I was reading Tony Jones’ blog, where he challenged progressive Christian bloggers to write about God.
Boy, did that one come out of the blue. Not that progressive Christians don’t write about God. But they rarely write directly about God. You can see some of their thoughts about God lying behind their thoughts about church, politics, theology, spiritual practices, etc.. But one gets a sense that they really don’t like to talk about God, at least not where others can see it. Jones asks, and even though I don’t consider myself a ‘progressive’ Christian (more of a politically-centrist mainline Lutheran who’s in active and positive conversation with evangelicals and Pentecostalists – whew!), I think I should take a whack at it.
Or at least, I thought so when I first read it a week ago. Since then, I’ve thought about God, and thought about writing about God. But a bazillion things kept happening – radio, music, family, charity, household chores, and the cares of a guy who’s been far too single for far too long. In the past, every five years or so, I would immerse myself in thinking of God. I’d read something someone wrote in an article or book, and suddenly I’d spend the next month or so consumed with pursuing the thoughts that spun off from it. And I’d learn a whole lot. Eventually it would hit me that what God wanted me to do was not to obsess over thinking about God, but rather to spend my time building a life where I could get down to the business of loving people. I wish I could say I’ve done it well, but there’s a big hole in that which I could drive an 18-wheeler through.
But now that I’m writing here, what about God?
I could write of God’s attributes, but those are really there to state some basic, core truths about God. They set up the most important questions about God which come from daily life, which is often lived in the exceptions on the edge of those truths. I won’t get into the ‘omnis’, either, because ‘omni’ rhymes with ‘Romney’, and I’d get sick from thinking of ‘Romniscience’. But take the attribute saying that God doesn’t change. I’ve never in my life experienced God’s character or personality or love change, nor do I see that happening in history or the Bible. But I do see God caring enough to change tactics and actions, which are how character is shown. In Scripture, it shows when someone steps out in faith to intercede for others before God. I can testify that I’ve seen it be so in life, too. Love is a relationship, and God acts in ways that are made necessary by that love. It can be harsh, blunt, and direct. It can even be at times blissful and (yecch) even cute.
I think sometimes we try to say too much about God. What we really know about God is what we find in the Bible, and even that is colored by the understandings of the authors who wrote it and the societies they live in. While our experiences and our formulations give us much insight, ultimately they are not God, but educated guesses. And what does the Bible tell us about the First Person of God? More than anything else, it tells us to look at the Second – Jesus. Hear what Jesus says, see what Jesus does. Hear from those He taught, who witnessed this. We can, in a sense, ‘know’ God, who, like any lover, wants to be better known and understood by God’s beloved. God wants us to see Jesus, by whom we can know, understand, and love the One Jesus called ‘Father’. I’m not asking you to question the Scriptural report less, but I am begging you to trust it more, even when your instincts say otherwise.
I don’t know if this is much of a help to Tony or progressive Christians. They’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting in thought and practice right now. I’m mainly writing as testimony this time. More might come, maybe even tomorrow. But this is all for now.