Is your God too small?


The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge - Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville



Some followers of Jesus tend to reduce God to lowest terms. Without realizing what they are doing they attempt to capture God so they will know the truth and right from wrong. Their outlook on a relationship with God is often based not on a love relationship but on one of obedience. If they get it right, they go to heaven. If they get it wrong, they go to hell. Right religion for them serves as eternity fire insurance. And in an attempt to achieve this goal they may try to lock God in the Bible. Without any evidence to prove that every word was dictated by God, they choose to overlook teachings in the Bible that contradict each other, and don’t seem bothered that Jesus changed many teachings previously taught. In this quest for certainty, the question then arises, “Did God change his mind, or did the Bible just get it wrong the first time?”

Through the centuries people have tried to lock God in a book, doctrine, a tabernacle, or a tradition. We seem to

prefer certitude to Mystery. But once we bring God down to ideas we can understand and control, what we have isn’t God. We have a little booklet of those things we understand; or at worst, an idol to worship. But there is more!

A God that is too small can get one in trouble. For instance, if you believe that you have to be baptized to go to heaven you have managed to eliminate most of the people who have ever lived, including all of the Old Testament prophets and personalities, such as Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and a long list of other religious leaders. You have eliminated everyone in the other two monotheistic religions, Judaism and Islam, who also take their origins from Abraham, who was not baptized. If this is the gist of your thought, you have created a God who is more interested in condemning people than in bringing love, peace, and new life. A verse from Mark’s Gospel (16:16) may call one to discipleship with Jesus through baptism, but the verse was written at least forty years after Jesus’ death by someone who never met Jesus personally. It’s one thing to encourage people to follow Jesus, and another to condemn everyone who hasn’t been sprinkled or dunked. It seems unlikely that God desires to eternally destroy most of humanity. Is it a vicious God we worship? Since God dwells within each of us, does God

choose to condemn “himself” if a person isn’t wearing a Christian label? What’s to be gained by pretending to be God as the judge?

People used to think that the world was flat and that the sun rotated around the earth. This is what the Church taught based on their reading of Scripture. But Copernicus and Galileo discovered those notions to be false. The Church then declared Copernicus and Galileo heretics since their discovery contradicted the Bible. Copernicus escaped being burned at the stake by dying soon after his book was published. Galileo was forced to renounce his discovery that the earth revolved around the sun, but with his fingers crossed managed to avoid death at the hands of the Inquisition, but barely. The Church’s view of Scripture and astronomy was too small to accommodate a big universe. And today, with continuing new discoveries, the universe gets bigger and bigger, just as our God is meant to get bigger and bigger, not smaller and smaller.

Is your God too small? Expand your imagination and enter into the joy of the Mystery of God!

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge

Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

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