Recently, I have seen various authors using one particular dominant virtue, or maybe a small set of virtues, when referring to God. According to these authors, God is to be viewed predominantly as sovereign, gracious, kind, truthful, forgiving, redeeming, loving, or some other virtue.
At the same time we thus place God’s virtues into a hierarchal scheme, we can also do something similar with the variety of attitudes and actions God desires of His children. Some will place corporate worship at the top of the list. Others will place loving God at the pinnacle, or acts of charity, or truth telling, or doing social justice, or praying, or witnessing – you get the point. With the “most important” attitude or action thus established, the others are organized in descending order of importance.
I recognize that there are some reasons why we humans normally like to keep things simple. Our mental abilities are limited, we easily reach the limit of our attention span, our personal agenda can filter out truth that doesn’t jive with us at the moment, we want to be part of a group and their group-think, or our source of information is errant or scanty. Any one of these reasons can lead us to select a particular virtue / attitude / action, make it dominant, and use it integrate and prioritize all the others.
Unfortunately, there are several consequences and/or problems with this approach, which I don’t pretend to be able to prioritize!! These actions, behaviors, and virtues:
- take on cultural characteristics.
- commonly become signs of “correct” religion or “correct” religious practice.
- can easily become parameters with which we decide the value of other people.
- frequently are used to justify the absence of other virtues, actions, and behaviors.
Allow me to conclude this way –
“Simplicity is too cheap a price to buy truth”