God Growing Up? – A Question from Other

by , under Emerging Church, Theology

Always interested to hear from people who’ve read the book – and I’m always pleased to respond to questions it may have raised too. One from the other day:

I was very intrigued by your premise of a linear narrative of the way humanity’s relationship with God changes over time and even more by the idea that God could be learning along the way. I’ve long had a theological black hole in trying to reconcile the “Alpha & Omega” God who is outside of space and time with the narrative we read which seems to show the jealous and often cruel and bloodthirsty dictator of the OT find a better way in the end. I’d really be interested for you to expand your thoughts on this…

It may seem like the blagger in me to say this, but this is something I covered in more depth in The Complex Christ – so definitely have a read!

What I try to unpack there is the impossibility of separating the ‘truth‘ about God from our embedded-in-history perceptions of God. Because God is fundamentally abstract – despite what some choruses say we cannot meet God and explore God’s character in the same way we might do another person – we are left having to look back on God’s actions in history through the lens of the perceptions about God that our antecendents had.

In other words, it is impossible to pare apart saying that ‘God has matured over time’ and ‘our perceptions of what God is like have matured over time.’

I think this helps us to deal with the apparent paradox of a timeless God who behaved like a violent teenager in the Old Testament, and then tries to be all peaceable and loving in the New. It’s not that God has changed, but rather that society changed. This of course raises some very interesting questions about the nature of religion and the way in which cultures project their desires onto an invisible deity – and how we can ever discern the ‘truth’ about God.


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  1. Richard Littledale

    Isn’t it interesting that in the list of Ask Jeeves 10 “unanswerable questions” to celebrate its 10th anniversary, “is there a God” and “is anybody out there” should feature?

    I wonder to what extent the church is addressingthis? See “Jeeves in the pulpit” at http://bit.ly/ba8Dr5

  2. Simon Hall

    I’m surprised at you Kester, stepping back from the edge like this! 😉

    A friend recently said (in essence) it’s ridiculous to suggest that a being could create the universe but not know how to handle the creatures on one tiny little planet. But maybe God isn’t a details person? No, seriously! Maybe God really didn’t know how things were going to turn out (or chose not to know) and the perception throughout the biblical narrative that God tries different things that keep failing (this is certainly how the parable of the vineyard sees it – even at the end, the owner doesn’t realise his son is going to be murdered) isn’t too far off the mark.

    So our perceptions are not wholly erroneous or culture-bound, but contain some truth about God’s nature and learning… Perfect doesn’t have to mean staying the same – things can grow perfectly too.

  3. KB

    I’m not sure I see the connection between ‘God didn’t know how things were going to turn out’ and ‘God tried different things that kept failing.’

    I have different strategies for classes I am timetabled to teach. I don’t know how things are going to turn out – and certainly didn’t when I began – but I didn’t ever see mass drowning, pillage, plunder and slaughter as valid things to try! A violent God is simply untenable in my opinion.

    I’d also refute the accusation of stepping back from the edge! God forbid 😉 The implications of what I said were perhaps more radical than I allowed myself to elaborate on… Calling into question the actuality of the Big Other at all, other than a permission-giver for violence and colonialism. Edgy enough for you?!

  4. Jonathan

    Is “actuality” a sneaky way of saying “existence”?


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