Shuck and Jive

Friday, August 07, 2015


My summer series Bring Your Own Sermon (BYOS) is going even better than expected!  We are having a good turnout for worship and for the discussion following the service.   Here are the questions I have grouped together for this week:
  • If God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and all powerful and needs nothing then why does "He" need 8+ billion of these little critters here on earth to worship "Him" to feel complete?
  • What phraseology do you use to speak of God? How do you internalize it or find meaning in it (the phraseology)?
  • What do you mean when you say you don’t believe in God? (or a supernatural God)
This Fall I am doing a four week class on "The Evolution of God" for our Sunday Starter Adult Class.  Then on November 6-7 we are hosting our annual Jesus Seminar on the Road on the topic of God.

You will get your God fix at Southminster!

For this Sunday I will probably start with Daniel Dennett's theory on how gods then God came to be. Then I will offer a quick and dirty history of Ancient Near Eastern cosmology and the Ptolemaic cosmology and how "God" fit into that.

What happens to God after Galileo put him out of a home and Darwin put him out of a job?  In other words, what difference does God make or what does God really do?   Those are questions many of us ask.   The existence of a supernatural being who intervenes in the natural flow of life is improbable at best.  This is not news.  Theologians have been saying this for centuries.  Most mainstream seminaries at least present this as a problem.

What do we do about that?  We can call ourselves non-theists or post-theists or a-theists and declare game over, there is no reality to which theism points and thus no need for religion or Christianity.  Some of us do that.  Others of us say, no, there is a place for religion and Christianity even as a supernatural interventionist god is superfluous.   Some redefine God as everything or everything plus  extra or creativity or evolution or process or human aspirations, or you name it.  Some say the term God is too confusing, let's drop it.   I don't think there has to be a final answer at least just yet.

This brings me to my friend, Gretta Vosper.  She goes with the option of God as too confusing, let's drop it.   I think that is a great option.  Christianity needs her voice.   I believe or don't believe as she does and as many do even as they may be less vociferous about it.  I still play around with the symbol God as I wrote in my post in the Friendly Atheist.    I could change tomorrow.  I really like the imaginative work that Nancy Ellen Abrams is doing with A God That Could Be Real.

What I don't like and what I will resist is the attempt to silence creative voices such as Gretta's voice by inquisitions.   Don't like doubts?  Questions scare you?  Silence the doubter and the questioner. That is bad faith.

God has always been a human construction.  Is there anything real to which the symbol God points?  I think that is a great question and a worthy one to ask in the context of parish ministry.

Some have asked. "Why stay in the church?"  Why not become a Unitarian Universalist where apparently these questions are more welcome?   I love the UUA and I think in many ways they are a model.  However, I am a Presbyterian.  Denominations are not fixed entities.  They change.  in my view, all of the Christian denominations need an upgrade.

Gretta's denomination is the United Church of Canada.  This is probably the most liberal denomination in North America. If that denomination can't move into the 18th century let alone the 21st then who can? In my view, Gretta is not on trial, Christianity is. Can it move ahead or is it stuck forever in a pre-modern world?  The United Church of Canada and the PCUSA have great social justice commitments. That is important work. These denominations are home for many even as many have outgrown the stale theological formulations.

Christianity is never static, always evolving. Now the evolution needs to take seriously modern historical criticism of the Bible, comparative religious mythology (i.e. Jesus mythology) and the meaning of the symbol God in a modern understanding of cosmology. Gretta is saying what many have been scared to say. She needs applause and support.

I don't know if I will go into all of that in my sermon on Sunday, but it should be fun!

See you then!

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