>God isn’t who we thought- 3 problems with the Big 5 God:

1.When we make God too big and too pure and too heavenly – the Incarnation becomes impossible. It just doesn’t make sense how God could have bridged that gap. Maybe it’s not that we’ve made good too big but that we have over emphasized the gap between Spirit & Matter, Heaven and Earth, God & the Creation.

2.If that God is all powerful then he is not all loving. And if he is all loving then he is not all powerful – and no amount talk bout ‘mystery’ or ‘tension’ is going to cut it. Sunday school answers about just ‘trusting that He knows what is best’ don’t work in the face of the atrocities that we saw in the 20th century. Either we outgrew that god, or he died or he isn’t who we thought he was.

3.Even if we do believe in that old concept of God (and keep in mind – I am not talking bout the God of the Bible. I am talking about the God that emerged in the first three centuries around Christ and continued to evolve throughout church history). If we do stick with that God then we have to address the the obvious question: where did he go? He hasn’t done much in a while. Maybe after Jesus and the writing of the Bible his work was done and now it is up to us to figure it out. Maybe technology, education and civilization steal his powers and he can only work where those things are not.

Now of course – and I hope that this is obvious – I don’t believe that. I believe in God and God’s present work in the world. But this concept of God is incoherent and irrational as well as impractical in the modern world. I don’t mind taking things by faith. I am a person of faith. But I am not going to use the ‘Faith’ card on something that is nothing more that a poorly conceived construct.

The thing that I want tell you, in the way of good news, is that Deconstruction is not Destruction or Demolition. It is simple admitting that we need a new model and getting about the business at hand.

And I think that maybe a good place to start is making sure that the one we call ‘God’ is that one that Jesus called ‘Abba’.

Next time… we go for it: let’s just have it out and tackle the question – is God strong or weak? and then we get on with it.

OK – so there it is in the new format. Short and sweet. I jammed it into a couple of short paragraphs!

If you want to stick around for Overtime -I will unpack it a little bit and flesh it out. But there you have the seed here and the framework.

Overtime: the old style big Essay (or just go to post a comment at the bottom)

I know that it is a new year so I hate to start it with a negative but I have some unfinished business from the past year. So…

I want to start this year with a confession.
I don’t believe in this configuration of God: Omni-potent, Omni-present, Omniscient, Impassable, Immovable.
It doesn’t matter whether you call him the God of the Creeds, the God of Church History, the God of Orthodoxy or of ‘Classic Christianity’. It’s just not who I pray to, who I sing about or who I participate with… not when it’s configured like that.
And here is why. Here are my 3 big problems with the Big 5 God.

The Incarnation becomes an Impossibility.
When we focus too much on God’s transcendence, try to make God too big and too ‘Other’ we paint ourselves into a corner and it actually become logistically impossible for Jesus to have come in the flesh! When we talk about God in too grandiose terms we often borrow for Gnostic language and say that ‘God can nothing to do with this sinful world’ and then someone says ‘what about jesus ? If he was fully God and fully man, how did he bridge this massive gap that you have set up?’ And the answer that is given rings hollow. “It is a Mystery.” Now listen , I am ALL about mystery and the mystical and the supernatural… but I object to using ‘mystery’ to defend our illogical and incongruent conceptions of God.

Which brings me to my second point…

Theodicy – “a response to the problem of evil in the world that attempts logically, relevantly and consistently to defend God as simultaneously omnipotent, all loving and just despite the reality of evil.”
In the past this has been a real problem. If God is all powerful and God is loving and he’s just then why is he evil allowed to persist? And this IS a real problem. I just have two quick thoughts about this:
The 20th century was brutal for God. Not only did he take a beating in the classroom (and sometimes in the courtroom) but he was often nowhere to be found outside of evangelical and Pentecostal worship services. But in a very real sense we saw a what evils people were capable of in the name of God. In movements like the the Nazis of Germany, the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia ( Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia) and the god-soaked language of African atrocities in Darfure a(not to mention the cults of Jonestown and the Brach Davidians among countless others) we saw little difference from the godless regimes of Communist Russia, the Fascist, the Totalitarians and the Utopians. God was seemed to make little difference is how we treated enemies, combatants
We have much better ways to think about this now! Ya know – we are not limited to the way is that they thought about God in the second and third centuries. We are not limited to the constructs of the plagues any crusades of the 1100’s. we aren’t not limited to the constraints in thought of the 16th and 17th century. This is a new day. And there are much better options now for thinking about how the universe is constructed and how reality functions, how history progresses and where humanity participates.

Theodicy is a problem of constructs and conceptions of the past. when you beef God up too much and over-inflate your portrayal of your conception, you have to come back and defendant at construct when things don’t go well. We have concepts and frameworks now that incorporate the evils of things like the second world war and the atrocities of the 20th century into a working configuration that integrates the presence of evil with the way of the world actually works and the belief in a loving God. We are not limited by the way people have thought about and talked about God in the past. There is a progressive, emerging, innovative and thoughtful way to approach this.

The old God is nowhere to be found.
This is perhaps my biggest problem with the old big 5 God. He hasn’t done anything in a while. Either he did some really cool stuff in the Bible and then he retired, or he is a regional deity that can do cool things with the weather and some miraculous things in a very small locations with small groups of people.
People who voraciously defend the literalness of the Bible run into a problem if they do not have those kind of experiences to detail of biblical proportion. If you want to say that the kind of things that we read about in the Bible literally happen, that’s fine. But there had better be a self validating expression and experience that coincides with it. It does no one any good to have a passionate defense of the literalness of the biblical account if there are no self validating evidences in the community. Some people split history into dispensations and say well that was then and this is now, and that really happened then but it’s not going to happen now. So that’s kind of a dead-end. Apparently the big five God changed. After he did his big impressive stuff he retired into some recess of the universe — having written a bestseller with the Bible he had enough to live on for the rest of history. but these people usually come back and say “God never changes – he is the same yesterday today and forever” so that gets confusing. because while God never changes apparently his interaction with the world does. He doesn’t change but the times do. So the fact is hard to figure out.
Other people say that everything we read about in the book of acts is available to us today. But the really awkward question quickly surfaces. Why do so many of this god’s miracles seem to happen in places of poverty, no electricity and little education. Is it that he prefers these out-of-the-way places where people haven’t figured out not to believe in God yet or is it that way electricity & education show up his power diminishes.

I’m not trying to be a jerk here. I believe in God. I believe in the miraculous. I believe in Jesus and the Gospel of grace. I am a believer. What I am saying is that our conceptions of God from the third century the 11th century and the 16th century may not work for us in the modern era. We live in “ a world come of age” and our conception of God has to grow up too. we live in a world that is progressing and changing and evolving into something that it has never been before. Our faith has the capacity to speak to, interact with and to learn from that world in a way that is mutually edifying and empowering. But that will not happen if we insist on remaining and reinforcing these constructs and conceptions of God of centuries past.

Here’s my bottom line: it hasn’t worked to bring about either the world we hope for or the one that we promised in our message. We have, up with lots of ways to explain it away – most of these focus on human sinfulness,the fallenness of mankind or the work of the devil.

The only thing that I can tell you in the way of good news is that Deconstruction is not Destruction or Demolition. It is simple admitting that we need a new model and getting about the business at hand.

And I think that maybe a good place to start is making sure that the one we call ‘God’ is that one that Jesus called ‘Abba’.

OK – I just needed to get that off my chest. and now I can move on and get down to the task at hand!!

Next time we go for it: let’s just have it out and tackle the question – is God strong or weak? and then we get on with it.