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Recently Dr. David G. Benner posted some brief thoughts on whether fear should characterize our response to God (taken from his book Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality).

Remember, these are spiritual reflections, not an academic analysis of the various dimensions of fear and love, or how they might play off of each other. He is not talking about fear as “awe” (as in Proverbs, for example). Benner is a psychologist and spiritual mentor. On his mind are those who “live with a fear of the God who keeps them in their place by ensuring their continued distress.”

Benner seems to think this type of spiritual posture is quite common, and if I have anything to add, I agree. In my experience, the type of unhealthy fear Benner talks about is expressed as anger, arrogance, bitterness, and judgmentalism.

Benner concludes:

Notice the extent to which your actual view of God (not the professed one) involves a God who is capricious, dangerous, hostile or in some way unsafe.  Often such views of God come to us from childhood and remain frozen in time and largely unchanged. If this is true for you, allow that god to die and dare to encounter the God who comes to you in love. You exist as an outflow of that love, and it is this Perfect Love that exists at the center of your being where God resides in you and you reside in God.

What kind of God is actually at work in your life–not the one you tell others you believe in but the one deep down that actually drives your spiritual engine? If your God is a “dangerous” God in Benner’s sense of the word, what difference would it make in your life to allow that false God to die? What if you are created in God’s image, God actually loves you, and you actually believed that? How would things be different for you?

To get more context, read the post linked above. Something to ponder on this Sunday morning.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.