It’s fascinating to return to these posts after seven years – thinking about where I am now and whether my theology has moved any further in these areas.
In many ways these two posts (blast one and two) represented a brave step outwards from where I’d been, both in terms of theology and fear of being ‘judged’ in some way. I hadn’t been part of a Christian congregation formally for a few months, and had been shaped by various different theological voices towards a broader, more inclusive view of God than I’d had previously. My past was a story of evangelical exclusivism – now I was beginning to grasp hold of an idea of God that flowed well beyond those narrow limitations.
Essentially I remain on this course. One thing I began to articulate but didn’t really flesh out was moving beyond gender in my description of God. Although hinting towards this, I still used the male pronoun – perhaps by dint of habit? Today I have to work hard when writing about God to avoid a gender specific description.
As part of a course I teach I’ve discovered the work of Sallie McFague – only one of many brilliant feminist theologians – who has helped me to understand the vital importance of metaphor (and the limitations of language).
Describing God as ‘mother’ or ‘she’ moves beyond the simple feminine descriptors (caring, nurturing, loving – all virtues that a good father should model anyway) to the radical notion that to speak of a ‘female‘ God is to speak of that which brings forth and sustains life. I’m not interested here in chasing after any spurious notion of equality – instead seeking to be faithful to a scriptural record that describes how both female and male are created with the ‘image of God’ breathed upon and within them.
This may seem like a small detail, but it has helped me to move on in understanding a God who truly can speak to and for all.
I still believe in a God who is love, a God whose first instinct is to embrace and not reject. I have journeyed even further away from the idea that this God would intentionally punish those who displeased God with eternal punishment in the name of ‘justice’. I guess that here I choose to believe that a ‘just’ God is ‘just’ as likely to forgive as to damn. To be ‘holy’ here is not a distant, prosaic thing, but instead a declaration of purpose and intent – a model moving away from cleanliness to righteousness. A ‘holy’ God will do that which is right, not that which is legally required.
Despite moments of deep uncertainty as to the reality of the existence of God I remain deeply convinced that our universe has within it a resonating pulse that suggests the guiding force of some kind of intention. Evil and suffering and hatred and violence and disease and injustice (the list continue ad infinitum) create problems for this grand narrative – but here I choose to embrace the gray over the black and white.
Doubt leads me to a place where I have grasped what to have faith truly means – not having all the answers, and yet…somehow that is ok.
Belief in God still speaks deeply to me, providing me with a lens with which to make sense of all that I encounter. This God is the source and sustainer of all – good, bad, indifferent – that’s what all means – but that’s ok.
My universe has some kind of heartbeat, some kind of rhythm that I seek to join myself to so that I may fully live.
Can I prove it? I’m not sure that’s possible, it I’m honest. There’s an old chorus from my Salvarion Army days which says ‘you ask me how I know [God] lives, [God] lives within my heart’. I’d ask you to judge my faith by how I live, by the values I try to embrace in all my encounters. I’d hope that something within that would carry a whisper of the divine and perhaps point to the reality of what I try to articulate above.