Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today



Daddy God

More than masculine imagery is needed for health and wholeness.

The divine – transcendent – eternal is so much more than the metaphors and analogies that we utilize is worship and prayer.

“The rule of prayer is the rule of faith” has migrated historically from prayer to sacrament to preaching and, now in our musical age, to worship. See also Worship Words Determine Faith [link]

Our language about God functions – Elizabeth Johnson

This is why we must both account for and attend to a more well-rounded and balanced approach to our imagery about God.

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Watch this video and let me know your thoughts about my nuanced and constructive proposal.

Here is the comic from Naked Pastor


Reflecting on Pentecost part 2 (duck the dove)

Originally posted as “Poetics of Pentecost

This past weekend was Pentecost – here is part 2 of my reflection.

Hopefully, most here agree that reading the Bible like contract, constitution, instructional manual or newspaper report is wholly unhelpful [since that is my starting point].

Yet when it comes to Pentecost – it’s almost as if we get lazy in our hermeneutic and revert to a Children’s Church level engagement of the text. I say this as a Children’s Minister who is a big fan of teaching kids to read the Bible… it’s just that I don’t want adults to read the Bible at level.

Yes, we are to have faith like a child – but that does not mean a childlike understanding of our faith.

The language of the Bible is read so much more effectively if we employ a relational component to the words and phrases. So in Christ, it’s not that we are brothers and sisters literally. It’s that we relate to one another as brothers and sister do. We can’t be too literal and wooden with this. Otherwise we end up making elaborate ontological and metaphysical gymnastics to explain how it COULD be literal. It’s not. It’s relational language.

So what if we applied that relational hermeneutic to (expressive language instead of exacting representative language) the passages about the coming of Holy Spirit? 

For instance, what if the descending of Holy Spirit was as a dove descends and not AS a dove?  One could imagine the same with the flames of fire. It may be better to think a little poetically and not so literally. The presence of Spirit on the disciples appears as tongues of fire appear. [you have to admit the funny play on words in English with speaking in tongues … tongues of fire … that is fun.]

 I’m afraid that our centuries old compromise with super-natural thinking conditions us to magically import things into the text that don’t necessarily need to be there. It kills our poetic imagination. Whenever something sounds wild, instead of asking “how does the literary device function? How does the text work?” We just splice in ‘magic’ Doves and Flames without examining what poetic mechanism might have been employed.

It is far more beautiful and makes way more sense to read that God’s Holy Spirit descended as a dove descends.  A nice side effect is that we don’t need to insist that it happened literally, make adults feel embarrassed about the chunkiness of the story , and then have to scramble to explain why stuff like that doesn’t happen anymore and have to contrive elaborate secessionist explanations about validating the apostles in order to authenticate the writing of the Bible.

Signs and Wonders work a lot better poetically than they do literally.

Is God a Rock?

part 2

In the last post I asked if the Bible was ‘man’ made. Now, I want to ask if God is a Rock.

If you say ‘No’, then someone will point to one of the many passages like Psalm 18:2

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

If you say “Yes – God is a rock”… then you have some explaining to do. Are you being poetic? Symbolic? Is it analogy? Allegory? or is it exacting and univocal?

This is why it is so important to understand what Nancey Murphy is saying in Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism. It is essential to know the difference between representative language and expressive language.

Is God literally a rock? Of course not. The author was saying that God is strong and trustworthy like a rock – the immovable foundation upon which we build. This is not representative language which works in a 1:1 ratio. It is expressive language. It was expressing something that the author believed and wanted to communicate.

There is nothing more important to get right if you want to read the Bible.

The reason is so powerfully illustrated when it comes to reading the Book of Revelation – perhaps that is why it garners so much attention and causes so much confusion.

Are there literally 7 lamp-stands over a city or a monster that comes out of the sea?  Most people will acknowledge that this is symbolic language.

Are the streets of heaven literally paved with gold? I think that is coded language for ‘it will be amazing’. Will Christ reign for 1,000 years? What if that is coded language for  a long time? Would it interest you to know that both of those illustration would have made 1st century readers think about Caesar imagery?

The so called ‘literal’* reading of the Bible ignores two important things: Continue reading “Is God a Rock?”

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