Yesterday I got an email from someone who had particular questions related to some of my views about theology and God as mentioned in the video below.
They were interesting to me and so I'm replying publicly here for you all as well.
How do these answers sit with you? Are they things you'd say of yourself as well? Am I a loon?
I think that your imagery of us being fish and God being the water we are in lines up with what Paul spoke about on Mars Hill. "In Him we live and move and have our being." The analogy of the fish not being able to see the water (or itself) clearly in the mirror also lines up with Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. "For now we see through a mirror, dimly." Does that work for you?
Exactly. In fact, in an earlier iteration of explanation I had included Paul's Mars Hill note as well as Meister Eckhardt's “I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and the presence of God.”
It seems you think Theology is man made. True?
Yup. Though the truths that they refer/point towards are simply the way things are ordered under God, our models for that ordering are only that, models, and those models are indeed made by humanity. Inspired at times, sure, but crafted by limited by human minds.
It seems that you think that in our current state of existence we are incapable of "really" knowing God. True?
Yeesh… A lot hangs on "really" doesn't it? Hmmmm… I think I would say that it is not possible to know God in God's fullness. I'm thinking here of things like Isa 55:6-9, especially, the balance between "… he may be found; call on him while he is near…" and "'my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." That is, of course there is a nearness and a knowledge of God. Praises!
In there very least we have scripture by which God's work is recorded, and I believe that we still have the gift of the Spirit which Jesus said he would send from the Father. And/but… I believe we commit a sin of hubris when we claim to know God or God's will in its complete fullness. That is, God's Goodness, Beauty, Love, Being etc. is so profound that our words will never be sufficient to capture the essence or the nature of our reliance upon that Holy power.
It seems that you think that God does not "reach out" to communicate with the "fish" living inside of Him. True?
Disagree entirely. It's just that sometime we don't get the message well, or don't slow down enough to listen.
You seem to come from a "liberal", "man-centered" approach to Christianity and theology. True?
Since you seem to be a fair-minded person, and this question (to me) seems very much the same as the first one, I'll assume that there is something to it other than that which I already hit on. I think that "Liberal" as a categorical term is fitting regarding my approach to Biblical Scholarship, yes. Here what I'm thinking of (via the handy-dandy wikipedia) is something like:
"Liberal Christianity, broadly speaking, is a method of biblical hermeneutics, an undogmatic method of understanding God through the use of scripture by applying the same modern hermeneutics used to understand any ancient writings. Liberal Christianity does not claim to be a belief structure, and as such is not dependent upon any Church dogma or creedal statements. Unlike conservative varieties of Christianity, it has no unified set of propositional beliefs."
In terms of being "man-centered"… well, that bears some thinking…
I do tend to think that there is something particular about humanity that is different that the rest of Creation, so I tend to be humano-centric in the sense that I don't think we are just the same as rocks or water, but I doubt that was what you were suggesting… Perhaps you can explain more what you mean about that and I can better answer you.
So the basic gist is that Mike Morrell of Speakeasy book blogging sent me a copy of Daniel Meeters' Why Be Christian (If No One Goes to Hell)? fromShook Foil Press and below I interview the author about the book. Neato.
I met Thom Stark at 2010's American Academy of Religion and was excited to hear that he had a book out. His The Human Faces of God is an unapologetic critique of biblical inerrancy, earnest engagement with the text, and (apparently) is making a big splash in Bible circles. The video will give you a great sense of Thom, but for a small taste here he is in his own words from a recent comment on a blog. Folks who frequent The Image of Fish will find ready thematic ties between Thom's work and my own.
As is clear to anyone who reads the book, the kind of Christian faith I articulate is not at all “the Christian faith” as traditionally understood. I don’t believe in having doctrines; I don’t believe in giving assent to metaphysical propositions. Rather, I want to critically appropriate the vocabulary and grammar of all traditions (beginning with my own), in order to better understand the world and ourselves. Part of the way we do that is by condemning aspects of our traditions, but in doing so, recognizing that those condemnable perspectives linger, in various ways, within our modern “progressive” selves.
As I’ve said around and about the place, all God-talk is poetic, not scientific; evocative, not descriptive. So in that last chapter I’m using some vocabulary from my tradition to articulate a coming out of an architectonic religion of dogmatic propositions into a way of acting upon the world through dialogue and conversation with the endless Others, that we’ll find are really little different from ourselves.
Alrighty. So this is my first foray into history hunting for hope. As I mentioned in a post a bit ago, I am hoping that others with join me in this exploration of tradition. The video on that link explains the thrust of my invitation more fully, but suffice it to say that I would love to hear from folks about how it is their scholarship feeds a contemporary living faith. If you have notions about how that might happen, or examples of it happening, send them along. Either in the comments below, or via direct contact with me. Anywho…
So the above flick is about Origen, and the sources referenced in it are below in the order of their appearance.
Among the Progressive Christian circles of which I am typically involved, theological stances range widely, from a version of Universalism that looks askance on traditional Christian language to a form of exploration with "ancient-future" practices and traditions. Common throughout these encounters though is the pesky question of what to do with tradition(s).
Whether it be the various flavors of orthodox thought (not even needing a captial "O" here) asking us to maintain certain types of historical interpretation and practice, or radical post-Christian theology suggesting we ought to jettison that which has come before, a significant challenge that faces the modern Christian is to figure out where we stand in relation to the rest of the Christian stream, including the part of that stream that predates us by decades and centuries.
Into this mix, Diana Butler Bass steps with her 2009 book, A People's History of Christianity. A compelling read, Bass's text riffs off of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States with the claim that regardles of what side of the religious aisle you are on, chance are that "the history" and tradition in which you think you need to place yourself is not the only story. That is, whether you want to reject it or embrace it, Bass suggests the questions to ask are not about rejection or acceptance, but about the "it." What history exactly are you embracing? Rejecting? Is that the only history there is? In rejecting much of Christian Tradition do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? In accepting only once perspective on the past do we miss out on equally true means to depth in faith? Yes indeed, to both, says Bass.
The problem, she claims, is that "the" history that most of us refer to as Christian history is a story of domination and conquest, and while that certainly is present within the tradition, there are also many other storied streams that flow right up to the present, paralleling narratives of compulsion with ones of compassion. Once we become aware of this she contends, then we can look to history with a different eye, finding the traces of thought and action that are often overlooked. Doing this then allows us to search out moments and events that, upon contemporary reflection, might become sites of "a vital, hopeful, hospitable, and open faith — a faith that can heal, reconcile, and bring peace." This compelling articulation leads me to an invitation.
In the next few post on TIoF, I will be engaging in my own hunt for hope in history AND I would love to hear about your own: where do you find vitality, hope, and hospitality in moments, figures, events, or streams of thought from the past? Put another way, what particulars of your understanding of tradition point you towards a living faith today and how do they do that? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or, even better, your own blog posts that you share. Writing, video, music, photography… you name it and I'd love to see and share it.