The God I Reject

June 8th, 2021 / 2 Comments

In my new book, I explain what it means to say God is open and relational. But I also identify views of God that I reject.

To avoid getting lost in the weeds, I use the label “conventional God” for a host of views open and relational thinkers oppose. Under this one label rests a pot-pourri of problematic ideas.

Millions of people believe in the conventional God I describe below, and we could point to thousands of nuances within this perspective. Painting a general portrait is sufficient for the contrast I offer throughout the book.

Key Features of the Conventional God

The conventional God exists above or outside time. Watching from this external perspective, He knows all that has ever happened and everything that will happen as if it already occurred. He’s more like an abstract number than a loving sister; more like a definition than a person. The future is settled for this God in the same way the past is settled. And yes, the conventional God is usually thought of as masculine.

Call Him “the timeless God.”

The conventional God is unaffected by what we do. Creation makes no difference to Him, because He can’t be influenced. The conventional God never has a change of mind or alters course in response to creation, because creatures have no effect on Him. This God can’t be compassionate in any sense that we understand compassion, because that form of love requires a response. Despite what people say, the unaffected God can’t really respond to prayer.

Call Him “the uninfluenced God.”

This God is in control. By either manipulating every creature in every instant or manipulating only those moments He deems important, the conventional God orchestrates history to a predetermined end. This means God either causes or permits all evil. The Nazi Holocaust? God did it or permitted it. Your cousin’s car accident? God could have stopped it but chose not to. Child abuse? This God allows that too. The conventional God is large and in charge.

Call Him “the controlling God.”

The conventional God is pristine. He can’t be in the presence of unholy creatures like you and me. We are dirty rotten scoundrels wallowing in the pit of sinful despair. To overcome this problem, the conventional God had to kill his Son. He now sees us through the lens of this atoning death and thinks we’re pure when we aren’t.

Call Him “the ultimate Germaphobe,” and we’re the germs.

The conventional God usually keeps a distance, preoccupied with His own glory. He’s a lot like a narcissist. When necessary, He’ll intervene to fiddle with creation or barge in where not welcome. The conventional God works through the laws of nature and natural systems that He installed singlehandedly. He occasionally breaks those laws and systems if it’s important enough.

Call Him “the intervening God.”

Our actions don’t make a difference to the future the conventional God already knows as fact. He knows who ends up in heaven and who will fry in hell. We can’t alter a future this God knows as settled and complete, because to alter it would make Him a liar. What we think are the beginning and end are a single moment to the conventional God.

Call Him “the foreknowing God.”

The conventional God loves some people, sometimes. Maybe. Mostly He’s mad, pissed at deplorable sinners who dare to disobey. This God usually punishes the unrepentant promptly, but on a good day, He may show a hand of mercy. Like the Roman emperor whose thumbs up or down depends on his own mood, you hope the conventional God is in a good mood. Don’t count on forgiveness, because the conventional God can do whatever He damn well pleases. And “damning” is what this God does well.

Call Him “the angry God.”

I could identify more characteristics, but this should suffice. This vision of God sounds familiar to most people. It may sound familiar to you. It’s a vision I reject.

The Conventional God is Unsatisfying and Likely False

Conventional theologies take various forms and have subtle nuances. I don’t want to give the impression everyone who accepts the conventional model is unintelligent or naïve. Intellectually sophisticated versions of these ideas exist. But even the most sophisticated conventional descriptions of God do not convince me and others. Sometimes, the sophisticated versions are especially unsatisfying.

Did you notice that some features of the conventional God contradict one another? God is said to be both angry at creatures and uninfluenced by them, for instance. If creatures can’t influence God, how could they make Him angry? Or God is both timeless but also intervening. To intervene implies a time sequence in which God had not intervened and then did. Or God is both controlling but unable to be in our presence. How can an absent God control us?

Some conventional theologies correct these inconsistencies by choosing one feature and setting aside the other. This doesn’t alleviate all the problems, of course. Eliminating half a contradiction can make it more obvious just how bad the remaining problem is.

Other conventional theologies accept the inconsistencies and appeal to mystery, saying finite minds can’t understand an infinite God. This kind of mystery helps no one. In fact, it adds another problem: unintelligibility. We end up with a schizophrenic God who is timeless but intervening, angry but uninfluenced, and controlling but not around.


Did you also notice the conventional view aligns with Authoritative and Critical models of God? More than half of Americans embrace those views, and I suspect they dominate much of the world. The conventional view of God has deep, long-lasting, and worldwide influence. Some is quite negative.

It’s time for something better.

Open and Relational Theology: An Introduction to Life-Changing Ideas

My book released in July, 2021. You can buy it here.

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Gracias hermano Oord. Muy sugestivo tu pensamiento!

CherI Quillin

Awesome essay! I attended NNC my freshman year (3.2 gpa, btw) and after that decided, I couldn’t handle another year – at the same time, they decided they couldn’t handle another year of me – an outspoken, free-thinker. Love having discovered YOU and your works. Much of what you write reminds me of what I’ve come to think after many years of independent study of the Bible, it’s history, and other faith systems.

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