As I write this, I’m taking a break during the Jesus Seminar on the Road event called “Does God Have a Future?” It might seem to presumptuous to ask such a question. Especially since, as someone reminded me, God lives outside of time, therefore has no past, present – or future.
OK, that may be true. Perhaps the seminar should really be called “Does Our Current Construct of God Have a Future?” But that’s a much less sexy title.
That is what it’s about, though. It’s been good to be reminded of how our Western construct of God has been formed by Greek philosophy – and how that construct is not necessarily the same as that of the Hebrew Bible. And today, in our post-modern era, many people are asking different questions. For example, they’re not asking about the truth of religion, but about whether or not it performs. Does it have value? Does it contribute to the world?
And following from that: does God have value? What do we mean by God in light of these concerns? Is the construct of God we’ve received from antiquity the only one possible? And if not, what form, if any, does God take for us today?
All this philosophy is making my head hurt! But the good news that’s coming through for me is that we are in a time of questioning and openness to ways of thinking about these matters. Religion doesn’t have to be the doctrine-bound, institutionalized bugaboo that is so maligned these days. Religion can be a container in which we can hold all the good ways we perform in the world. It can be a place where we explore questions of meaning and value. Of course these can happen in places other than within religion. But my hope is that those who think that all aspects of religion are to avoided at all costs will come to see that one can be a thoughtful, questioning, evolving, spiritual and religious person. The two are not are mutually exclusive
The institutional church is changing. That’s just a fact. Younger people are looking for and practicing their faith (there’s another word for consideration another time!) in different ways from previous generations. And this is good! Something creative and transformative is happening. Maybe the way we think about, understand, call God will be completely different from the way we were taught in Sunday school or by Monty Python. Old ways of thinking about God: Father, Master, Lord, Warrior, Omnipotent, Judge,etc. have already been giving way. Maybe we’ll finally learn from the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching that “the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.” Whatever “God” may be is more than our constructs.
I like being religious, if this kind of edgy conversation is what we’re talking about. The anxiety of the institutional church will eventually give way to the new thing being born.
I also like being spiritual, although this isn’t the event for that; I have to find that experience elsewhere. I hope that I succeed in bringing the two together in the worship services that I put together. But it’s a ongoing process of learning and unlearning, growing and accepting my limitations, letting go and letting – God? Hmm, that remains to be seen.
There is still one more session to go in the seminar: “The Post-Modern Critique of God” which will “explore atheistic accusations against, and theistic defenses of, God. It will then move to an examination of post-atheistic and post-theistic thought, both of which express similar ideas on the question of religion and its future.”
Oh, my head! This will probably generate more questions than answers – which indeed is the whole point!