As he is wont to do, Tony Jones has laid down the gauntlet again. As you can see from the above photos…Tony used to be a smiley nice-guy. Then he started getting into all of this angst-ridden postmodernism, and you can tell his photo is a little darker…not, Breaking Bad dark, but…just a little darker. And now he’s just a little creepy and pissed. So he’s got his sights set on another group this time, and this time he’s coming after…progressives! Tony thinks that progressives have a problem:
That is, progressives write lots of books and blog posts about social issues, the church, culture, and society. But we don’t write that much about God. That is, we don’t say substantive things about who God is…
Now – he does say we, so it sounds like he counts himself in the group that struggles to say substantive things about God. But I can see his point. And as I was thinking of what to say about God, I was thinking of how I could go all apophatic (but Tony already did that), and then thought about what disclaimers or introductions I’d want to use (but Tony already bitched about how people were doing that). So, where does that leave me?
Going back to my junior year at Whitworth University, when I was taking a Christian Doctrine course. For that course, we had to write a Credo of our beliefs. I’ve shared some of that on this blog before, but reading back through it today…I can see how different many of my beliefs are, and I can see how they have evolved and changed. I think this is a good reminder as we meet and encounter people whose beliefs we really don’t jibe with, especially if they’re younger. They’re still working through their beliefs (as we all continue to do), and they’re trying on different ideas.
For example, in December of 2000, I was trying on the belief of annihilationism. That sounded much better to me than the idea of eternal conscious torment. But it’s not something I’m still putting a lot of stock in. So, in that same month of 2000, this is something substantial that I wrote about God:
I believe in one mighty and all-powerful God, creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in them. God is Good and God is love. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1). God is all-knowing (omniscient), all-present (omnipresent) and all-powerful (omnipotent). God is perfectly just, and his ways are pure, holy and righteous. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). God is sovereign and in total and absolute control over everything in his creation. God is holy and worthy of all glory and honor and praise forever and ever.
Then in 2009, three years ago yesterday, I wrote an update to those thoughts on God:
I believe in a very big God. A God who cannot be confined or defined. A God who has been active throughout history from God’s initial encounters with God’s people, Israel, to God’s encounters with each and every person today. This God is a passionate God – one who deeply cares for God’s creation and desires a relationship with creation. This relationship isn’t one marked by absolutes and total control (as perhaps I once thought) – but is more an organic, living relationship – a relationship of give-and-take. As is clear from scripture, God’s mind can be changed…we can change God and God can change us.
It’s not so much that God “needs” us – but I think God chooses to “need” us in a way – God chooses to partner with us in the world today. We partner with God to become co-creators, and through that partnership, we help to bring about a future that is filled with hope, grace and love.
Now, if I had to choose between the two today, the 2009 version obviously resonates with me more – but I’m aware that in a few years, these beliefs, too, could evolve into something else. And that’s what stands out to me in the two different versions. In 2000, I focused on the almighty power of God, how God was in “total and absolute control over everything.” In 2009, you see that shifting and softening, and I present this idea that God changes.
And that’s what I like today. I like the dynamic nature of God, that God changes. And if God changes, then we too will need to change how we relate to God and how we think about God. Our beliefs can’t remain static, while God is dynamic. Our beliefs can’t be set in the past, when God’s hopes and dreams for the world are set in the future.