Bruce discovered being god demanded more than he expected. Consider the scene where he must answer prayers. The counter spun with the number of incoming requests. Interested in something else, Bruce Almighty decided to answer every request with, “Yes.” Some concepts of god/God betray God revealed in Jesus. That may include yours and mine.
Eric E. Hall‘s recently published book titled, God: Everything You Even Needed to Know About the Almighty, brought to mind the Jim Carey movie, Bruce Almighty. Chiefly the movie exposes how our concepts of god/God influence our actions and re-actions. That is to say, what we say we believe about God matters to the way we engage people and events in our world.
No one likes criticism. No one. Tucked away in the middle of a series of metaphors used to help the reader recognize various ways God has been envisions is the chapter, “Is God Spiritual but Not Religious?” One may think a person occupying the space between Gen-X and Millennials would surely answer in the affirmative. Not so with Eric.
Instead, Eric writes this chapter as self-critique for the way he once envisioned God.
The importance of this chapter in the middle of a book aiming to provide everything you needed to know about The Almighty cannot be overstated, in my opinion. Eric remarks that this particular chapter served as a self-critique. Maybe we could say young Eric is semper reformanda, that is always reforming his finite grasp of the truth in pursuit of that which is true-er.
Jesus as God’s self-revelation calls into question any and all self-interpretations of god/God. Eric says it this way later in the book,
If we are to understand Jesus for who he was, we must see that he was subverting his people’s self-interpretation and what they expected from their king. (p.168)
As such, faithfulness to God in Jesus the Christ calls us to submit our concepts, models and ideas about God to the scrutiny of Jesus revealed in the Scripture. Hall would quickly add that we need the help of Christian Tradition to see how the truth of God in Jesus has been handled and described. Humility is the consequent posture.
It is easy to become so convinced of our concept or model of God that we miss the reality of our finite understanding. Hall carries a theme throughout to help us remain humble in our question for a way to talk about a God who is not less than relational – the incomprehensibility of God. It is not that we cannot talk about God. It is not that we should not talk about God. It is that when we talk about God we need to think through the implications for our lives and the lives of others. In the words of Jason Micheli, “Bad theology creates victims.”
One way to help point out how our concepts or models function is the use of metaphor. After all, much of what we say about God is contained in, “God is like . . . .” statements. Eric uses popular culture metaphors to help point up the different ways Christians, and others, have talked about God.
Miyagi God is contrasted to several other composite images like Jersey Shore and Retired Oprah. Others are introduced to help paint a picture of the variety of ways people emphasize certain ideas about God. These are really helpful and non-technical ways for readers to understand the ideas they have adopted but to understand others.
Another way to appreciate what Hall is doing is to take account of his suggestion to read dead people. That is, read those who have thought and written about God revealed in Jesus in order to understand context and appreciate the breadth of what we may know about God revealed in Jesus.
Far From Relativism
Hall is clearly not a relavtist. The different concepts or models described is not a way to suggest a person pick and choose. Instead, Eric points out how there is some truth to all of the concepts, ideas and models about God. The aim is to pursue a true-er vision of God revealed in Jesus.
We even discuss how we handle human experience. Wrestling with very real human events is one of the reasons people continue to mine the Scriptures and Christian Tradition. When difficult times come, when suffering overwhelms, people look for better explanations in their quest for meaning. Think of the story of Job. One way to read the story is for the depictions of how the friends view God, how Job views God, and how God describes Godself. One may argue that the ongoing look at the Scriptures in the face of life’s events is an act of faithfulness.
There is more than what is covered here in this short post. And, there is more to Eric’s book that what we discuss in this podcast. After you listen, head over and get a copy of Eric’s book. You will be glad you did.
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