It has been fascinating (and somewhat entertaining) to watch the unfolding of the Challenge to Progressive Theo Bloggers at Tony Jones’ (“theologian-in-residence” at Solomon’s Porch) blog. The challenge was pretty simple:
I challenge all progressive theo-bloggers to write one post about God between now and August 15.
Why is this a challenge for progressives? Jones explained:
…progressives have a God-talk problem. That is, progressives write lots of books and blog posts about social issues, the church, culture, and society. But we don’t write that much about God. That is, we don’t say substantive things about who God is, what God does, etc.
A whole-hearted “Amen!” on my end. Progressive Christians talk far more about “social issues, the church, culture, and society” than they do about God. Later in the post, Jones qualified the challenge:
Write something substantive about God. Not about Jesus, not about the Bible, but about God.
This clarification was necessary (for reasons I’ll touch on in a sec), specifically the inclusion of the word “substantive.” But apparently the clarification didn’t help because Jones issued two follow-up clarifications.
The first was entitled Progressive Talk about God: Lots of Throat Clearing (the second is HERE) in which Jones attempts to steer the conversation back toward something… substantive. He concludes:
Lots of progressives have responded to my challenge with lots of throat-clearing. By that I mean, they’ve loaded their posts with prolegomena about how we really can’t speak confidently about the character of God, about how we don’t want to be arrogant like the conservatives, and about how our God-talk needs to exude epistemic humility.
I get it. I wrote a dissertation. I know a lot about prolegomena. But here I’m going to shout again:
GET OVER IT!
If Tony Jones is really concerned about getting progressive Christians to say anything concrete about God, I think he’s spinning his wheels. This Tweet from John on the #progGod thread shows why.
John reveals a core tenet of the progressive worldview: epistemological uncertainty, the postmodern belief that we really can’t be certain about anything. And if we can’t be certain about anything, how in the world can we ever be certain about the Ultimate Mystery? With this certainty, er, uncertainty, in place, saying anything “substantive” about God is impossible. Or should I say, anything you say about God is permissible. It’s why some (perhaps many) progressive Christians inevitable wander into animism, neo-paganism, and open theology.
Jones has conveniently aggregated the influx of “substantive” posts about God at A Progressive God at Storify. Here’s a brief snippet of the accumulated “wisdom.”
- If someone were to ask me what I believe about who God is, the first thing I would do is correct the question. The question is, what is God? God is not a “who”.
- As we seek, God’s character shows up in the realness, beauty, passion, frustration, intelligence, anger, complexity, sorrow, generosity and compassion we see in other human beings. God appears in the gifts and challenges we give and receive between one another. God becomes interconnected relationship. God becomes love.
- God is not confined to religion. God is, however, love.
- ..the concept of God/Cosmic Consciousness has a primordial nature which is the ultimate plan for all of creation.
- …there are substantial changes between the God of the Old Testament and the New. In the Old, God is a mean, vindictive jerk. In the New, God is a loving parent that wants his children to come and rest. If God doesn’t change, which one is the real one?
- I like the dynamic nature of God, that God changes. And if God changes, then we too will need to change how we relate to God and how we think about God.
I encourage you to peruse the rest of those posts. I believe they provide a significant window into why progressives have such a hard time saying something substantive about God. But the real challenge for Christian progressives is not just saying something “substantive” about God, but being certain about their authority to do so.