God’s love is not unconditional.
Though the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth imply that through grace God forgives and saves, the notion that God dispenses love unconditionally and equitably is a lie. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Moses, of David — this same god is not the merciful, peace-loving deity which Jesus makes him out to be. In point of fact, the distinction between God (“the Father”) and Jesus is so stark that one is left to wonder if the act of being made mortally manifest changed the supernatural entity to be more merciful and more understanding than the temperamental, crazy-ex-level jealous God of the Old Testament. No wonder Ridley Scott thought to portray the Hebrew God as an insidious preteen who taunts the reticent Moses.
For the Hebrew God of the Old Testament (“Yahweh”, יַהְוֶה), creation is little more than a playground or experiment in which He and Satan spar over…? The souls of mankind, presumably – but why go through the trouble to begin with? Was Yahweh simply trying to make a point by prosecuting an eternal campaign against Satan, to make Satan an example for the rest of creation of what will happen if you rebel? Pardon the express, but Jesus Christ, what kind of crazy psychopath is this god?! Why does he not just stop the problem and get on with whatever it is that a supernatural being does. By what I can tell, almost all of them are around almost exclusively to fuck with our lives. It’s almost as if we didn’t exist, they could not either…
Think about that for a second. The Greek gods, the Roman gods, the Hebrew god, the Hindu gods — they all exist for one purpose, and that’s to be in charge of creating, destroying, and otherwise just causing problems for the poor, hapless suckers who got created into this mess. Just to prove a point? Are we each our own Job in a world in which we are expected to pay undying, unshakable fealty — so that the world’s creator can prove a point?
Yahweh in the Old Testament smites and destroys, rendering Sodom and Gomorrah ashes, and Lot’s hapless wife a pillar of salt. He casts the Israelites into the wilderness for forty years because of a mistake they made, like an extended “time out.” Yahweh in the New Testament is nothing like His earlier iteration. Whereas before he interacted directly with people like Abraham and Moses, he has now become a detached father figure who seems to reside in somewhere like remote Alaska. In fact, as one read through the Christian Bible, one is struck by the way Yahweh’s divine touch seems to withdraw with the passing of time, so that by the time of John the Baptist, the voice of Yahweh signifying Jesus’ particular importance is a rare and noteworthy occasion indeed.
Jesus of Nazareth is the catalyst, it seems, between the interactions between Yahweh and creation — it’s as if God and creation got into a big fight and now they don’t talk, so good old Uncle J.C. has to step in to make things better. I do not mean that to be disrespectful, but read objectively, the “character” of God in the Christian Bible feels very much like a falling out between them. The role Jesus plays seems to be that of mediator, sacrificing himself so that all of creation may supposedly be saved. Except like everything else in life, there’s fine print.
The fine print on this particular contract stipulates that “salvation” and “eternal life” are guaranteed if, and only if you also believe in God, believe in Jesus, have faith… And depending on which particular flavor of Christianity you like best, the terms and conditions of salvation may vary. In essence Jesus’ sacrifice has nothing to do with your individual salvation; rather, Jesus’ death was done so that humanity would not have to pay back the debt owed the original sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus was beaten, brutalized, tortured, and exposed to die so that all of us — who have clearly never met Adam and Eve, never entered the fabled Garden of Eden, were never complicit in the original sin, may have made a different choice put under the same conditions — would not have to pay for something our great-great-great… … …great-grandparents did.
Awesome. Yahweh holds a grudge.
So we all have to be responsible for our own personal salvation, but to whom or what do we turn if we have such fundamental questions as, which flavor is best? We can’t just speak to God because he stopped answering his phone two thousand years ago and even then screened His calls. Jesus is dead. The Buddah, Moses, and Muhammad have all been MIA for a very long time. Paul (St. Paul, the apostle Paul) certainly though he had inherited the role of cipher; after all, he claimed to have encountered a resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. Depending on how you view the relationship between Yahweh and Jesus will determine whether or not you view this as Old Testament-style communication with God, but we only have Paul’s testimony to the incident and no objective witness. Paul was more interested in complying with the rule of law set down by Rome, accommodating to Rome’s unusually lenient policy towards non-Roman cultures and religious practices. His efforts would create a Christian church which would be more palatable to Roman authorities in the same way Rabbinic Judaism would be following the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. Paul in his time is like Josephus in his own, an opportunist who saw a way to make inroads among both Romans and their subjects in order to gain accommodation. Little wonder they both prospered in their endeavors.
The words of Jesus of Nazareth are among the only true instances in which we see the outlines of unconditional love, but even then it all remains predicated on faith and belief. Forgiveness can be requested and maybe even granted, but it once again comes at some cost, perhaps a ritual prayer or some change in behavior or habits.
Is there such a thing as unconditional love? Perhaps, but if examples are to be found, then seek them out among the living and not among the supernatural. Love can be found in its truest and purest form here among us.
See also: “Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology): Notions of a violent God” ff.