Progressive Talk about God: Lots of Throat Clearing

Progressive Talk about God: Lots of Throat Clearing August 9, 2012

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.

Secondly, some people are hung up on my use of the term “progressive,” and in the fact that in part of the post I scrunched together “progressive/liberal/mainline.” I’m going to shout this, so you’ll be sure not to miss it: THIS IS WHAT LIBERALS DO, GETTING HUNG UP ON DEFINITIONS RATHER THAN ANSWERING THE REAL QUESTION!

So, get over your hang-up on terminology, and get on with the question at hand: Say something substantive about God.

Thirdly, several people have submitted poetry. That’s fine. I can appreciate poetry. But, whereas I usually find poetry a more difficult medium in which to communicate than prose, in this case I think it’s the converse: I think that poetry is something of a cop-out to my challenge. To speak of God using word-pictures and imagery is substantive, in a way. But, again, it’s probably not how you’d talk to your seatmate on a plane. If you start speaking in verse, they may ask to be reassigned to another seat.

Which leads to my observation: Lots of progressives have responded to my challenge with lots of throat-clearing. By that I mean, they’ve loaded their posts with prolegomena about how we really can’t speak confidently about the character of God, about how we don’t want to be arrogant like the conservatives, and about how our God-talk needs to exude epistemic humility.

I get it. I wrote a dissertation. I know a lot about prolegomena. But here I’m going to shout again:


This isn’t an academic conference. This is the blogosphere. We don’t need to preface and qualify and relativize our commentary. We can say things about our understanding of God, and we can say them unapologetically.

So, have at it. And be sure to tweet your link with the hashtag #progGOD.

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