"Tell Me What Kind of God You Don't Believe In"
by Joel Stephen Williams
Editor's Note: This article
was sent to Does God Exist? by
Joel Stephen Williams but was not written by him and it was incorrectly attributed to him in
the printed edition. Joel Stephen Williams would like it to be known that he does not
have negative attitudes toward his
own personal religious upbringing, as Yancey does as expressed in this brief quotation. Williams was raised
at Mayfair Church of Christ in Huntsville,
Alabama, and his early religious experiences in that church and in his family were wonderful, positively
affirming and genuinely Christian from some of the finest people in the
world. Rather than being shown a false view of God, Williams was presented an
accurate picture of the God of the Bible from those he knew in his early
Here are the
specifics about the original article and author:
SOURCE: Online Christianity
Today (America Online)
TITLE: Unwrapping Jesus [4/7]
AUTHOR: Philip Yancey
George Buttrick, former chaplain at Harvard, recalls that students
would come into his office, plop down on a chair and declare, "I do not
believe in God." Buttrick would give this disarming reply, "Sit down
and tell me what kind of God you do not believe in. I
probably do not believe in that God either."
Many people who reject Jesus are not rejecting Jesus, but a distortion
of him as presented by the church. To our everlasting shame, the
watching world judges Jesus by a church whose history includes the
Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadors in Latin America, and a
slave ship called the Good Ship
In order to get to know Jesus, I had to strip away layers of dust and
grime applied by the church itself. In my case, the image of Jesus was
obscured by the racism, intolerance, and petty legalism of
fundamentalist churches. A Russian or a European Catholic confronts a
very different restoration process. "For not only dust, but also
too much gold can cover up the true figure," wrote Hans Kung
about his own search. Many abandon the quest entirely; rebuffed by the
church, they never make it to Jesus.
I often wish that we could somehow set aside church history, remove the
church's many layers of interpretation, and encounter the words
of the Gospels for the first time. Not everyone would accept
JesusÑthey did not in his own day--but at least people
would not reject him for the wrong reasons.
Once I was able to cut through the fog still clinging from my own
upbringing, my opinion of Jesus changed remarkably. Brilliant, untamed,
tender, creative, merciful, slippery, loving, irreducible,
paradoxically humble--Jesus stands up to scrutiny. He is who I
want my God to be.
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Does God Exist?, JulAug05.