How Do You See God?

September 15, 2006

The other day I noted that a recent study by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion had a interesting finding about Christians shying away from using the term “Evangelical.” Another interesting finding in the study was the impact of how one views God.

The study identified four different viewpoints about God and explored the impact of such frames on one’s political and religious views. These four types are: the Authoritarian God, the Benevolent God, the Critical God, and the Distant God. It is also interesting that these views of God seem to change for the nation’s regions, with the first being heavy in the South, the second in the Midwest, the third in the East, and the fourth in the West.

In many ways, this finding seems similar to arguments made by linguist George Lakoff in his book Moral Politics (and repeated in later writings). He argues that there are two dominant views of God—Strict Father or Nurturant Parent. He talks about how each view results in different metaphors used to describe God and results in different theological and political views.

All of this should remind us of the importance of coming to understand who God really is. The way we talk about and perceive God is important because it will impact how we act and what we believe. We must work hard now to make sure we are not creating God in our own image but instead learning who God really is.