In the spring I took an online FLASH Introduction course. For my final project I put together something for the Church of Cottony Softness with Pastor Guido. It can be found on bottom of the Some Good Fun page.
When I showed it to one friend, he said that unless I was Catholic I really shouldn’t make fun of or be critical towards that church.
Never fully understood that attitude. Humour or criticism rarely reach the intended audience with real power or potency. And I didn’t think it was specifically Catholic anyway.
What really caught me by surprise, however, was his follow-up description of God.
This God we speak of is a life-giving Spirit. Think of it as a continuation of evolution. The One that started it all is starting something new. It’s like a sci-fi symbiotic thing. The starting point is Christ and for some reason God required the sacrifice of this one to allow this symbiotic relationship of His Spirit in us.
This same friend tried to convince me it is dangerous to be a non-believer because of the coming Antichrist, and used 2nd Thessalonians to support his worries about me.
At this point I deflected so as to end the conversation. It could have easily spiraled down into a debate but I didn’t want to insult either one of us and let it come to that. I have a cordial dislike for debate. It can be incredibly difficult to serve the greater good while ignoring or even shouting down another person’s point. I’d rather be a friend and see if we can share a joke.
His description of God demonstrated two things for me quite clearly:
1. The meaning or definition of God is so flexible that any idea can be attached to it at the whim and discretion of the speaker. (I wrote about this earlier with help from Dan Dennett — here and here for example.) People use the word for their own meaning in very personal ways. Desired or negotiated or constructed ways. Even non-believers do this, although they seem willing to go in another direction than believers.
2. Regardless of whatever flexible description of God is used, often enough that description is very quickly tied back to the God of the Bible. If I lived in another culture, maybe a different authority-text would be used.
The act of dubbing it an authority-text is a problem for me. It is an old, odd library collection rubber-stamped by committees. It is a wonder of inspiration and intrigue with immense literary value and cultural investment. It has been translated and interpreted again and again. “Even Newer” Testaments have been written with varying success rates. When it comes to God, the Bible has been what many people cling to or rely upon.
However, the Bible alone does not invoke trust and faith today.
Some face such a problem as a call to battle. Defend, debate, prove through victory the might and authority of the way of God through the text.
Some face such a problem as a call to change. Discuss, collect, offer through deliberation the lessons and directions for our relationships today.
I want to focus my next posts on this second approach, in a sense. The Observer published an article in October entitled, “What do we mean by God?” — six short passages that re-envision the what and the how of God.
I applaud their efforts, but question what consequences may come from it. In separate posts I will summarize each writer’s ideas from the article and then ask:
1. Is this a useful description for God today? Is this a meaningful negotiation or construction of someone’s ideas on God?
2. What does this mean for the Bible? Would the Bible be an authority-text under such an understanding of God? Would the Bible have to be edited?
A month ago I put up a poll asking what should be my next blog theme. Choice #2 won out and so I’m running with it. Will you please join me in this? I am asking you for a lot of help. Otherwise, I might draw my own conclusions…
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Note: I’m tempted to include pop-incarnations of God in this series, and so might add:
Elizabeth Gilbert – “My God is a magnificent God”
Wm. Paul Young - “God is an old black woman named Papa, but still called He”