The existence of olives is objective, but my reaction to the thought of eating an olive is subjective. Olives exist, but not everyone wants them on their pizza. The existence of Paris is objective, but my reaction to the thought of a vacation there is subjective. Paris exists, but not everyone wants to spend two weeks walking the Champs-Élysées. The existence of my neighbour is objective, but my reaction to the thought of a day of golf with him is subjective. My neighbour exists, but not everyone wants him as their best friend.
Existence is objective, but interaction is subjective. Interaction is moulded by genetics, by upbringing, by culture, by peers, by life experience, by expectation and probably enough other things to fill this entire posting with the list. We recognize that the girl of my dreams might be the star of another’s nightmare, yet we also recognize that neither opinion is wrong. Eye colour is objective, but whether or not I find those eyes attractive is subjective.
This brings us to our question:
Is our experience of God supposed to be objective or subjective?
For a believer, God is objective. Yet it is interesting that so much of the interaction we are supposed to have with God is also presented objectively. As subjective interaction is the rule between any two men, why would it be different between any man and God?
The thought of God as a collection of absolutes has extended to even his personality. If God has a favourite food, then that food is the favourite food of any perfect being. If God has a favourite colour, then that colour is the favourite of any perfect being. Becoming one with God could be likened to the Borg – leave your own personality at the door.
We imagine death to be the great objectifier, placing all men upon a level field. A former posting asked the question of whether all people who die would then be able to see through the vantage point of truth. The problem with a yes answer is that knowing truth is presented in the scripture as an if/then statement; if you obey then you will know the truth. Knowing truth isn’t a temporal blessing, it is eternal. Knowing truth is what allows you to enter in to the oneness of God. If there are people destined for hell, death will make no difference at all in their knowing truth.
A similar assumption dogs issues such as faith. The scriptures tell us that a man with more faith eats meat, while the man with lesser faith eats only vegetables. We see this as only a temporal issue, and expect that when we die, we all end up with the same amount of faith. Heaven means steak for everybody. But why would that be? Paul tells us that faith remains; what you have acquired is what you possess. Furthermore, we are told that whatever is not done in faith is sin. If this statement is an eternal reality, then heaven shifts from an objective experience where everyone participates in the same way, into a subjective experience, where your level of faith determines how you participate.
Here on earth, denominations are one indication that our current ways of experiencing God are quite subjective. And there is nothing inferior with subjective experience. The question we need to ask ourselves is what is it that is controlling our perceptions? Most of us would like to think it is the Holy Spirit directing us into a purer form of worship. Most of us would be wrong. For most of us, the songs we like to sing, sermons we like to hear and service formats we like to follow are mostly a product of the subjective influences in our lives. Part of our earthly battle is learning where the objective God ends (God is holy) and the subjective God begins (for me, holiness includes attending Sunday service).
The biggest problem Christianity faces is that our subjectivity becomes institutionalized, is preached as the objectivity of God, and becomes a barrier to further maturity. There is a greater tendency for younger people to move into the new things of God, not because they are holier, but because they have less baggage controlling their decisions.
People conflate the statement, God shows no partiality, and end up believing that God deals with all men equally. Rather, realize that God is not influenced by human perception, but this doesn’t mean that God does not have favourites. And his reasons for choosing the favourites he does are as subjective as our reasons for choosing our favourites.