A Brief History of God
- Some Pointers to
Taking God Seriously

Preface and Introduction

"Ask yourself," suggested computer scientist Donald Knuth, "what you would do if you were God and you wanted to deal with people on earth, how would you present yourself?" This is what this mini-site tries to discuss. Both God's dealings with people on earth, and how he has presented, and still presents, himself.

This is how I find it, how I make sense of it. If it is useful to others I will be glad. This page contains the preface and the introduction to four main parts:

God's Involvement presupposes and demonstrates that the creation is Worth something in God's eyes. God's Communication presupposes and demonstrates that we have the capacity to understand, and to come to understand that which we didn't properly understand before, and that our understanding is Worth something in God's eyes.

This differs from most religions throughout the world (including much Christianity), most of which treat God as a distant deity or reality that is not involved with us but tells us what God 'requires' of us (Judaism, Islam) or how to 'attain' some highest good (Hinduism, Buddhism). It has been said that "Most are religions of 'Do!'; Christianity is a religion of 'Done for us'" - but Brief History of God (and also New View) expands 'Done for us', enlivening it into God's continuous present active involvement in the creation, which includes communicating with that portion of creation that can understand.

This 'Brief History of God' site is offered as an idea, which might stimulate you. It is still under construction, because it is part of an on-going creative process rather than being anywhere near complete. At the bottom of the various pages you can see the current update status of each page.

Andrew.

Contents

See also Understanding the Laws of Moses: Some Principles to Help Us.


LIST OF MAIN MESSAGES FROM SCRIPTURE

Things we learn from The Early Days

Things we learn from The Time of the Patriarchs

Things we learn from Early Israel

Things we learn from Israel's Settled State

Things we learned from around The Time of the Prophets

Things we learn from the Messiah

Things we learn from after the Messiah returned

The above is also arranged by themes.


MOTIVATIONS

Why this site? Several things have motivated me to write this 'Brief History of God'. They are explained in site.html, but briefly they are (click on each underlined phrase for more):

So I place them on the World Wide Web and try to write them without too much jargon. In the same file I have set out also the aims of the site.


Questions

Most people believe in God, in some kind of Supreme Being. Even in the secular United Kingdom 70% of us do, though only a very few of us talk about it. To the Muslims, Allah, to the Jews and Christians, Yahweh, to the ancient Chinese, Shang Di, to the original Americans, the Great Spirit. But the very possibility of a Supreme Being raises important questions.

Perhaps the most basic one is: What is this Supreme One like? We want, not a philosophical answer, but one in terms of how we might expect to experience or relate to him. (I use the pronouns 'him' because of world tradition.) Most of us reckon the God has power, but what does he do with this power? Does he hide himself from us, or show himself? Does he play with us, doing whatever he pleases while we suffer? Does he stand back from us, indifferent as we try to enjoy ourselves and get ourselves out of our own messes? Is he one who is protective of his position, wanting to maintain his status as superior to us? Is he primarily to be feared and obeyed? Or is God to be loved, sought and related to? "What is God like?" is our first problem; but from it come others.

Another problem we have is: How does what we see and experience around us relate to God? Is God part of it (as paganism suggests)? Is it part of him (as some eastern ideas suggest)? Or is he its creator? If so, has he just wound it up like a clock and let it run down, as Liebniz thought? Or does he get intimately involved with it, as Newton believed? And, if so, how? That's Question 2.

A third question is: How does God relate to the big issues we face? Justice? Truth? Good versus evil? Suffering? Joy? Knowledge and Wisdom? Love? Unity and Diversity? How does he relate to how these work out concretely today: Justice for the planet (climate change)? Justice for the less privileged? Truth of what we hear through the media? Wisdom in our business dealings? Global ecological disaster? Economic prosperity? Love in our families and relationships? What do we make of degrees of freedom we experience?

Likewise: How does God relate to the little issues we face every day? Is he too grand to care? Or, at the other extreme, is he so jealous of being obeyed that we have to get the tiniest detail just as he wishes it to be? Is he too weak or apathetic to care? Or does he delight to work alongside us? That's Question 4.

These lead us to Question 5: Does God have any role in determining what we should do? How we should act? How we should arrange our lives? What should we become?

