A concept of God, be it that of a supreme being or a cosmic mind or consciousness, involves certain specific elements or aspects. First, is the idea of God as a creator or definer of reality. All that exists and is real derives from God’s essence and existence. Second, is the belief that God has a plan and purpose which surrounds and infuses His creation, especially mankind, and that this plan unfolds under his guidance and control. The unfolding of this plan is a declaration of God’s essential nature. In other words, it reveals to all creation who God is and how He operates. A god who does not answer basic questions about existence and destiny isn’t really a god at all. A god who is not purposeful and in control of that purpose is not consistent with what most perceive to be the defining characteristics of God. Such a god must be subject to higher forces or natural laws beyond his power to influence and therefore not a god of the type generally depicted in Christendom. One can argue that the traditional picture of God as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent is a misrepresentation; but, given the fact that this is the traditional description ascribed to Him by the church, then the associated doctrines and theology of that church should be consistent with that same picture of God. The question then follows: How do the church’s doctrines concerning eternal destiny and final outcome square with the essential nature of God which they teach and project. In fact, they don’t. The church tries to present and justify a god whose essential characteristics are confused and contradictory. They proclaim, on the one hand, a god that is identical in most respects to the ancient gods of the pagans, i.e. angry, arbitrary, and demanding, and then try to reconcile that with a more transcendent description of a God who motivation is love and mercy. This reconciliation effort is the Achilles heel of Orthodoxy, exposing that either their sacred text is flawed or else their interpretation thereof is incorrect. A god in control could never logically lead to the conclusion the church teaches.
The problem we all have with trying to derive our understanding of God exclusively from the Bible is the very one described by Alexander Campbell in his memoirs. In those, he claimed that no one ever had the opportunity to develop a personal picture of God from the Bible alone because by the time they could begin such an effort, the institutional churches had already filled their minds with its own version. In other words, no one ever had the chance to approach the Bible with a blank mind, eager to learn the truth for themselves from the divine revelation. Instead they were involuntarily immersed in the traditions of men from birth and then later in adolescences or early adulthood finally had the chance to look at the Bible on their own. By then, their concept of God had already been tainted by the dogma of the prevailing religious traditions of their culture. Therefore to claim that one’s knowledge and understanding of God is strictly biblically, at least in the sense that one has studied it and formulated a personal concept of God based on that study alone, is an impossible one. Everyone’s understanding of the Bible and therefore of God is unavoidably altered by what has been taught before. In all likelihood, by the time you and I were able to talk we had already inherited a picture of God, which thereafter influenced every thought concerning Him, including all the assumptions and presuppositions we bring to interpreting the Bible.
I am sure that some are asking the obvious question here. If I can’t trust the church doctrines and I can’t even rely on my own personal study of the Bible, how will I see and know the truth about God? My personal answer to that is to look inside your own mind and heart for the answer placed there by God. Understandably, this approach is loudly condemned and ridiculed by the institutional church; it denies the church’s very reason for existence. They never state their objections in that way, saying instead that a private, personal understanding of God leads to many different views with resulting mass confusion and moral and ethical anarchy. In my opinion, we already have the mass confusion and resulting negative behaviors which the church thinks we should avoid by rejecting the individual’s right and ability to innately recognize God, His character, and His operation. So swapping the “objectivity of Church tradition” for the “subjectivity of “intuitive insight” involves no greater threat of misunderstanding, as far as I am concerned. God promised to write His laws and precepts on the heart such that no man needed a teacher, so why not take Him at His word and look to the heart for the real answers we seek?