Tag Archives: A God I’d Like to Meet

On being a bad feminist who tolerates all kinds of nonsense, but also having no patience for bad depictions of God’s love

bad feminist

Before I confess to being a bad feminist, I do watch feminist-approved shows as well. I’m a big Handmaid’s Tale fan, I watched Unorthodox early on in quarantine, and I’ve been watching Mrs. America on Wednesdays since that began.

But I can’t help how effective a ridiculous Hallmark movie can be at helping me unwind after a busy shift at work. I watch Hallmark Christmas movies year round.

And why wouldn’t I watch a show that repeatedly, time after time, manages to produce “the most dramatic season ever”? My husband will not watch The Bachelor with me. He is a better person than I am. In my experience, The Bachelor is people-watching at it’s most fascinating, a train-wreck that I just can’t look away from.

Has my feminist card been revoked yet?

It would seem, with my terrible taste in entertainment, that I would enjoy the Christian equivalent in written romance. Right? I thought so. But I thought wrong.

Last week, I woke up one day with my introvert battery completely toasted. So I picked up a novel, Francine River’s immensely popular Redeeming Love that had been handed down to me a few years ago; I neglected my housework and children (honestly, they’re old enough to feed and bathe themselves so I’m almost obsolete) and spent the entire day reading.

Aside from successfully recharging my introvert battery, I didn’t finish this book feeling good. It gnawed at me for the next several days. I kept mulling over and over how terrible the book actually was. As much as I can overlook in secular garbage TV, I could not forgive Francine Rivers for Redeeming Love.

I finally figured it out. Redeeming Love is supposed to be a metaphor for God’s love for us, by telling a “love” story about Christian patriarchy, presenting abusive coercion and control as godly male headship.

God’s love is so much better than the love described in Redeeming Love.  

I won’t summarize the plot, as I found that Samantha Fields did an excellent review series already, analyzing River’s disappointing writing chapter by chapter. I encourage you to read her reviews, especially if you have already read Redeeming Love. 

I will simply say, the main characters, Michael and Angel’s relationship dynamic resembles Power & Control rather than Equality, and it makes me so upset that Christians confuse abusive behavior with “spiritual headship”:


I was reminded this past week of another book, A God I’d Like to Meet: Separating the Love of God from Harmful Traditional Beliefs, by Bob Edwards. In his first chapter, Edwards introduces himself and why he’s writing this book:

I’ve been a Social Worker and Psychotherapist for nearly twenty years now. During this time, I’ve provided individual, family and group counseling for thousands of people. Many of them have told me that they have difficulty believing in God. Most of them have experienced horrific forms of abuse: physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and spiritual. Many of them were told, at one time or another–often by well-meaning Christians, that the terrible things done to them or to their loved ones were either allowed or caused by the “Sovereign Will of God.”

I understand the human tendency to want to come to grips with or understand life’s tragedies. This particular explanation for horror and suffering, however, evokes a crisis of faith for many. If God is good, why would he cause or allow such terrible things to happen to good people? One common answer to this question only serves to compound the problem. Some are told that God isn’t really allowing “bad” things to happen to “good” people, because deep down we are all truly “bad,” by nature.

Another common answer to the question of evil is also problematic. We’re told that God predetermines that people will do bad things to one another so that his good purposes can be accomplished on earth. At best, this second explanation is a classic case of thinking that the end justifies the means. As mentioned earlier, some of those “means” can be truly horrific (e.g. rape, child-abuse, ethnic cleansing). (pgs. 6-8)

This is exactly how Angel’s horrifying childhood abuse and trauma is treated in Redeeming Love, and Rivers over and over again describes Angel’s trauma-informed behavior as weakness, selfishness, and pride.

Bob Edwards’ book explains how Christian theologians, specifically Calvinists, have been influenced by ancient Greet philosophy, which has warped the way they view God. You probably could not find a Christian who would disagree with the statement that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but how many Christians live as though they are a bug under the thumb of God?

