Thursday, June 21, 2007

Don't put God in a box

I am having a difficult time finding ways to respond to the already worn phrase "you can't put God in a box!" As soon as someone suggests that I am putting God in a box, I am fully aware that they are gauging my Fowler stage at a level that is far below their own familiarity with stage six, or even seven. You can tell a person who has reached stage six, or even seven, on the Fowler gauge because they always spend more energy on denying their superiority than they do on reflecting a God that actually has personality. But, I digress. It may be that anyone who has had a definite, if not defining, experience of God in a manner that allows for intimate relationship with the Creator is just plain spiritually immature. Who are we to say that God is a God of Peace and Justice.

I believe that God has been revealed in specific ways, most specifically as a God of peace and justice. So when I say that, along with suggesting that God has created humanity for relationship, and is best reflected in a community that is dedicated to witness to peace and justice, am I putting God in a box? How can I make a claim that God wills peace for humanity if I do not believe this has been expressly revealed by the Creator? Of course, many would suggest that God does not will anything. Heaven forbid those radical peacemongers go around inspired by some delusion that they know what God is thinking.

Of course, there are plenty of people who are very comfortable going to church on Sundays who feel that it is indeed they that know the will of god, and not those other apostates. That is fine. Let the guide to discerning revelation be non-coercive expression of such revelation by a voluntary community of believers. God's will is might be known by the fruit that a community produces. Hatred might be a product of failed theology, but love is the measure of God's will. And it is my intention to limit the possibilities of God's will to those that reveal a god of Peace and Justice. Even if that puts God in a box.

If we don't believe that God has somehow defined the divine self for the purpose of strengthened relationship with creation, or revealed the divine self in specific ways, such as the ancient narrative of chosen, and fallen, individuals and prophets, then we are never to understand who we are. We are not only defined by our God, but we only know ourselves in relationship with God.

But what does any of this have to do with Fowler stages. Most sixes and sevens feel that universals and "enlightened" sensibilities are the mature path to tolerance and peace. That may be true in one sense, but there is another sense of universalism (not salvation theories) that concerns me. Once a majority has decided upon the universal, who will listen to the prophets? Will there even be a need for prophets? Because without distinctives and peculiarities, we become one big homogeneous faith community that thrives upon the co-opting of heresies as a means of unity, without the valuable and challenging growth that comes from ecclesiastical diversity. Trust me, the call for diversity that is on the lips of so many is simply an insistence that everyone evolve into a corporate reflection of a more marketable god. Someone easier to be in relationship with, who will underwrite our spiritual picking and choosing so that we are wrapping God into a nice package... sort of a gift to ourselves.

1 comment:

julie said...

I think it's fine to put God in a box, just so long as you poke holes in the top. It's putting God in a ziploc bag that's really mean.