Tony Jones dropped the gauntlet challenging liberal Christians on the ways in which we speak about Jesus, the Bible, and the church, while neglecting to say something of much substance about God.
It was hard to not get bogged down with disclaimers and subjectivity… but just one before we start: In talking about “God” we’re talking about one member of our more holistic, Trinitarian understanding of God. We’re talking about the first person of the Trinity. The typical “God, the Father” person. Okay. Disclaimer, over.
Here is something substantive about God.
1) God changes.
Right off the bat in Genesis we hear stories about how God changes. This change is embedded in the very creation in which we exist. God spends 6 “days” [not necessarily 24-hour periods] bringing the world into existence. Then on the 7th day, God rests in creation. There’s never a point in time where God exits creation. So then, because creation changes, God must open God’s self open to changing as well.
If we needed any more evidence of this, we can see a complete shift in how God relates to humanity when God comes down to earth in Jesus. So that’s the first thing we can say about God — God changes.
2) God is constant.
This may be seen as a BUT to the first one, and that’s okay. God changes, but God is also constant. Even though God has changed, and will continue to change, there is a constancy in God’s presence. Though the circumstances of the world may be continually changing and evolving, the presence of God is constant in relationship with creation. It’s as simple as that.
3) God is genderless.
This is one I’ve hit on here before. And you may have noticed some awkward phrasing earlier in this post. But it’s to draw attention to the fact that we constantly attribute male nouns and pronouns to God. God is not male. God is not female. Gender is a sociological construct. Sex is a biological construct. These are both human categories. God is bigger than human categories (this could also be the title of #3) We assign gender to God for a deeper understanding, but it can become harmful when we stick rigidly to those gender categories to our own peril.
4) God knows the end, but doesn’t know the future.
Follow me on this one. In the act of the crucifixion and resurrection, God secured the end of the story. If we use the cosmic chess match example, the resurrection of Jesus is the check mate in struggle between love and destruction (love wins, in case you hadn’t heard). So that’s the first part of it, God knows the end.
BUT God doesn’t know the future. In part I blame that verse from the book of Jeremiah for the view that God knows everything that will ever happen to us. God knows what we’ll have for dinner 10 years from now. God knows what book we’ll read in the living room of the house we’ll live in when we’re 50. No. I firmly believe that God doesn’t micro-manage like that.
Instead, I think we ought to orient our belief more toward the idea that God is constantly working with us to bring a future of hope, grace, and love. This is because God is dwelling in creation with us — as noted earlier. God works with us to bring about good, but God never usurps our power of choice to force God’s will on us.
So, to recap, God knows the end, but doesn’t know the (immediate) future.
5) God is love.
This is, above all, what I believe about God. At the very core of God’s existence is love. Any time I start to question or doubt, no matter how much of my faith I deconstruct, this is the one statement I just can’t deny.
These are the 5 things that I can absolutely say about God. Usually my God-talk is bogged down in deconstruction or linguistic caveats, but it’s been a good experience to make declarations and say these things about God.
These are the things I like about God. God is dynamic and changes along with creation. But the things that are constant are radically inclusive love and a future oriented toward hope and openness.