Why concepts of God can and must evolve

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From James McGrath's blog:

Progressive Christianity, Liberal Christianity, and many other forms of sophisticated theology recommend leaving behind the image of a God that can be left behind, and adopting instead the language of God as all-encompassing transcendence. This is not "shifting the goal post" or being slippery. It is about redefining our concepts and reformulating our metaphors for the ultimate as our knowledge about the non-ultimate expands and grows. This process will only seem inappropriate to those who share the fundamentalist notion of theology as offering timeless truths and certainties untainted by culture or human limitations. To those who have studied enough theology and/or enough of the Bible and/or enough other subjects will realize that this is a natural process that occurs in all human endeavors. Music must become more daring and dissonant as familiar harmonies become boring. Language must be pushed to its limits as metaphors die. Concepts of God must be rethought and revisioned as symbols that once pointed beyond what we know now compete with science and other domains of knowledge, and lose.

3 comments:

Harry said...

Music must become more daring and dissonant as familiar harmonies become boring. Language must be pushed to its limits as metaphors die.

Phooey!

Individual tastes may become jaded, but not the cultures.

Why do we listen to Mozart and Bach and not Berg and Schoenberg?

Why are Shakespeares plays still produced in every English speaking country and it is impossible to find a Harold Pinter or Samual Beckett play?

Language may change so Hamlet may be as indeciperable as Beowulf, but the culture will poorer for it.

Give me the old stuff! The culture has become decadent (and depressing) and when the old stuff is forgotten, we will be well dressed barabians.

Frank said...

I think you would absolutely love Models of God by Sally McFague. She defines progressive theology in my mind, and has more of a systemtatic theologians approach than say Crossan, who has more of a Biblical focus in what I've read.

This book deals very much with the topic of this post--the fact that all talk about God is a model, not a description of God (so God doesn't literally have a white beard, nor is he a "father" in a literal sense but rather "fatherhood" says something about God). There have been many models throughout time, and more to come.

She cites that the notion of an omnipotent God creates a feeling of passivity that is threatening in light of potential nuclear holocaust. Few take human responsibility seriously because deep down many of us feel that God is simply "in charge" due to the model of God we've been using. Yet, we really can blow ourselves to bits.

She's a major pillar in this talk about models and the concept of God. I think she springboarded off of the work by Vatican II-era Models of Church by Avery Dulles (don't quote me on that, though), which I hear is another noteworthy book, although I haven't read that one.

Mystical Seeker said...

Frank, thanks for the reference. I'll check her out.