In the year 1890 a German scientist named Friederich Golz performed an experiment on a number of dogs that involved the surgical removal of the neocortex of the animals brains. He was surprised that when the temporal lobe was removed, the animals were more tame and calmer than before the operation. The beginning of the procedure later known as a lobotomy was born.
Within a few years lobotomies were being performed on humans and the procedure took America by storm in the ’40s and ’50s. It was radical, yet simple. If a person’s actions were not “acceptable” to society—you simply removed a portion of their brain. Much of their personality was either removed or altered—but they were certainly more acceptable to the general population. Sadly, there were hundreds of instances where families, trying to get rid of difficult relatives, would submit them to a lobotomy.
It seems that to many, the God of the Bible has become quite unacceptable to society—at least certain portions of His personality. His holiness makes us uncomfortable. His justice seems a little harsh. His righteousness seems totally out of touch with our culture as a whole. So, what are we to do with a God that makes us feel uncomfortable and inferior? It’s easy, we perform a lobotomy. We simply perform and operation to remove the offending attributes!
That sounds outrageous, of course, but it is happening in the Evangelical world. You don’t have to look far for examples. Not long ago the rage was a novel named The Shack. It presented a God that was far more palatable, more gentle, more feminine, more understanding, more weak than the God of scripture. After all, the God of scripture demands that sin be punished, that righteousness prevail, that His children die daily to the power of a cruel instrument of execution called the Cross. The God of The Shack was something like a lobotomized God, where all the offending characteristics had been surgically removed by a very sharp pen. The danger was never what The Shack included about God—it was about what was removed. Yet many never even noticed that the operation had taken place. In fact, they liked the “new” God.
It’s not hard to find this gentler, kinder God. Turn on the TV or radio and you are likely to hear a Reverend Johnny Glitter Teeth smiling broadly and telling his congregation that God only wants good things for them. Think happy thoughts and God will give you all you want whenever you want it. You will hear wonderful platitudes like, “turn your scars into stars” and other wonderful possibilities.
Oh, and then there is that terrible topic of Hell! Talk about unacceptable! In a recent blog from the Emergent folks—the God who created a placed called Hell was actually described as worse than Hitler. To quote Jeromy Johnson, “’Cause if God behaves, and thinks and is like that, that is not a God worthy of my—nor anyone else’s worship or love or even respect. This God would be deemed as evil, hating, unjust, and demented.”
There you go, an offensive, repulsive God by the standards of today’s culture! So, what do you do? You lobotomize Him! You take away the offensive part and create a god more suitable to your sensitivities. Now, you can do that like Mr. Johnson in a very direct manner (and honest) or you can be far more subtle and write a book that simply says, “Love Wins.” The surgery here to remake God is much more delicate, though no less radical. You cut out a little Biblical truth here, a little there and you replace it with strategic questions sown skillfully into the new and improved god. Voila! Under the skillful surgeon’s hands a totally new, unbiblical god has been created that is new, improved and far less offensive. The new, lobotomized god, only loves—never judges. He sits in a corner, gleefully looking into eternity until you want Him or need Him. He’s nice, but not particularly Holy. He’s full of questions, but offers few answers because a God who proclaims absolute truth would be far too narrow and nasty to endure. After all, it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey! Or so the lobotomizers tell us—so that strident, “I am the truth” stuff was also removed in the surgery. I mean, who wants to be told they might be wrong? Doesn’t everyone possess a “truth” of their own?
And so there you have it—a new, improved god. All the stuff you like, none of the stuff you don’t. Under the skillful hands of a few theological surgeons all the offensive characteristics and traits of God have been removed.
There is a raging debate within the Evangelical community about this new and improved God. Blogs are filled with this thought and that. Some like the new, more “loving” God. Some are “concerned”, while some are downright offended. I wonder what God thinks? I can’t help but be drawn to Hebrews 10:28-31:
Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again,“The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
I have a feeling He may not be too happy.
Bob Burney is Salem Communications’ award-winning host of “Bob Burney Live,” heard weekday afternoons on WRFD-AM 880 in Columbus, Ohio. Contact Bob at [email protected].
Publication date: April 12, 2011