I found this newly published book, “America’s Four Gods”, fascinating and helpful. Authors Paul Froese and Christopher Bader provide compelling evidence that it is one’s perception of God that is most important in predicting a person’s morals, behavior and politics. The book addresses the current culture wars in America and concludes that a closer look at our different beliefs about God is what the nation really needs.
Noted as the most extensive survey ever conducted of Americans’ religious beliefs, the book provides a description of four distinct perceptions of God in America and the percentage of Americans who apparently accept each view: Authoritative (31%), Benevolent (24%), Distant (24%) and Critical (16%). The book states, “Saying someone is a Roman Catholic tells you virtually nothing about his image of God. The same is true in Mainline Protestant denominations; their beliefs are spread equally across all types.”
Prior to reading this book, when asked about my perception of God, I might have said, “I believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God”. According to authors Froese and Bader, this definition does little to highlight my particular belief since nearly all Americans (85%) believe this! How God expresses His love brings wide differences of opinion, nonetheless, it’s encouraging to read that most Americans share a common belief in an all-loving God.
The authors write, “…a vast majority of Americans agree that God is loving. These countless believers feel compelled to take into consideration, when pondering the sins of others, their belief that God loves all humanity. In the end, a belief in God’s love is extremely influential in keeping believers well mannered and compassionate. For this reason, we all benefit from the idea of God’s love, whether we are sinners or saints, believers or atheists.”
So, which God do I believe in? The Christian Science God I know is certainly one of authority and benevolence, however, not exactly as these types are described in the book. The Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, defined God in her textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as: “…The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence.” Another name for God in Christian Science is also “Father-Mother”.
To me, understanding God is the primary purpose of life. My perception of the Divine is utilized whenever I put my understanding into prayerful practice, usually resulting in better health and well-being. I believe gaining fresh insights into God’s nature, power and presence makes this healing activity possible.
I appreciate that “America’s Four Gods” has encouraged me to look more deeply into how I can more clearly communicate my understanding of God to others. The authors suggest the best way to do this may be found in responding to the following questions:
1. To what extent does God interact and engage in the world?
2. To what extent does God judge the world?
3. To what extent do you rely on God?
4. What is the best way to address evil in the world?”
How would you answer these questions?