A History of God

Here is another video that I just watched. Keep in mind that this video comes from an Abrahamic perspective (all those interviewed were either Christian, Jewish, or Muslim). I am interested in hearing your views on this documentary. Is it accurate or inaccurate? What are its best and worse points? Why do you agree or disagree with the documentary?

9 responses to “A History of God

  • Ros

    Is it accurate or inaccurate?

    I think this depends on what you mean by ‘accurate’. The documentary was presented in such a way that certain questions were not raised. For example, the biblical text was taken as read, without any discussion as to whether the events it describes really happened or not. Similarly, there was no discussion about how the biblical text came to us and the length of time over which the stories were edited and re-edited by different relgious communities. In other words, there were things that had clearly been left out in order to create an accessible programme. I don’t have a problem with that because it seemed to me that the intent was to concentrate on what the texts could tell us about the authors’ understanding of God at particular points in time. That being so, I thought it did a good job of presenting the development of the human understanding of God through the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions.

    Within that, I thought it made a useful point about the ongoing tension between the trancendence and immanence of God and how that played out in the different cultures (and hence religions) discussed. I think the interaction between culture and religion is hugely interesting. I do think that the Bible has been affected by the cultural understanding of those who authored it. I think that is inevitable. People cannot write from an understanding that is completely divorced from their own culture because they cannot get outside their culture in order to do so. However, assuming that a god or gods exist, that doesn’t mean that the god or gods cannot also influence human understanding and hence a sacred text such as the Bible or Qur’an. I know atheists will deny that God can have had any such influence. I also know some Christians will deny that human culture and understanding can have had any influence on the Bible. I take neither view. For me, the combination of the two makes the text much more meaningful. If we can understand something of how the text might have been understood in its original cultural context, we can have a much better understanding of what it might or might not say about God.

    Similarly, it’s blatantly obvious to me that both the Bible and cultural forces have influenced the development of the church and its doctrine since the time of Jesus. The Trinity is one example, but there are many, many others, from the structure and hierarchy of the church through to its missionary activity (or lack of it). Understandings of God have changed over time and between groups and communities and I think that is inevitable. Human beings are fallible, even if God is not. However, there are certain elements that come up over and over again – God’s transcendence and (paradoxical) immanence among them – and its those common points of understanding that suggest to me that there is something in the God story.

    What are its best and worse points?

    Best points? It presented some interesting ideas, whilst making no demands on people to believe or not believe. I also thought it asked an interesting question about where the history of God might go next.

    Worse points? I found the ‘voice of history’ (quoting from Bible and Qur’an) annoyingly melodramatic 😉

    Why do you agree or disagree with the documentary?

    I didn’t see it as presenting anything particularly controversial for me to agree or disagree with? It was just a bunch of historians and theologians presenting their understanding of how ideas about God have developed over a few thousand years. Clearly, there are differences in theology between East and West, between Jews, Christians and Muslims and between fundamentalists, liberals and atheists, so I saw nothing much to fight with there. Nor did it seem to be critical of any particular religious group, just of the problems that can result when such groups get too defensive and/or intolerant. Again, that seemed fair enough. Finally, the question as to where ‘The history of God’ might be going next was largely left open – as I think it should be.

    But what did you think about it?


  • Mark Elkins

    I am a Christian. I don’t follow blogs generally, but yours I like. As for this documentary, it’s starts out with the supposition that knowledge or understanding of God was not there, and that humans either initiated, sought out, or authored our understanding of God. Since I believe the Bible quite literally and completely I would have to say this supposition makes the entire documentary unreliable. While many people do author there own understanding of God (or the lack of God), I believe He has initiated contact with us most recently through His Son Jesus, and it is through Him we can best understand God himself.


  • Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – my thoughts on “A History Of God” | Club Schadenfreude

    […] on Hessian With Teeth’s blog, the authors have watched a documentary and asked for comments about it. The doc is “A History of […]


  • Gushopper

    A very thought provoking documentary. I like the way the contents are delivered in a very impartial manner and the focus on the historical facts of how these religions developed rather than being a subjective or biased production. Yes it’s long but so is the history of man and his relationship with this unseen deity called God. I can see that viewers, depending on their own religious leaning, would experience different reactions to this video, to some it may cause them to become more committed to their particular faith but to me, it proves only one thing, that the idea of God is and has always been superstitious and man made.


  • clubschadenfreude

    This is based on Karen Armstrong’s book, right? It’ll be interesting to what some of your theist commenters have to say about her ideas aboutu this god.


  • L Alan Weiss

    I really enjoy your posts. I will watch the video when I am back in WIFI range. See my blog at http://www.dome-of-heaven.com


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