A Hole-Shaped God

A Hole-Shaped God January 30, 2016


The image above comes from Neil Carter’s blog, and I made a note of it as something to come back to at a later point. But then Kyle Roberts shared a quote from Neil Gillman, asking whether humans invent God or discover God.

I appreciated his point that it is not necessary to give an either/or answer.

On the one hand, no one ought to resist the conclusion that we project our ideals and our worst tendencies onto the divine, so that God gets made in our image.

And yet on the other hand, the fact that we speak not just of our ideals and hatred but about God can be a result of our perception that there is a reality greater than us, which confronts us from without as well as within.

I think it was Peter Berger who spoke of modern theology reducing itself to anthropology, as we discovered that the search for God brought us to human views about God. But he noted that, in turn, the fact that human beings ponder great mysteries and formulate theologies is itself one of the mysterious aspects of existence. And so anthropology can bring us full circle back to theology.

We sense hints that there is a transcendent reality. We project our loftiest vision and sometimes our basest instincts upon that vast canopy. That depiction symbolizes, points to, and inevitably in equal measure obscures from view the very transcendent reality we are trying to glimpse.

We paint God, painting us, painting God.

This is one reason why I think some complaints about supposed “vagueness” in theological discourse are misguided. It is when theology is the most precise and specific that it is the most misguided and problematic. And language about the transcendent and the ultimate that ceases to deal in symbols and metaphors is by definition inadequate and inevitably wrong.

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  • jekylldoc

    Most precise = most misguided. An interesting observation. One way to interpret this is that we should give up on “knowing what we are talking about”: the apophatic way. It has a lot to recommend it.

    But having just been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” which turns out to be mainly about U-shaped relationships in which one can have too much of a good thing, I suspect that it is possible to some extent to know what we are talking about, but that people overdo it when the authority motivation overcomes the seeking motivation.

    This leads to a sort of “apophatic ecclesiology” in which we need to be conscious that the deepest and most responsible exercise of faith includes accepting a lot of “I don’t know.” Leaders have to be conscious and intentional about favoring the work of the spirit in making love come alive for seekers, instead of favoring church authority by opting for the appearance of knowledge and coherence.

  • charlesburchfield

    anything can become a fetish that can turn a human being into a monster of control: theories, hermeneutics, philosophies, politics, the cross, one’s fancy schmancy credentials from an institution of higher learning or a seminary, one’s job, one’s tenured position in the university, career, family even Jesus! (this is a short list!) these can all become a defense against copping to the reality of one’s powerlessness when facing one’s mortality. if any of these things were taken away and one was relying on them for identity and purpose in life the truth will be revealed that one is fear based not faith-based. that’s exactly the moment when the Holy Spirit usually enters one’s life. IMHO peeps have to get very old or very sick to come to this place in their lives! (*|:-o