4Views of God: God as Agent; God the Incarnate

July 3, 2007

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, you might want to. I’ll be going on with yesterday’s topic. We’re discussing views of God, and I’m using an article of Delwin Brown.

God as Agent
According to Brown, and I definitely believe he is right, this is the most common view of God in Western Christianity. Meaning that most of us would probably find ourselves comfortable with this view, or would recognize that at some stage in our life this has been the dominant view we had. Also, it mean that in our churches this is the view that we should most earnestly consider if it don’t maybe need to be put into balance by some of the others.

I struggled a bit to see the difference between this view, and the previous one, God as Source, so I’ll start out trying to define this view, by comparing it to the previous one. God as Source mean that we would see God as the underlying source of everything in this world, while seeing God as Agent would mean that we see God as acting in this world, as a definitive role player alongside other role players in our history and lives. Where seeing God as Source lead us to acknowledge the mystery of God, seeing God as Agent usually lead us to ask questions of divine power and will. If God is acting as Agent, where exactly is God acting? When is it God? What can God do? What can God not do? Where the previous view don’t really cause serious questions about where God is in our lives, especially in bad times, this view would ask it the whole time.

If God is acting as Agent, is it God that is doing the good things? And the bad? Why doesn’t God act when bad things happen? Different answers are given to this question. From Brown’s text: ‘”Free-will theists” contend that God freely chooses to limit God’s power in order that humans, too, may have free choice. Hartshorian process theologians, on the other hand, argue that there are, in addition to divine self limitations, some limits to God’s power about which even God has no choice’. A whole lot of other ideas has been proposed to solve this problem about what God can do, and why God does, or doesn’t do certain things. There has also been a lot of ideas which try and find ways in which we could manipulate God, by prayer, by doing certain things, by reciting certain words over and over again (no, I will not fall into the temptation of naming names).

But it’s not only in little books of popular literature that you’ll find these ideas. According to Brown also Calvin and Barth, among others, can be seen as proponents of this view of God. I think that this view, in certain forms, cause us to run into a lot of problems, and that this view is what is causing a lot of the questions about God’s will in bad times. If this is our only view of God, then we end up with a lot of questions about where God is acting, and where God isn’t acting, and why.

God the Incarnate
We know this view mostly as God that became incarnate in Christ. But if the view of God as Source is more than simply God as the creator of creation some time in the past, then God the Incarnate is in the same way more that simply God becoming human once of some time in the past. It is the view saying that God is with us. In contrast with the previous view, God is not primarily the power causing things to happen, but God is the one that is among us when things happen… no, who is among us always.

God know suffering, and can therefore be with us in our suffering. This view helped me personally to make sense of certain bad things in the world. Instead of seeing God as the one who should act and miraculously take away all suffering, God is the one that has suffered (Crucified God?), and that suffer with the sufferer. If you are looking for God, look among you, look at the sufferer, look at your fellow humans.

In this view we are not simply searching for the divine ways in which God is acting, and trying to systematize the ways of God. Rather we are figuring out this life together with God. God is with us. In the words of Brown: Jesus does not offer answers, prescriptions, blueprints; Jesus models an adventurous searching that enters life in its concreteness’.

How can this view compliment the reigning view of God as Agent? The view of God as Agent seem to cause some problems for people when things are going bad, does this mean that this view is wrong? Or does it only become a problem when we make this view dominant, and totally forget about the others? Or maybe I’m too critical about the view of God as Agent?

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