Posts tagged ‘god’
When I was still a theology major in college, I remember reading a book comparing and contrasting Wesleyan-Arminian theology with Calvinist theology. The result? I became thoroughly convinced that in a very real way, the two sects of Christianity were not worshipping the same God. I was uncomfortable with proposing the idea that one of them was “wrong,” but it seemed obvious to me that there were some irreconcilable differences between a Calvinists perception of God and a Wesleyan’s perception of God. Each school of thought reduces the essential qualities of God to different attributes. While the characteristics of justice (Calvinism focus) and mercy (Wesleyan focus) are not mutually exclusive, the elevation of either of these characteristics over the other does present a different person.
The Calvinist God is defined by his strict adherence to justice. His creation of the universe and His relationship to it are quite different than a God whose essential property is mercy. Although my systematic theology professor—a man who I admire greatly for both his intellect and integrity—came very close to making the claim that these two conceptions of God are not presentations of the same divine person, but he always shied away from saying it outright. And with good reason, the claim opens up a Pandora’s box of sorts.
There are some very serious ramifications for this line of thought. It indicates that at least one of these two sects of Christianity is not worshipping the correct Person. They are worshipping an idol of a God. A twisted version of the “one true God.” Then again, these are not the only two “versions” of God within the Christian faith. Catholic theology, charismatic theology, orthodox theology… they all present their own spin on who God is. Despite the surface similarities between the deities of each of these schools of thought, to say that the God of the Southern Baptist is the same as the God of the Russian Orthodox is a bit of a stretch…
I realized sometime ago that I don’t talk to you like I used to. The most praying I do these days is the same nighttime prayer I’ve prayed since I was a child. I don’t even say grace before meals anymore. Not out loud, anyway. It’s just the little rhyme Mom taught me, and it’s usually when the first forkful is already in my mouth.
I don’t even know if I miss you. I don’t know who I’m supposed to miss.
Somehow, though, I still believe in you. Somehow, I still hope that you care and are doing something about the state of the world. It would be nice to know that you loved me and really did do some of the things they say you did. But I won’t hold my breath.
I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way, but I guess you know that. I mean that I’m not going to hold out for a sign from you before I live my life. I don’t think I’ll ever fully know or understand your will, so I don’t really see a point in continued attempts to grasp it through prayer and biblical interpretation. I’m just going to keep going, and keep hoping that it will all be okay with you in the end.
You might remember the conversation I had with M. (We’ve been going out. Fellow agnostic theist. It’s been awesome, thanks. ) We were talking about heaven, hell, and judgment. And I said that a usual scare tactic is a Bible verse about the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” by the people who are shut out, in darkness. Nobody wants to spend eternity weeping and gnashing their teeth, right?…
God, as a personal deity, is expected to be trusted no matter what. Doubt and disbelief in such a God is mostly seen as an anomaly, as a kind of sickness that requires healing. Fortunately, there are voices that consider doubt a virtue, such as Peter Rollins. He is a rare breed in an arena crowded with voices claiming with all certainty that God is this and God is that.
I once thought that I had God pinned down, and that I had a vital relationship with him. Now, I wonder whether that was just wishful thinking. I really don’t think religion or atheism are right-and-wrong positions (Rollins delves into this beautifully); they are simply conceptual frameworks for identifying with certain positions. Anything – and I mean anything – that is said about God is no more than language, no more than a signifier. If you are experienced with philosophy at all, you may begin to suspect that I am delving into the subjective-objective domain here, and you are correct. But regardless of how technical I get at describing faith and belief (or lack thereof), it does all come back to ideas.
The concept of God is not static. It is a construction over thousands of years involving the mental projections of men and women (primarily men, given the most common gender-typing of God as He). Does the projection accurately reflect the reality of that which it points to?..
As we all know, many challenges have been set forth by both sides of the theistic debate. Dan Barker set forth his fairly well-known, “Resurrection Challenge”, Kent Hovind set forth his infamous “Evolution Challenge”, just recently ‘bigham’ set forth the dumbest challenge ever, “The Sleep Challenge”, and numerous others have set forth some sort of intellectual or investigational challenge to try to convince “the other side”.
But there’s one famous theistic challenge that is often neglected, and I think it’s a noteworthy one. It’s noteworthy because it’s supposed to have been issued by the big dude himself. Yes, none other than YHWH of Bible fame. We’ll look first at the challenge itself (in the Bible), then we’ll look at some Bible stories where the challenge was supposedly taken up.
The challenge, as issued by YHWH through the prophet Isaiah, is found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 41, verses 22 & 23…
So the other day I was watching my son eat lunch.
Of course, “eat lunch” sounds much more, well, contained than anything usually accomplished by most 22-month olds. He grabbed big spoonfuls and/or handfuls of his mac & cheese and shoved them, fist and all, into his mouth, depositing most of it, losing a bit, and in the process coating his face, hands, hair, shirt and table in gobs of that inimitable nuclear orange cheese sauce. This was something that did not bother him at all. I found myself wishing I could focus on anything in the world as well as he focused on his mac & cheese. This kiddo really likes to eat.
And he had not a shred of self-consciousness. He did not care how he looked or how messy he was. He simply enjoyed his meal, and with a singularity of innocence and pleasure that makes sappy, sentimental parents like me want to weep. He had no awareness in the world that I was watching him, or indeed of anything else at all. He was entirely immersed in the immediacy of his experience, with no thought to what anyone else thought. I found it both striking and beautiful.
And it got me thinking about this matter of “self-consciousness”. The capacity to lose self-consciousness – to be present and fully immersed in the messiness of one’s bodily existence, and to live (if only briefly) without pride, shame, or false modesty – is a rare quality…