Images of God 3



Images of God 3

In the previous post I have proposed a few reasons why each of us begins with a different image of what God might be like, and why we may be pre-programmed to reach contrasting conclusions.

Paul Graham’s Four Quadrants essay makes the shocking suggestion that:

“aggressively conventional-minded people are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the trouble in the world, and a lot of the customs we’ve evolved since the Enlightenment have been designed to protect the rest of us from them.

Why do the independent-minded need to be protected, though? Because they have all the new ideas. To be a successful scientist, for example, it’s not enough just to be right. You have to be right when everyone else is wrong. Conventional-minded people can’t do that.”*

There is another reason why those of us who can’t help being innovative need protecting:

“The four types are not equally common. There are more passive people than aggressive ones, and far more conventional-minded people than independent-minded ones. So the passively conventional-minded are the largest group, and the aggressively independent-minded the smallest.”

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day most definitely fitted into the aggressively conventional-minded category. They were one of the Jewish sects who was looking to the coming Messiah to free them from Roman oppression, and their USP was that God responded favourably to holiness. The traditions they clung to were rooted in their own particular interpretations of scripture, and everything about them was deeply conservative.

Might I suggest that this was a reason Jesus chose those on the margins to follow him, taught using parables and rarely confronted the establishment. New ideas have to be planted in well-prepared soil and need time to germinate. In some ways Jesus was a typical rabbi. In many other ways he was not.

This battle between a dominant conventional-minded majority and an independent-minded minority has been played out throughout Christian history. Change happens, but only when those who resist it lose all influence,  join an exclusive sect or die. Might this be why the church always seems to be on the back foot, looking backwards, responding but rarely innovating and ever critical of a world it does not understand?

The Four Quadrants of Conformism by Paul Graham 

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About the Author

Craig Millward has been a Baptist minister for over 30 years and has extensive experience of the joys and challenges of church leadership.

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