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In early Christianity, most of those who rejected a doctrine of God generally rejected His ability to create. They bought into the Gnostic belief that the material world was created by aeons or “little gods” or angels. Others, however, taught that matter pre-existed God and that God came along the scene, formed matter to His likening, and let it go. Though He had a plan for creation, He had no way of causing this plan to come about. We see this in modern heresies too. Whether someone denies that God has foreknowledge or is truly good or the strange theology of Weakness Theology (as per Caputo’s book, The Weakness of God, specifically chapter 3 where Caputo declares, “God is not omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal, or supersensuous.” [p73]), some modern-day heresies begin with the denial of who God is.
For instance, the Damascene speaks of the Theocatagnostae (“Condemners of God”) who sought to find the faults within God. As John of Damascus explains:
“The Theocatagnostae, who are also called Blasphemers, try to find fault with [the Lord] for certain words and actions, as well as with the holy persons associated with Him, and with the sacred Scriptures. They are foolhardy and blasphemous people.” (Heresy 92)
In other words, those who say, “God was wrong” or that we shouldn’t trust all of Scripture are heretics. This might seem inflammatory to some, but others wear the title proudly. Caputo, on page 69 of his book, reverses the role of the serpent and God and says the serpent was telling the truth while God was being crafty. Such sentiment is not limited to Caputo (who few people have heard of). Instead, a studier of Caputo, my friend Peter Rollins also decides to shift the blame to God and make the serpent look innocent (chapter 2 of his book The Fidelity of Betrayal). For instance, Rollins, in talking about the narrative of the serpent deceiving Adam and Eve, supposes that God doesn’t have to be right and the serpent wrong. In a footnote to saying this, Rollins states:
“The idea of God as a being who is unchanging, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent and thus always right is more of a philosophical rendering than a biblical one. In metaphysical theology God is thought to be the perfect being, and perfection is related to the realm of total knowledge, total power, total presence, and absolute oneness. In contrast, the God we encounter in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures seems much more dynamic and messy.” (pg. 189, footnote 28).
In this, we see the God of Scripture – who, contrary to what my friend says, is presented as perfect in Scripture (e.g. Alpha and Omega, the last few chapters of Job, the constant reference to His moral perfection, etc) – is stripped of His power and lessened as a Being. Likewise, a question arises as to His moral goodness. Must God always be moral? The Bible answers yes, but Rollins answers with a shrug.
Such teachings are heretical (a term that wouldn’t offend Rollins) and continue on today. Just as they existed 2,000 years ago, they still exist today. The idea that these teachings are “new and refreshing” or “a new way to think about Christianity” is absurd; such beliefs have always been around and are not new.
Rather, we should embrace and know God as God as much as we can. He has revealed Himself to us and though we will never comprehend Him or have clarity on the things He has revealed, we can have a general idea of what He wants us to know about Him. When we seek to deny what He has revealed about Himself, we seek to deny Him.