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.