Update on Progressive Theo-Blogger Challenge #progGOD

Last week, I challenged Progressive Theo-Bloggers to say something substantive about God. I then clarified what I hoped for. Thus far, I’ve been very heartened by the response. I’ve already got 30 posts queued up, and the challenge goes through this Friday (so there’s still time for you to join in!). Patheos will be building a landing page where, next week, we will post links to all of the contribution. (So, there’s some further incentive: If you want a permanent in-bound link from the biggest religion website on the internets, submit something!)

There’s been great commentary on both of the above posts. And a two thoughts that I want to respond to.

1) I’m not saying that God must always be talked about without Jesus. I’m just saying that now, for this challenge, you’ve got to talk about God without falling back on Jesus. It’s all too easy for Christians — both liberal and conservative — to default to Jesus-talk. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I think we also need to work our God-talk muscle, without reverting to Jesus-talk.

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This Is Me, Saying Something About God

…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!)

God Is Not Male

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.

God Is Not on the Side of the Poor

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 Just

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Progressive Talk about God: Lots of Throat Clearing

So, my Challenge to Progressive Theo-Bloggers has been well received, prompting many responses from across the blogosphere. You can see the Storify stream where I’ve been curating all of the posts, poems, and even tweets that have come in.

There have been some objections, and I’ve got some observations. First, the objections.

Firstly, I wrote,

Write something substantive about God. Not about Jesus, not about the Bible, but about God.

That prompted responses like this:

Maybe Benjamin is right and I misunderstand revelation, but I actually think there are lots of things to say about God without talking about Jesus. Jews seem to be able to do it.

That’s not to say that your vision of God shouldn’t be christocentric. I think it should. But as a Christian, you should also be able to articulate aspects of your doctrine of God without referencing Jesus of Nazareth.

To that thread, a comment by Brad was echoed in a tweet by John:

Dear John, you’re a theologian! That’s who you are to say things about God. Please note, I did not ask you to write a comprehensive theology of God. I asked you to write something substantive about God. If you can’t say anything substantive about God — whether it be to me, or to the person sitting next to you on a plane — then I just don’t see how you believe anything at all.

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A Challenge to Progressive Theo-Bloggers

I’ve been writing recently about the problems with liberal Christianity, and I had a thought this morning. It was prompted by a recent phone conversation I had with the managing editor of a major publishing house, combined with my faithful listening to the Theology Nerd Throwdown podcast, and the silliness of all the hand-wringing about Chik-fil-A.

These have prompted me to think that progressives have a God-talk problem. That is, progressives write lots of books and blog posts about social issues, the church, culture, and society. But we don’t write that much about God. That is, we don’t say substantive things about who God is, what God does, etc.

You might say the same thing about conservative Protestants (i.e., “evangelicals”). But the thing is, their people pretty much know what they think of God. It’s well-known and on the record.

Progressive/liberal/mainline theology, on the other hand, has a PR problem. We might think that people know what we think about God, but they don’t. It’s clear in the comments on this blog and elsewhere.

It really struck me yesterday, when listening to a recent edition of the TNT podcast, in which Tripp repeatedly and forcefully said things about who God is and how God acts. He didn’t relativize those statements with qualifiers, and he didn’t cowtow to political correctness or academic jargon. That was jarring to me because it so rarely happens.

Thus, I have a challenge:

I challenge all progressive theo-bloggers to write one post about God between now and August 15.

I mean, all of you: Fred, Scot, Rachel, MPT, John Shore, everyone at the Patheos Progressive Portal, and all of you I haven’t mentioned or even ever read. Write something substantive about God. Not about Jesus, not about the Bible, but about God.

Leave the link for me as a comment here, or email me the link through my website. I’ll collect them in a Storify thread, and I’ll publicize them all here.

UPDATE: Tweet your post with the hashtag #progGOD

UPDATE: Follow all of the posts as they come in on the ProgGOD Storify.


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