Tony Jones’ God-Talk Dare

Jason Micheli —  August 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

Last week Tony Jones diagnosed liberal/progressive Christians with a god-talk problem. They simply can’t talk unabashedly or robustly about God, Tony says and I suspect rightly. Liberals are savvy and comfortable with the disciplines of deconstruction: womanist theology, liberation theology etc. I wonder how much this comfort has to do with the fact that such deconstruction is welcomed by and practiced in the secular academy; therefore, liberal Christians don’t have to be singled out as, you know, Christian. Liberals can talk about Jesus too; after all, Jesus was a historical person whose teachings can be applied to political issues and whose suffering and compassion we can relate to (we presume).

But God, Tony argues, is a different matter. Liberal Christians just can’t bring themselves to utter a ‘Father (gender exclusive language) we just’ prayer. Liberal Christians can’t say ‘God just laid it on my heart to…’

In some ways, talking about God eludes the safe strictures of a focus bent more towards critique or historicity. There’s really no need to talk about God then, unless one believes in him.

Tony coupled his diagnosis with a dare of sorts. For liberal/progressive Christians to write something- anything- about God (not Jesus) before high noon, 8.15.

While I’d want to wriggle out of the liberal/progressive modifier, especially as it applies to theology, I suppose my membership in the United Methodist Church puts me, professionally if not theologically, puts me in that camp.

So, here’s a few thoughts about God and that most worn-out of debates: creation.

Creationism isn’t in the Past-Tense

One of the things that really irritates me in the juvenile debates about God’s role in creation is the extent to which it relegates creation to an historical happening.

I don’t particularly care whether my sons learn in school that God created the world in seven days or whether God created the world through unseen forces. I’m not particularly worried that one perspective or another diminishes God’s role in creation because I hope by the time my sons take biology they will already know that ours isn’t just a God who created, ours is a God who creates.

When we profess in the Creed that God is the Creator of heaven and earth and a few beats later when we confess that we believe in the Holy Spirit, we’re testifying that God’s creative powers don’t stop or cease to exist after Adam names a cow a ‘cow.’

By professing that God is Trinity we’re identifying God as the Holy Spirit too, the Spirit Jesus promises to send his people after he’s left them. This the same Spirit that takes a faithless idiot like Peter and turns him into a fearless preacher of the Gospel. It’s the same Spirit that upends a tyrant like Saul and makes him Paul. It’s the same Spirit that Jesus breathes on to his disciples; the same Spirit that, reversing the Babel story in Genesis, gives birth to a community- the Church- that transcends every linguistic and cultural barrier.

It’s no exaggeration to say that, for Christians, every believer is a new creation, every church is a new creation and every place of reconciliation from Selma, Alabama to Soweto, South Africa is a new creation.

Why argue about evolution?

By calling God the Creator and by naming God as Trinity, Christians don’t just believe God created once upon a time.

Christians believe God creates. Now. Today. When Christians say Jesus saves, we’re really saying God creates anew.

In us.

Jason Micheli

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