How We Imagine God
For us, from beginning to end, the Bible is the story of
God. Not God's story of God but rather, ancient Israel's story of God, as well
as the early Christian movement's story of God, especially as revealed in Jesus.
We believe that the Bible imagines God in two very different
ways that stand in tension with each other. On one hand, the Bible often uses
personal imagery to speak of God. God is spoken of in anthropomorphic images as
being like a person: God as king, lord, father, mother, warrior shepherd, and
potter, to cite a partial list. The sheer number of images points to the fact
that they are metaphors. God is not literally any of these, but is like a king,
like a parent, like a warrior, like a shepherd, and so forth.
On the other hand the Bible also describes God's
relationship to the universe as "right here" as well as
"more" than right here. This way of imagining God sees the deity as
the encompassing Spirit: a non-material dimension of reality that surrounds and
everything around us. Acts 17:28 describes God this way. In words attributed to Paul, God is
"the one in whom we live and move and have our being." God is not
somewhere else, but all around us: we live and move "in God."
In the language of theology, we believe we are in God. We
live and move in God. God is not someone "out there," but a presence
all around us. Our way of imagining God sees God as close at hand, right here,
as close to us as our own breath. It sees the religious life not as believing
in a God who may or may not exist, but as entering into a relationship with the
God who is "right here."
Is the Bible the Word of God?
How we see the Bible matters and it has to be said that
conflict between two very different ways of seeing the Bible is the most
divisive issue among Christians today. Central to the conflict are two ways of
seeing the Bible's origin. The first sees it as a divine product; the second
sees it as a human product.
We see the Bible as the human product of two ancient communities. The Old
Testament being the product of ancient Israel, and the New Testament being the
product of the early Christian movement. As the product of these two
communities, the Bible tells us about how they saw things--how they thought
about God and told their stories.
Some of the questions we are working with:
- How do the life and teachings of Jesus relate to our faith
- Is Christianity the best religion for all people? Do we
believe that other religions are also true paths to God?
- How would we explain communion to a non-Christian?
- How do we feel about the diversity in beliefs, race, culture,
intelligence and sexuality in a church? What is lost and what is
- How does our behavior toward each other relate to our
- How do we deal with the mystery in our spiritual life? How
does it serve us when we hold the questions or settle on definite
- What is the role of community in spiritual life?
- Is there anything that we are asked to "give up"
by following Jesus? Is there anything we are called to do? Is it worth it?