Dualism, a hierarchy of spirit over body, denial of the free will of humanity and the doctrine of self-mortification; these are some of the philosophical principals that eventually led to formulation of the Gnostic heresy. Shockingly, they are also some of the alleged “principle matters of Christian philosophy” through which John Calvin encouraged all believers to make sense of the Bible. He derived them from Augustine, and Augustine derived them from the “books of the Platonists.” Rather than being a benchmark for Christian orthodoxy, St. Augustine’s theology appears more like a “union of Christian and pagan doctrines.”  (Edwards, pgs. 108-109)

Seen through the lenses of Platonic philosophy, the God of the Bible can appear to be an all-controlling entity that frowns on emotion and insists that men must exercise control over women. The implications of this theological perspective are significant. Evil, including human sin, is portrayed as “the will of God.” Salvation is irresistibly extended to a select few, while the majority of the human race is abandoned to inevitable damnation. Human emotion is confused with sin and must be “put to death.” Women, viewed as stimulating sinful feelings, must be strictly controlled by men. (pgs. 96-97).

This controlling, abusive, and sexist portrait of God reviles rather than attracts people to him. I would encourage you, if you’ve been taught a Calvinist theology, to examine your understanding of God.

All my life, I have known that God is love, and I have loved God deeply. Unlike Angel, I experienced very little trauma or abuse as a child. But I absorbed this Calvinistic portrait of God anyway, through doctrine. When I was thirty, I was going through a very painful time with a church split, parents divorcing, and husband unemployed, and in my brokenness, I was grasping to understand the problem of evil and the suffering of this world. I happened upon Brennan Manning’s sermons on YouTube, and wept as I learned of God’s UNCONDITIONAL, no-strings attached love for me.

I learned that I am Beloved, just as I am, and not as I should be, because nobody is as they should be. It sparked a faith shift that gave me the courage to unpack everything I had grown up believing about God and the Bible, and then to start reconstructing a faith that is informed by Jesus’ love, sacrifice, and grace.

Brennan Manning

As Manning says, “You will trust God to the degree that you know you are loved by him.” Knowing I was loved unconditionally gave me the freedom to ask God the “big questions,” to walk away from traditions that were harmful, and to embrace Egalitarian theology that placed women in their rightful place alongside their brothers in the Kingdom.

It is my constant prayer that Calvinists will come to know the unconditional, incomparable love of God, who sees each one of us in our brokenness and mess and calls us “Beloved.”


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Book Review: A God I’d Like to Meet by Bob Edwards

I am excited to share a review of Bob Edward’s book, A God I’d Like to Meet, especially today as Amazon has dropped it’s Kindle price to $1.99 for the week.  You only have a few days to take advantage of this deal, and I HIGHLY recommend that you purchase this one!  Also, check out Edwards’ amazing blogs, God is Love, and Biblical Equality for Women and Men in the Christian Faith.  I first found Edwards through his blogs, and have been truly blessed by his knowledge and scholarly writing on the roots of Christian patriarchy and complementarianism (the ideology that God has ordained male-dominated authority over the Church and Christian homes).

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Let me share the “About” blurb from one of his blogs:

Bob Edwards lives with his wife and two children in Ontario, Canada. He holds degrees in Religious Education, Social Development Studies and Social Work. In 2013, he received the Delta Epsilon Chi award for intellectual achievement, Christian character and leadership ability, from the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Bob has been a Social Worker since 1996, providing psychotherapy in a variety of settings. He was the Director of Counseling Studies at a multi-denominational Bible College, teaching courses in Psychology, Sociology and Counseling. His hope is to share a vision of God’s impartial love towards women and men everywhere.

Bob is also the author of the best-selling book entitled, “Let My People Go: A Call to End the Oppression of Women in the Church, Revised and Expanded.”

“A God I’d Like to Meet” is an example of what Edwards does best: a scholarly dissection of Calvinist theology, demonstrating its roots in Plato’s philosophy, and the damaging effects that have resulted from reading the Bible from a worldly perspective.

