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Fear Of A Vindictive God


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I suffered and wrestled with this problem about 5 years ago, for the better part of 12 months. Having been raised fundy, I left the fold at 18 and never looked back. When I was 40 I suffered stress and anxiety over money issues, and then my fundy friend told me that it was God's way of calling me back! From there I spiralled into stress and anxiety about God & Hell for the next 10 or so months.

 

It's not fun, but if I could save you any trouble I would say there is NO vindictive God, it is a harmful myth pedalled by people who either don't know any better or who want to use it as power.

 

I went through quite a journey coming to that conclusion, but I am glad I finally got there!

Edited by PaulS
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Perhaps my journeys were not as urgent as yours. When an accident in surgery caused my daughter to have a grande mal seizure and spinal meningitis and a long hospital stay I wanted to know where the idea of evil came from.(Because I saw no evil in the terrible accident.) Specifically I wanted to know what others thought the Bible said about evil. I learned many things but the best understanding is that the Garden of Eve story is not about disobedience but about growing up into adulthood. So the Garden is not where evil started.

 

Seek out other passages in the Bible that reveal a mothering God and a nurturing father God. Especially this text from Jeremiah. This God is not vindictive.

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

 

During captivity the Hebrews were trying to figure out why it happened. So they thought it must have happened because they were disobedient and they wrote scripture with a vindictive God in mind. But this is twisted. If you say God is the source of everything that happens that does not mean the good things are rewards and bad things are punishments.

 

I think Paul's right in saying that teaching a vindictive God gives power to those in charge. In the past the church and civil governments have relied on our fear of God's judgment to keep us in line. Certainly those who want to turn America into the church-state it never was want to bring back a vindictive God to guilt us into what they think is right behavior.

 

Read "The Shack" by Wm Paul Young. Don't let anything stop you from this. I will mail my well worn copy if necessary.

Read "The Shack" by Wm Paul Young. Don't let anything stop you from this.

 

Dutch

Edited by glintofpewter
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Some quotes from "The Shack" God has no expectations but waits with expectancy

Papa(God) is speaking
Responsibilities and expectations are the basis for shame and guilt and judgment....because I have no expectations you will never disappoint me.
...What I do have is a constant and living expectancy in our relationship....To the degree that you resort to expectations and responsibilities, to that degree, you neither know me nor trust me.
Mack, if you and I are friends there is an expectancy that exists ... an expectancy of being together....That expectancy has no concrete definition: it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges ... is an unique gift."
~ Wm. Paul Young, The Shack
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I can't say that I ever feared going to hell. However, I have experienced -and sometimes still do- more guilt than is healthy. As I understand God better I learn more that It is a benevolent force; the vindictiveness comes from us. I forget who wrote it and I paraphrase it terrible but I found it insightful, "Mean people have mean gods." That's not to say that there are mean people from I birth but those who are seeking to oppress and control others ... that's where I the vindictiveness comes from.

 

All in my experience, of course.

Edited by radioTint
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I appreciate your thoughtful responses so far. I am 32 years old and I am tired of living under oppression here in the Bible Belt. I constantly am fearing I am not 'following God's plan for my life' or being punished by terrible circumstances for sins I commit.

 

I will grab a copy of the Shack. I have not yet read it.

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I appreciate your thoughtful responses so far. I am 32 years old and I am tired of living under oppression here in the Bible Belt. I constantly am fearing I am not 'following God's plan for my life' or being punished by terrible circumstances for sins I commit.

 

A famous rabbi said, “That which is hateful to you, do not unto another: This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary — [and now] go study.” Jesus later echoed the same, “'Love the Lord your with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. [...]'” Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37-40.

 

This is where God leads us all; this is God's plan for all.

 

Further, God does not punish. If It would It would do so unfairly and I don't believe in a God like that; it is contrary to our evolving understanding of Its nature. We may make choices that are contrary to the above laws but the consequences that follow are natural consequences; our ultimate choices are out of God's control. And the good news is that in each moment we have another opportunity to better others and ourselves. When we "miss the mark" we have an unlimited amount of opportunities to "make it up".

