Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church faith//hope//love

  • ch ch ch changes (that's a Bowie reference for those of you under 40)

    We did some good theology the other Sunday at the Gathering, which is our sort of all age Sunday morning. We’ve just moved into the bookies so that work can start at the church centre, so it was a bit squashed, but we had a go. At the Gathering we tend to have a bit of a conversation about stuff and, as everything was changing for us I thought we’d could talk about whether God changes or not.

    We talked about the early views you find of God where he behaves like some kind of thunder or sky god, and also as a kind of tribal god, only liking a particular group and smiting everyone else. We talked about this view of God. Who changed? Us or him/her? (there’s a subtle joke hidden in there)

    We thought (well, I did, I’m not sure what everyone thought), that we have changed as we have grown in our understanding of God. We have changed as a species as we have become more developed and knowledgeable, just as we change in our view of God as we grow up (well, hopefully). And, as we discover more about God then our response will also change. Perhaps from fear, or the bearded cloud sitter, to a more sophisticated understanding. Although it is difficult to change perspectives gained in childhood, hence the large number of psychotherapists.

    We also talked about the completeness of God, allowing for unitarian heretics in our midst (put that flaming torch down people), because, if God is God, then God is already complete, within the Godhead you find community already exists (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). That does lead to the question of why bother with the mess of the human race, or whether God has a ‘need’ to be loved, which could imply a lack of fulness. Anyway, ponder that one as you wish.

    To get back to the unchanging bit, a couple of people raised the imagery associated with this, God as a rock, firm, solid, unmoving. Some people found this helpful, whilst other didn’t as they felt life was a fluid and changing thing. Because of this our relationship to God changes, it’s not a fixed thing like standing on a rock. Someone talked about the idea of God as a river, a river is a ‘thing’, but it is constantly moving and flowing, and for some people this idea was far more helpful. We then got on the science of waves, I don’t know how, or what the point was, but there you go. I think it was something to do with the fact that the water isn’t travelling, it’s the energy, so there is stability and movement. Anyway, you can push a metaphor too far. But you can’t make it drink. Or something like that.

    We also talked about the unchanging church. Which reminds of a weak (Christian) joke, how many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb? Change?!

    By now people were getting twitchy and needing caffeine so we tried to draw it to a close but the question was brought up, Can you know God? If he is ineffable (someone else’s word, not mine, I don’t use such language) we can’t know him. That could be seen as a problem if you like to know the facts and be in control, on the other hand it could be a release. If we can’t really know God, the finite trying to grasp the infinite, we shouldn’t really worry too much about that and should focus on ‘experiencing’ him. The danger of this is that you then disengage your brain when it comes to faith matters, which is not the point. Following this argument, we shouldn’t put all of our efforts into information gathering and the workings of it (helpful as that can be), rather we should seek to experience it. We should consider the experiences and perhaps analyse them to see what’s going on, but God is to be experienced not dissected and filed. This approach is found both within the charismatic movement and also in the mystical tradition. Whilst the charismatic movement hasn’t always had a good press (justifiably in some cases) it certainly grew out of this understanding of faith. The mystical tradition, again with it’s own pitfalls, also seeks this, and has done so for pretty much 2000 years. Neither of these expressions are unique to Christianity so perhaps they are a human response seeking or finding the divine.

    Very interesting stuff, and, as usual, no conclusions. Just lots of experiencing.

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Neil (the minister) occasionally gets round to blogging so welcome to the trivia and ramblings of an erratic stream of consciousness.

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