Related to this: Does God have any role in helping us do what we should do? Does he just leave us to do it by ourselves? Does he just give prizes at the end of the race as an encouragement to keep going? Does he punish or reward each and every thing we do immediately it's done? Does he give us any help? Does he sort out the mess we make? In what ways?

Lastly, the seventh question: How can we know? If (pagan) God is part of what we experience around us, how can we find out what part is him? If (eastern) God is all around plus more, how can we find out what more there is? If God is Totally Other, there is an infinite gulf between him and us; how can we ever hope to look across it? Does experience help us answer this question? Tradition? Science? Reason? Intuition? Feeling? Revelation? My own view is that God is, in some ways, Totally Other, but that he has taken the initiative to reveal himself, and that revelation is primarily through what Christians call The Bible.


The Bible

Philosophers have argued about many of these questions, especially the last. But even philosophy seems too weak to tell us how to know God. One thing makes sense to me: God is the one who should make the move; he should reveal himself and he should take the initiative to reveal all the answers to these questions. That is called Revelation. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic view is that God has indeed revealed himself, and this view is found in many other traditions too, such as among the Karen, Lahu and Wa peoples in south-east Asia.

Not just revelation: God is involved too. What Christians know as the Bible is a record of this involvement and revelation. I cannot prove it, just as I cannot prove otherwise. Rather, I examine it and find it does satisfy my questions in a way that few other writings, whether religious or not, do. It is down to earth, and yet spiritual. Christians call this Incarnation.

The challenge is: we interpret the Bible. How may we do so? Most people have treated the Bible either as fundamentalists do, a textbook of doctrines to believe and rules to live by, or as liberals do, a human creation to criticise and try to undermine, or as ritualists do, as a sacred entity that the comman man dare not be exposed to. Some people are finding another way to see the Bible - in a broad sweep, as a record of God's involvement and revelation to humankind, and a unique record at that.

I believe the Bible is unique among other texts because:

The Bible provides enough information for those who are willing to believe, those who are open minded, but it never provides enough for those who are not, nor can it convince us about God logically. As the philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd put it, the Bible is an everyday book, written in everyday language, for everyday people.

In this 'brief history of God' I have attempted to look at the broad sweep picture of the Bible. What is God's involvement? What does he reveal, about himself, about ourselves and about things around us? To be involved, the One who is beyond time, who created time, enters time; so what is his 'history' and how has it developed?

How did I go about interpreting the Bible? Is my method valid? What are its flaws and strengths? Elsewhere I have tried to elucidate the principles and methods that I have tried to follow in discerning for my own understanding what God has been saying and how it relates to us today.

Enjoy!


References

Knuth, Donald E (2001) Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About CSLI Publications, Stanford, California, USA.


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This page is offered to God as on-going work in how to understand the Bible, as part of my Christian Pages www.abxn.org. Comments, queries welcome. Number of visitors to these pages: Counter.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2009, but you may use this material for any purpose you like as long as

and fulfil certain other conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created on the Amiga with Protext: 15 February 2000. Last updated: 16 February 2000. 23 July 2000 added (some) aims. 10 December 2000 new comments pointer. 7 February 2001 email; corrected a couple of wrong links. 18 March 2001 better intro and re questions and Bible. 7 April 2001 moved motivation, aims and principles of interpretation to site.html; added link to bhg.app.html. 26 June 2001 link to 'applic'. 17 February 2002 principles and methods of interpretation added; link to. 2 August 2002 new title with 'Taking God Seriously'. 22 September 2002 Knuth quote. 3 November 2002 Motivations moved to start, and expanded; new motivation added re. all God said relevant. 22 January 2003 motivation re attitude. 3 February 2007 removed u-net; added Bible; then removed. 2 October 2008 why Bible unique, some errors corrected. 26 April 2009 reworded with different style and corrected a few errors; added a couple of things. 26 June 2011 contents. 11 December 2011 Bible provides enough for willing, everyday. 10 March 2014 OT as historical reality, bolds to pick out key points, which are reordered. 17 September 2014 link to law.of.moses. 24 September 2014 emphasise God's action with us in Intro. 19 October 2014 List of main messages.