Saturday, 7 April 2007

Dr John: Is God a psychopath?

If you knew a father who gave up his only son to be killed in expiation for the crimes and misdemeanours of other people, would you call that chap a loving father? Or would you call him a psychopath?

The Right Reverend Dr Jeffery John says the latter, and in saying it on the BBC no less he's created a very English sort of controversy between 'evangelical' and 'liberal' christians, who can argue morality until all their sacred cows come home without ever questioning its source.

Dr John (yes, that's his appelation) is taking to task the 'evangelical' view, the Calvinist view of the Easter Myth that "God was very angry with us for our sins, and because he is a just God, our sin had to be punished."
But instead of punishing us he sent his Son, Jesus, as a substitute to suffer and die in our place. The blood of Jesus paid the price of our sins, and because of him God stopped being angry with us. In other words, Jesus took the rap, and we got forgiven, provided we said we believed in him.

Well, I don't know about you, but even at the age of ten I thought this explanation was pretty repulsive as well as nonsensical. What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created, and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own Son? And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this we'd say they were a monster.

We certainly would, wouldn't we? And we'd hardly be so foolish as to take such a person as any sort of model from which to take our morality, would we? Would we?

Now Dr John has an excuse for his 'liberal' God, which he postulates in opposition to the psychopathic 'evangelical' god. The cross, he says, "is not about Jesus reconciling an angry God to us; it's almost the opposite."
It's about a totally loving God, incarnate in Christ, reconciling us to him. On the cross Jesus dies for our sins; the price of our sin is paid; but it is not paid to God but by God. As St paul says, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Because he is Love, God does what Love does: He unites himself with the beloved. He enters his own creation and goes to the bottom line for us... This above all is the meaning of the Cross: that God is one with us in our sufferings, and not just 2000 years ago but through all time.
But this god, if you recall, is both all-knowing and all-powerful. That's what (supposedly) makes him a god. He not only knows all that will happen, he is also responsible for all that does happen - that's what being both all-knowing and all-powerful really means. Which means that he is not just at one with our suffering, he caused it, and he knew it would happen.

Human suffering, according to this view, is not an accident, it is god-given.

Such is the god to which people pay homage, and in either incarnation it looks psychopathic. But remember if you will that this god is simply the creation of human minds, or really of human wishes. If the creation of art reveals our psychology to ourselves, what then does the creation of such a monster reveal about those who dreamed him up?


  1. If god - or anyone - is a creation of the human mind, how can he be psycopath - or otherwise?

  2. God as a literary character shows psycopathic tendencies. I highly recommend this book by Jack Miles.

  3. Yet another thing I am confused by in christianity is the decision by an omniscient deity to signal his forgiveness using a mechanism he was entirely aware would cause endless confusion and debate and presumably make it more difficult for many people to believe.

    As far as I am aware Jesus never claimed to be the son of god, his execution was very much human and political, an event which was subsequently hijacked by the founders of christianity who rather transparently and awkwardly shoehorned the facts into an unconvincing theory of higher significance.

    I think the theory behind crucification of Jesus is especially bizarre when its purpose could have been achieved any of a number of other ways that would leave much less doubt as to god's purpose.

  4. Hey....Hey Peter....they are talking about you and you God obsession here....poor dears.

  5. Matt B - youre not very aware, are you

  6. Well it looks like Jesus did claim to be the the son of god. I stand corrected.


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