Thursday, September 7, 2017

One challenge of post-theism

Pete recently sent me this comment in response to some of my previous Ethical Musings postings on post-theism (Defining post-theism and Christian, Anglican, Episcopal, and Post-theist):
Thanks, George, for the last several posts on post-theism. I can't think of anything you say that I don't agree with. Yet something seems lacking, and I don't know what it is. Light alone can be cold if it is distant enough. And love in the abstract gets boring fast. "Post" something like "post-modernism" doesn't really identify in a positive manner, and I don't have anything better to suggest. Perhaps the energy of openness to continual discovery is more important, and heart-warming. than nailing anything down (pun not intended but also not rejected).
Pete is right. Post-theistic metaphors for God, such as light, will leave few people feeling warm and fuzzy. Conversely, anthropomorphic images of God may offer many people a warm, fuzzy feeling about God but are off-putting to other people who look at the world through scientific and contemporary philosophical lenses.
If post-theism and a traditional reliance upon anthropomorphic images of God represent opposite ends of a theological-philosophical spectrum, the challenge of living into Christianity in the twenty-first century is to find a place along that spectrum where one is personally comfortable. That spot – a personal happy mean – will tend to shift over time depending upon one’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Pete is right about a second point: “the energy of openness to continual discovery is more important, and heart-warming. than nailing anything down (pun not intended but also not rejected).” Because God is ineffable and infinite, our theology (thinking about God) is always in need of revision; Paul Tillich described this as the Protestant principle. Furthermore, because our experience of God builds on those who preceded us, incorporating insights gleaned from science and other disciplines, theology is dynamic and potentially progressive. Static theology inherently points to an idol rather than to the living God.

1 comment:

Pete said...

Thanks, George, for your continued insight and response to my comment. Putting God on a continuum seems a far better idea than putting God in a box. If there is indeed a God, however, perhaps we have yet to find a footing even to be able to speculate what that God may be like. I have a footing to see God as light and love, but not everyone has that footing. In the end, I have no better reason to believe in a God than that the people I like to hang out with most are usually believers, often Episcopalian types, often with no great expectations of an afterlife. I am sure there are many possible explanations for that other than the actual existence of God, but I don't find any of those explanations entirely satisfactory.