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I got my copy of The Shack in the mail. I hoping it will provide some insight. I feel lost at sea, not even knowing where I am heading. I don't know what I do or do not believe anymore. I am starting to feel myself slip into a depression. It is a combination of long standing health issues preventing me from moving forward in life, a broken heart and my confusion about my faith.

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I found the 'practical' approach helped me out greatly when I was in such a hole - reading works by the likes of Marcus Borg and Bart Erhman who helped me understand a lot about biblical interpretation, the culture surrounding the various authors of the books of the bible, the inconsistencies and contradictions that appear if one is to read the bible as THE word of God, as opposed to the many and various words of men providing their interpretation of God and understanding of their circumstances and time in history.

 

I also listened to a few podcasts - Interfaith Radio, The Bible Geek, and some university lectures concerning the books of the OT & NT. There was also the excellent website of Philip Gulley, a Quaker preacher who doesn't believe in a vindictive, condemning God.

 

It is very confusing Southernwonder, but allow yourself the room to be confused. The fact that it is so confusing gave me strength that there couldn't possibly be a vindictive, judgemental God waiting just beyond the clouds somewhere to convict you for not getting it 'right' in your short stay here on earth.

 

I wish you well. There is light at the end of the tunnel (and it's not a train! :))

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PaulS,

I have tried reading one of the books about who changed the Bible and why, but I got bogged down in the details. I think I am looking something to speak to my heart rather than my mind at this moment. However, I am looking at the website of Philip Gulley and he has some great PDF files. They seem right on target.

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Hi southernwonder, I can see the problem if you live within the Biblebelt, the constant reinforcement of beliefs you fear are correct.

 

I have suffered from depression (though not caused by any fear of anything as such) and after breaking away from a strict Fundamentalist sect - with their warnings of dire consequences ringing in my ears - have had a long battle with hell fears and vindicitive Gods.

 

Here are some words for the heart, written by Mother Julian of Norwich.......

 

If there be anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

 

The word is love.

 

If you eventually feel strong enough for some mental work ( :) ) you could try one of the many books that teach Universalism, such as "Patristic Universalism" by David Burnfield. From a deeply biblical perspective, in deep fidelity to Christ, Burnfield argues a very good case for the Universalist position, that eventually ALL will be gathered into the love of God.

 

All the best.

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Having been raised in a fundamentalist series of churches, I have a strong fear of a vindictive God. It gives me quite a bit of anxiety. I am constantly afraid of messing up.

 

Did anyone else struggle with this issue?

Yahweh is certainly presented as vindictive and he punishes humans quick and harsh. I think this goes back prehistoric times. If the volcano explodes it meant that the god of the volcano was angry. They could see no reason for that god to be angry so they believed it must have been something wrong that they did. The Hebrews ran with this idea: if they were good, God was good; if they were bad, God got mad and punished them. It is all made up and pretend.

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God got mad and punished them. It is all made up and pretend

 

 

These stories are "made up" but when told so that they carry truth they are not pretend. The truths these stories carry depend on the community telling the story and its resources. If we tell the stories which are devoid of truth then that is "pretend." I think perhaps that some of the Biblical stories were "pretend" because some nomadic tribes wanted to feel powerful and special when they were not. But other Biblical stories carry truths for the community that tells them over and over.

 

The story of Job is proof that even when other Scriptures were being written about a rewarding and punishing God, some people knew that to be a false image of God.

 

Dutch

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Concerning the vindictive God thing; I've dealt with this by embracing the words of Paul of Tarsus -(who in other ways I am not that great a follower of). He says, "Do not ask who will go up or go down, but know that the word of God is in your mind and on your lips." or it might be "...in your heart and on your lips". I'm kind of like it's not my business or my call if I make it all the way or not, my thing is to just do my best and then if I make it, it will be a wonderful gift. Though I do strive to get into heaven, I can't say I know how the whole thing and operation works.

 

I'm thinking that the vindictive God thing might be for people who really, really do really wrong things, and this is supposed to work as a deterrent for the really bad things that a few people do do. It's not for people who occasionally say the wrong thing or who are confused about some of the smaller details about how to live.

 

Also when people do mess up in the more regular ways there's always the option of owning up, apologizing, making restitution if called for and changing ones act and way of doing things. (these 4 steps are all from the 12 steps). It's not like if one messes up a bit that there's nothing one can do about it and one is just stuck with ones self and what they've done that misses the mark.

