Monday, April 21, 2008

Fear of God

I'm finally getting around to another real post. To my faithful audience, I'm sorry for the wait. My life is absolutely insane recently with much travel, visiting family, and an upcoming move to begin a new job. However, throughout all of this, I've had a little time to read and a lot of time to think so this is the first of, hopefully, a fairly regular string of posts.

As a response to my post Comfort in Islam, Azooz mentioned the importance of fear of God. To quote his exact words:
Islam does not concentrate on either God's mercy or God's love - the Fear of God must always come first.
Although I do agree that fear of God is a necessary part of one's relationship with the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God, I hate to think that fear is the primary emotion governing that relationship.

When thinking about relationships in general, relationships built on and depending on fear are the saddest kind by far. Governments that maintain control through fear and intimidation are considered evil, totalitarian forces. A man who controls his wife or children through fear or intimidation is an abuser and a criminal. These relationships founded on fear are unstable, sad, and are looked down upon by others who often try to free the victims from their oppression.

I won't go so far as to say that fear should be completely eliminated from such relationships. Children's fear of their parents is occasionally necessary to maintain order. The people's fear of police is necessary to preserve peace. However, in these cases, fear is only necessary for the extreme cases. In daily life, the relationship between parents and children is based on love, trust, and dependence. The relationship between a people and their government should, likewise, be built on trust and accountability.

I understand Azooz's assertion that fear will keep you on the straight path and help you lead a good life. However, people who live in constant fear live sad, desperate lives. Additionally, I feel like doing the right thing and living a good life as a result of respect and love is much better incentive than doing it out of fear. Although the outcome may be the same, what is in one's heart is drastically different. In the first case, one has a true desire to do what is right whereas in the second, one simply desires to avoid the punishment that goes along with what is wrong.

I'm starting to think that the biggest differences between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are simply their perception of God; which attributes of God receive the most attention. In all three God has the same attributes but each focuses on different aspects, which influence their practices, rituals, and cultures.

I just needed to get that out because Azooz's comment has been bothering me ever since I read it. What does everyone else think?


Anonymous said...

The Old Testament mentions the fear of God many, many times, but I don't necessarily think fear means "being scared." I'm not Hebrew scholar, but I think fear can be translated as reverence or awe as well. I don't think the Lord is something to be scared of in a "dictator" sort of way, but rather as a child fears his parent. Parents discipline and correct their children with only their best interest in mind. That's how God loves us, but in perfect way that an earthly parent cannot.


Anonymous said...

Of course, the New Testament speaks of the fear as well, and it may be the Greek word for fear that means reverence and awe.

I think the Bible makes a distinction between different types of fear and their different motivations. Proper fear points you to the Lord, whereas fear of men leads you to discontent and joylessness.

Consider 1 John 4:18 (NASB): "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love."

Psalm 130:3-4 (NASB) says, "If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared."

Proverbs 9:10 (NASB) states, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

Fear that serves to point us to the love of God is godly fear, but fear that produces anxiety and shame is not of the Lord. The fear of men is what drives us to anxiety and covetousness, but the fear of the Lord actually frees us to love others instead of compete against them.


Anonymous said...

I've written 3 responces to this, thought better than posting them - it's something you must convince yourself it is right to fear God, for it is worship.

The fear of God is what makes a person of any religion "good" - as a human you have a common value system, your religion has those values to - the fear of God makes you stick to them more than someone who does not worship God - else they are better than you. humans have a certain level of generosity, the fear of God enhances it so that even a great miser will be generous, for the fear of God. When you depened on His love you need not be generoues at all, and a miser depends on His mercy and love to.

A mother can order her child Not to eat that cookie, and to take out the garbage - a harsh and cruel mother will be obey by most, but religion orders all to obey her - so a meek and kindly mother is to be obey even more than a harsh one.

A child who considers his mother in each and every tiny wish, and tries very hard to find ways to please her - that can be for a harsh mother, but a meek mother would like it to - you do not need much fear of God with the harsh mother but for a kindly one you do - for it is God who made this one harsh and that one soft, and you are to obey both types of mothers, please them and please God :)

the fear of God relates directly to your new post about Arabs - Islam defines an Arab as anyone who speeks Arabic, I'll try to write it in a bit of spare time.

And, keep at the Quran - it explains the why and how of Taqwa very nicely and it's a very important subject.


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