This will mark the first in what will probably be a fairly lengthy series of posts on the issue of how we come to understand (and appreciate how little we understand about) God. Many of the posts will draw from ideas that have already been explored in more limited ways in previous entries. In particular, I’m going to rely quite a bit on ideas from Scot McKnight, Phyllis Tickle, Peter Rollins, and (going back a little farther in time) N.T. Wright.
This will be a somewhat large undertaking, and it may be easy to get lost in the middle. So…to give you an idea of where things are going, here are the two basic moves that I have in mind:
First, I will argue that the evangelical approach to “understanding” God, which emphasizes scripture as authority, places expectations on scripture that it doesn’t satisfy, and which it does not claim to satisfy. At its worst, this approach can become idolatrous, substituting worship of Jesus himself for worship of scripture. In connection with this idea, I may also briefly discuss the benefits and potential pitfalls of widely accepted practices among Charismatic Christians, which emphasize knowledge through certain personal manifestations of the Spirit, but which – I will argue – may not be sufficiently attuned to the different ways that the Spirit manifests itself.
In the place of the evangelical model, I will propose a model in which we come to understand God by interacting BOTH with those who had “God” experiences and with those who have sought, and failed to find, such experiences. Such interactions include – prominently – discourse with the voices of scripture, but also include the voices of Christians throughout church history, the voices of modern scholars, the voices of our friends, and – of high importance – the voices of the oppressed. Such interactions, I will argue, should not be viewed as an academic exchange of information, but as something more akin to dance. In the same way that dance becomes an expression of music, our interactions become a medium through which we both experience the presence of, and mourn the absence of God. I will compare this interaction to systems and network theory, and ultimately argue that it is consistent with Paul’s understanding of spiritual gifts and the manifestation of the “body” of Christ in a community of believers.
In order to accept this approach, we must be willing to compromise the rational certainty that characterizes modern evangelical thought, but in exchange we will gain insights of aesthetic “certainty” that transcend rational thought.
These posts, of course, will be interspersed with the usual BSG prattle and other nonsense to which most of you are accustomed.