 

I don't think that we are supposed to live in fear of God - We are supposed to live in awe of God. This word awe may have in not too few cases been mistranslated or misunderstood to mean fear.

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  • 9 months later...

There is room for fear in love. I fear losing my wife, fear her disappointment etc. Most of the time this fear is misplaced but I think fear and love are linked.

 

I do not know how exactly this translates to the love of God. Certainly I don't think that fearing God in the traditional way that is taught is correct. That does not sit well with my understanding of love, but I just wanted to make the point that fear and love are not directly opposed. In fact I would say love can house any number of negative and positive emotions.

Edited by The Rhino
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Rhino,

 

It is inevitable that all of us who are married will lose our wife. The only question is when? Will the emotion of fear bring us closer to Love? It is said that "fear" is a vital response to physical and emotional danger however we seem to apply it to situations that are far from life or death. I agree with you that Love and Fear are linked however i personally see it as in a continuum similar to Light and Darkness with the absolute extreme merely being a word to describe an absence.

 

Just my thoughts on the subject.

Joseph

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i think there is a major difference between the fear of disappointing one's spouse and fear of that spouse's vindictiveness.

 

We can use love and fear in the same sentence as you did, Rhino, but it's not the same as them going hand in hand.

 

Room for fear in love? I would suggest that what you fear is the disappearance of that love (e.g. your wife dying) but that there is no place for fear in love itself. Whilst not opposites they do not correlate either. You cannot love someone you are afraid of.

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With regard to the question about whether there's room for fear in love . . . through my experiences, I've learned that one emotion which often accompanies love -- which is made possible by the presence of love -- is grief. There are times when the heart, greatly filled with love, is moved to grief. Tears flow and the heart expands to make room for new memories, insights, and emotional intertwinings which bring us closer, at least in our hearts, to those we love.

 

But grief can be overwhelming at times. It can also be inconvenient. Who wants to start crying in the middle of a business meeting when something reminds us of a deep and painful loss? So we can start to become afraid that we'll feel grief. It's not really the grief itself we're afraid of, but the inconvenience and embarrassment and emotional vulnerability we're afraid of.

 

I wouldn't say there's any room within love itself for fear. But when we dare to love, a whole host of other emotions can spring up around that love and complicate the picture.

 

Does that make any sense?

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i think there is a major difference between the fear of disappointing one's spouse and fear of that spouse's vindictiveness.

 

 

 

Perhaps it's just me, but I didn't read Rhino's words as a fear of his spouse's vindictiveness. Maybe you didn't mean it that way, either, but it's one way to read the sentence. Ah, the joys and perils of the written word! :)

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No I didn't mean to sound like Rhino's spouse might be vindictive, rather the thread's title is Fear Of A Vindictive God, and although Rhino was making a connection between love and fear of dissapointing his wife, I was trying to point out that this doesn't compare with love and a vindictive God.

Yes, the joys of interpreting the written word! :)

Edited by PaulS
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No I didn't mean to sound like Rhino's spouse might be vindictive, rather the thread's title is Fear Of A Vindictive God, and although Rhino was making a connection between love and fear of dissapointing his wife, I was trying to point out that this doesn't compare with love and a vindictive God.

 

Yes, the joys of interpreting the written word! :)

 

 

Whew. That makes more sense!

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  • 2 months later...

PaulS,

I have tried reading one of the books about who changed the Bible and why, but I got bogged down in the details. I think I am looking something to speak to my heart rather than my mind at this moment. However, I am looking at the website of Philip Gulley and he has some great PDF files. They seem right on target.

 

Hello Southernwonder,

I so know how you feel! I used to lie awake at night distressed at what was happening to me and my faith. So apart from all the theological searching, which can cause some of the confusion, this book talks about the process itself. It normalizes what you're going through, encourages you on your personal journey and seeks to help you move forward. It was exactly what I needed at the time, perhaps it might do the same for you: Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar.

And when it came to the theological aspect, this book spoke to my heart more than anything I have read so far: Hope beyond Hell by Gerard Beauchemin

All the best, you'll be ok!

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