…by saying stuff about what God is not. That is, by writing some apophatic theology. (Don’t worry, I’ll write substantive stuff about God next week!)
I think this sentiment is more palatable these days than it was fifty years ago because we are now aware of the complexities of gender. The meanings of words like “masculine” and “feminine,” “manly” and “womanly,” have been pretty thoroughly deconstructed. Thus, it’s really not even accurate to say, “God has characteristics of both genders,” since that sentence is basically meaningless. God is strong, which is masculine? God is sensitive, which is feminine? The ridiculousness of these sentiments quickly becomes clear.
The other problem with claiming that God is one someone’s side, over against someone else, is that it gets to sounding a bit like members of a sports team who claim, upon winning, that the victory was somehow authored or blessed by God. Most of us scoff when one team claims that God is on their side. But how different is it to claim that, based on our own human measurements of poverty, that God favors one group of people over another?
God Is Not Emergent
Although we wish God to be, God is not equitable. The rain does, indeed, fall on the just and the unjust alike, but God’s creation is rife with creatures who are preternaturally endowed with more resources than other creatures. Humankind’s history is a string of stories about the struggle for limited resources, not to share them equitably, but to hoard them and lord them over others. And, like it or not, God allows this pattern to continue unabated. Even the biblical narrative is one of unmerited favor upon some and destruction of others.
The emergent way of Christianity is just as humanly constructed, finite, and open to deconstruction as any other way of faith. And this is the very thing that God is not. God is not deconstructible. God shows no favoritism to emergents.
The biblical narrative is clear that God changes God’s mind — in fact, it happens explicitly several times in the Hebrew Scriptures — and God indeed grieves. But, most significantly, in Jesus, God took the initiative to change the entire dynamic in the divine-human relationship. The Christ event was nothing less that a 180-degree change in God.
As I have written posts about what God is not, I’ve known that there’s one statement that would be the zenith of apophatic theology. And I’ve also known that if I cannot write a post in defense of that statement, then I’d hit the limit of apophaticism. That statement is:
God Is Not Love.
And I cannot affirm that. Try as I might, I cannot figure out how to justify that sentence. Maybe Pete can, but I cannot.