still alive but i'm barely breathin, prayin to a god that i don't believe in....

so, i didn't really mean to be mysterious the other day (rach :), it was just a comment on the sudden, and slightly unexpected sense of constraint i was feeling. it's similar to being in a church and having to be discerning about the things you say, and definitely the things that you blog about! but for some reason, perhaps it's the intense nature of college, it felt like that but much more oppressive. anyway, nuff said about that, i think.

onto my next thought. this week i've got to lead a discussion at our post-grad theology discussion group (yes, i know, it sounds eye-crossing, but it's really quite informal and there was port last time, and it's a mike thomson/richard bauckham tag team leading it, so, good good)

anyway, i somehow managed to allow myself to be volunteered to lead the discussion this week, with another student as we'd been asking the same questions about 'how it is that we actually know God (hence the title of this blogpost)

i think that my own questions stem from my experience of being in church family with conservative evangelicals and many many times thinking 'i don't know the same God you do'. i know, it's not PC to say that out loud particularly - and i most definitely am not saying that this is about being a christian or not - but that's how i've felt, and it felt like that when i was in that community, and it has continued to feel like that when i've had the odd conversation with people, or just been immersed in that community again (a day out at FCAUK for example).

so, i guess i've got a couple of options here, i could just think 'oh well, sod them' or just pootle along with my own little thoughts, in my own little mind, with my own little friends, who think exactly the things that i think. i could decide that there's no way to discern which version of God is the right one, so either do a dawkins and decide it's all the biggest load of crap, or sit with my happily relativised 'god in my pocket' entirely made in my image - or i could go a little bit mad.



at this point, i imagine (hope?) that some of you are wondering about the place of scripture in our ideas of God. and yes, i agree with you, that's my first marker on my journey. but.....you see ...how do we interpret scripture? who decides which interpretive model, hermeneutic, is the valid one? and if we then decide which particular hermeneutic is going to be 'ours', which interpretation derived from that model will we decide is valid? and where do we get our idea about what exactly is a valid 'idea' about God? scripture? but then we're in a cycle aren't we? our idea or 'image' of God in our heads determines our assessment of what someone says scripture says about God, which we then choose to assimilate into our thinking as a 'valid interpretation' dependent on which image of God is already there.

so where does my image of God come from?

speaking with someone else about this, he says, what about the community? (as in the universal community of God, throughout history - tradition)

so, the things that have been handed down, the traditional interpretations of who God is, are handed down, we don't 'imagine' things up ourselves (how arrogant!), we were not the first people to read scripture, to meet God, to 'think things' about God, to be persons of faith who sought to understand. the tradition gives us a framework and an anchor, within which and rooted by which, we are free to do our own thinking about God.


but just one more question.

in our history there are different understandings of God. calvinism vs armenianism is not a 'new' discussion, trinitarianism was always a faith position, 'God is love' had to be wrestled with as a concept from the beginning.

even now, i wonder, do i ally myself with those who simply affirm my already formed views about who God is? do i wrestle against those whose view of God i, sometimes, find abhorrent, only because it conflicts with 'my' idea about God?

someone recently said to me, after a conversation on this subject, 'yeah, but maybe that's okay, maybe it's just being okay with you believing in the God who you know in your own head', to which i responded 'no, that's just not good enough, i want to know God, i want to know who God is, and i want to seek him until i know that i really know him.'

i think that this is my position, for the moment - to know that i don't know and to be okay with that.

but only if he doesn't turn out to be a big beardy storm god who hates me.



Rachel Marszalek said...

This is great - had me laughing but in that 'oh I so know what you mean' kind of a way - so that even if your version of God is different to mine, your thought-patterns regarding your version of God and what this means (fails to 'mean') are the same ;-)


David said...

Sympathies and blessings Jody. The post-grad group is always good even if I mostly felt thick as part of it, half a pace behind everyone else and struggling hard to keep up! Was always worthwhile though.

We know in part and we see in part... and then we get ordained and see fully... *joke*

Seriously though, we're all incomplete in our understanding and no-one knows God fully in all He is, otherwise I guess they would be divine too, but Scripture, the community (both down the ages and now) and our own minds and experience all contribute to our (hopefully) growing understanding.

Be encouraged and stick it to 'em in the post-grad group. Just be yourself... it's what God has given you to be.

Tony Phelan said...

Jody, I'm glad I've figured out how to post a comment: this is about the most encouraging material to come out of a fulcrumby person for ages (as a v cross email I fortunately aborted would have said!) I think it's very important to say stuff like this even in conservative places like Ridley Hall -- it sort of cheers me up sometimes to remember Meister Eckhart who managed not to get done for heresy, but said there was a God beyond God who was more like an abyss or a void -- so far beyond our grasp as to make all the pictures we go in for a waste of time. And sometimes praying gives me an inkling of that -- and the real blessing of what you're saying about how to make sense of the bible, is that once you've recognized a variety of possibilities, you'll never be able to just have one that is fully 'authorized'. So tell them how it is! with prayers and blessings from Berlin

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Having a spot of bother?

Anonymous said...

So what would you do if after really knowing God it turns out you don't like Him?


Revd John P Richardson said...

Jody, my thought would be, why not start from your tradition - the Creeds, the Prayer Book, the Ordinal and the Thirty-nine Articles. These should surely give us a starting point as Anglicans when it comes to 'what Scripture says' - if only something to 'bounce off'. They also give a reference point when talking with other Anglicans - whether liberal or conservative.