a wider context but I see nothing in the NT that allows us to abandon such aspects of God.

(Crumbs alive! I am a universalist after all, so I think God loves all people and will save all people. So my understanding of God's wrath, etc is theologically nuanced in ways that are NT-informed)

So I would say that Sinai is all about divine self-revelation. To relegate it to human-generated ideas is a more radical move than you might wish to make. Progressive revelation widens and deepens earlier revelation but I don't see it rendering it as non-revelation

What is a relationship with God?

Knowing what He is to us and what we are to Him and of course, our participation in His self-giving programe towards the cosmos.
BarryHuffman said…

This is obviously not a new issue that we are working our way through. Reconciling the OT Jehovah with the NT Jesus.

Years ago I read Ezekiel 14 and saw it as God speaks to us but our hearing is filtered through filters/idols that we hold. We all have certain erroneous views/ understandings of God.

When liberals hear God, they hear him talk liberalism to them; when evangelicals hear God, they hear through an evangelical filter; when charismatics hear from God , they hear him in tongues :)

My point is that I believe that we also hear from him through cultural context. Ancient, tribal people hear him as an ancient tribal God; modernity hears a modern God; post-modernity hears a post-everything God; and westerners hear a Constantinian-shifted God.

So we hear the God of the OT through the writings of an ancient, tribal culture filtered through our Constintinian, modern/post-modern world view. At least this is how I can live with the scriptures with out moving all the way to Marcionism.

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