Here is the description of the book from the dust jacket:

Throughout history, prominent theologians and church leaders have made sense of the Bible through the interpretive lenses of ancient Greek philosophy.

As a result, our traditional beliefs often portray God as an all-controlling deity that frowns on emotion and subjects women to male authority.

Throughout this book, the author explores the origins of these theological traditions, and seeks to restore a vision of God as depicted in the New Testament — a vision of God as love.

Calvinism is a prominent strain of Evangelical Christianity today, as noted in this New York Times article from January of this year. Notable Calvinists include Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and Tim Keller.  Calvin’s “Institutes” was required reading in my seminary Intro to Theology class.  Edwards’ insights were very eye-opening to me personally.  In answer to the question, What is Calvinism? Edwards writes,

Simply put, it is an interpretive framework that tells people what to look for in the Bible, where to look, and how they should make sense of what they find.  This interpretive framework consists of what Calvin referred to as “the principal matters” of “Christian philosophy” (p. 16)

A valuable aspect of Edwards’ writing is his background as a counselor.  He explains many psychological processes that impact the lens through which people understand their world.  In Chapter 1: Bad Religion, Bob says,

I’ve been a Social Worker and Psychotherapist for nearly twenty years now.  During this time, I’ve provided individual, family and group counseling to thousands of people.  Many of them have told me that they have difficulty believing in God.  Most of them have experienced horrific forms of abuse: physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and spiritual.  Many of them were told, at one time or another–often by well-meaning Christians–that the terrible things done to them or to their loved ones were either allowed or caused by the “Sovereign Will of God” (p. 6).

Edwards wraps up chapter one, where he has described how Christians have explained the problem of pain, with this paragraph:

We now have a picture of a God that is allegedly in control of everything, causes evil to befall humans because they (in their vileness) deserve it, or because we are expendable in the accomplishment of “the greater good.”  Of his servants, this God requires the death of self, and the rejection of what it means to be human.  In particular, human beings must apparently deny that they are sexual.  Historically this has led male leaders in the church to project blame for their vilified sexuality onto women.  This projection has led to the subjection of all women to male control.  I submit that this is a portrait of a God who is controlling, abusive, unethical, unloving and sexist.  Simply put, in the minds of many, this is not a God they would like to meet (p. 10).

This book is not a long, cumbersome read.  I couldn’t put it down once I started, and finished the book in two hours.  He explains how, in setting up “the principal matters of Christian philosophy” as an interpretive lens for the Bible, Calvin was facilitating “top-down processing,” and how “Rather than seeing new information objectively, human beings are strongly inclined to perceive and interpret the world around them in ways that confirm what they already believe” (a “psychological phenomenon known as ‘belief perseverance'”, p. 18).  A very brief explanation of the lens through which Calvin made sense of the Bible is through his high opinion of St. Augustine, who made sense of the Bible through his reading of the Greek philosopher, Plato.  in his 8th book of Confessions, Augustine wrote:

Simplicianus congratulated me that I had not fallen upon the writings of other philosophers, which were full of fallacies and deceit, “after the beggarly elements of this world,” whereas in the Platonists, at every turn, the pathway led to belief in God and his Word” (p. 21).

The rest of the book unpacks how this Platonic philosophy impacted St. Augustine’s and Calvin’s interpretation of Scripture, and thus how Calvinism “impacts the way some Christian leaders today understand, preach and practice Christianity” (p. 24).  Specifically, how Calvinism makes God responsible for evil (chapter 3), how Calvinism confuses emotion with sin (chapter 4), and how Calvinism leads to the subjugation of women (chapter 5).

Edwards leaves off with the redeeming message that “the distorting lens of Platonic philosophy can be removed from our perception of God.  When we remove this lens, I believe that we have an opportunity to see God in the way the biblical authors intended.  We are able to perceive that God is love” (p. 98).

If you are an Evangelical Christian, there is a good probability that you have come across Calvinist theology at some point, if not regularly in your faith community.  I emphatically encourage you to pick up this book for the low price of $1.99 and consider the implications of Edwards’ research into the roots of Calvinism.


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