Perceptions of God’s nature and character

By Dave Henning / March 2, 2016

In Chapter 4 (“What Father Gives His Child a Stone”) of How to Forgive, June Hunt cites a study done at Baylor University about ten years ago.  The study included a Gallup survey that identified four distinct perceptions of God’s nature and character.  The findings were as follows:

  • Authoritarian God (31.4%)- those who believe in a God “who is angry at humanity’s sins”
  • Distant God (24.4%)- those who believe in a God who is more “a cosmic force that launched the world then left it spinning on it’s own”
  • Critical God (16%)- those who believe in a God who “has his judgmental eye on the world”
  • Benevolent God (23%)- those who believe God is forgiving and accepting when someone repents

Ms. Hunt observes that nearly three-fourths of those surveyed had a negative view of God, while less than one-fourth viewed God as loving, accepting, and forgiving.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compares the goodness of an earthly Father to the goodness of our heavenly Father:

“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone. . . . If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?”- Matthew 7:9-11 (ESV)

Of the many things we need, June asks, what do we need more than forgiveness- especially from God?  From our human point of view, God’s forgiveness makes no sense because it cannot be bought, sold, or rationed.  There is no scientific formula to determine when to apply God’s forgiveness or determine to whom it should be applied.  Ms. Hunt concludes:

“Let’s be honest: God’s forgiveness is so far-reaching and all-encompassing that it’s incomprehensible . . . inexplicable . . . inconceivable.”

Today’s question: What are your perceptions of God’s nature and His character?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Extraordinary forgiveness”

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Dave Henning

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