Why Divine Personhood Offends us to the point of Deicide

Dead RaisingRaising the Dead Thought Experiment

The above link is the raising the dead thought experiment where I discuss what might happen if an Iranian cleric was able to raise the dead and why the peoples of the world might have some level of fascination, but not enough to change themselves, and why the governments of the world would have to kill him.

This shows a number of things, one of which is why a personal, all-powerful god is so offensive to us.

The Convenience of the Impersonal

We love impersonal things. Why? Because they are useful.

We love machines because if they are good working machines (or processes) they will yield the intended outcome we desire. The gun discharges the bullet for the jerk and the saint. Your smartphone manages your life if you are a CEO or a Facebook grandma. That is how we as personal beings want the world to work.

In fact we want the world to work this way so much we do our level best to turn people into machines. We do everything we can, physically, spiritually, turn them into machines that serve us. We’ve done this in history through tyranny, slavery, and we do it today through employment.

Think about how that word. “employment”. We “employ” people to do for us what we want to or need to have done. We want people to be “professional” which means to be de-personal. To prioritize the “employment” responsibility, to bracket out their personal ideas, commitments, personalities and simply become a tool for those who pay them money to do it. It is a financial, economic transaction.

Impersonal Religion

We have long employed religion to be a transaction. We do this both with personal and impersonal deities and demigods.

For personal deities the key is to find out what the god wants and fill it conditionally. The watered down church growth strategy of this is “find a need and meet it”. It is fundamentally an exchange.

With an worldview that has an impersonal god all you need to do is find the source or trick to power and then employ it. That was the climax of the movie Avatar. Figure out how the god or the universe or “being itself” works and work it. Personal always trumps (and employs) impersonal.

This is why we long to impersonalize persons and desire that the universe, whether through ancient worldviews or modern materialism, be impersonal. Once the universe is depersonalized or impersonalized we are its king, or even better I am its king.

A Personal God

This is what makes a personal god so offensive, especially if that personal god has no needs that we can fill. This is of course the great insight and contribution of the Hebrews. Their god was all powerful, alone, and had nothing he needed from us. The audacity of the concept!

What was audacious about it is that this god would pick and chose, and we could do little about it. This god decided, acted or didn’t act, and we could do little about it. This god was not, could not be, and will never be subject to us the way we want machines to be subject, other people to be subject and the universe to be subject to us.

This god forces us to confront the terrible truth about us, that we are so ambitious as to want to be god ourselves without the power or the wisdom to pull it off. This realization is so hateful to us we suppress it, live in denial of it, and keep it far from us.

Second only to the horror if this reality is the fact that this offensive, all-powerful, personal god commands that we respect other persons. He demands and will hold us accountable to this command, that we love them and not use them, that we serve them and not simply “employ” them, that we treat them and to a large degree their exercise of personhood with respect because their personhood was created as a mirror of the great person who authors the universe. We want this to be for ourselves as individuals, but we resist it for others, especially the others we don’t like and who are not like us.

Why We Kill the Dead Raiser

This is why we would deny, resist, or eliminate someone who could raise the dead. If we could raise the dead by science, well that would be OK because science is impersonal. If a person is raising the dead, however, and we discover that this person is not “employable”, then this person must die. This person must die because this person is not me and I really can’t fully trust anybody but me.

How do you kill a person with enough power to raise the dead? You can, only if he lets you.

I am the Light of the World

In John 9 Jesus says of himself “I am the light of the world.”

In John 3 he noted that we love the darkness rather than the light because our deeds are evil.

The dead raiser illuminates us in the world by showing the world, and more terribly ourselves, who and what we really are. He also shows us the only way out, to worship him. Jesus must be worshiped or Jesus must be killed. Fortunately for us both have happened.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in On the way to Sunday's sermon and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Why Divine Personhood Offends us to the point of Deicide

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