In my last post I addressed the notion that God is a cosmic vending machine. In this post, I aim to address another common notion in popular culture: that God is a cosmic Care Bear. According to this view, God is simply the always smiling, always cuddly, stuffed animal from our youth that expects nothing of us. The view is often trotted out with the line that God is love.
Now, before I go further, I should make it clear that God is love and I am not questioning that. What I am calling into question is whether or not this is His only trait. For, when we say, “God is love,” and make that His single defining characteristic, what we have done is mischaracterized God in the minds of many. This is the result of a misunderstanding of both love and God.
Many people take love to be some form of blind acceptance and approval of anything and everything. So, according to this view, regardless of what you bring to the table, God would have a big smile on His face and give His approval. But, is this love? I think not. Imagine a parent acting in such a way. Regardless of what the child does, the parent responds with unflinching acceptance. In this scenario, there is no discipline, concern for others, or guidance as the child develops into an adult. Imagine a government that “cares” for its citizens but refuses to administer justice. The result would be pain for countless citizens that are abused at the hands of others, all the while the loving and caring government stands by and smiles with approval. Suddenly what we thought was love becomes hatred. Most of us know what love is, even if we can’t define it perfectly. And we also know, when we are honest with ourselves, that a Care Bear does not represent real love.
Now, moving on to the real substance of this topic. God is God, this is our actual starting block. From here we begin to see the many ways that God is described in the Bible. So, let’s look at a small sampling of the ways God is directly described in Scripture. God is: love (1 John 4:8, 16); Holy (Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:26); jealous (Deut. 4:24); great and awesome (Deut. 7:21); a God of justice (Isa. 30:18); one who loves justice, but hates robbery wrongdoing (Isa. 61:8); and the list can go on.
The question is: if we are going to define God by only one term, which one shall we use? Does one deserve more than the others? Or, why can we not just take Him as the Bible describes Him? For myself, I take God as the Bible describes Him, which includes all of the attributes listed in the previous chapter, plus many more. Understanding God in this way does not leave room for the Care Bear view. Adrian Rogers, a brilliant preacher who has gone to be with the Lord, once said, “To preach half a truth as the whole truth is to preach an untruth.” He was referring to people that only emphasize God’s mercy and grace without acknowledging His holiness or role as judge.