A horrifying number of Christians say they believe God is not dead, but lock God in solitary confinement where God is unable to say anything that disagrees with what inspired Christians from the past have said about God, or insisted upon on God’s behalf.
I remember my dad saying something along the lines of “So many Christians today think God is dead and the Bible is a history book.” Then he proceeded to behave as though God is dead and the Bible is God’s last will and testament.
This position is unfaithful to the witness of scripture. But what would it mean for God to not be dead? God would inspire human beings to look back at the tradition and reflect upon it and find the spark of inspiration, just as God does in scripture. God would lead people to say that others before them did not speak rightly about God. Just as God does in scripture.
God corrects. God pulls people forward. “An eye for an eye” is a good start, but “Don’t seek revenge” is better, and “love your enemies” better still.
But revelation cannot progress because the Bible is a textbook, not a story, not a witness, not a series of witnesses. It’s a love letter God sat down and wrote to individual modern (American) Christians over a long weekend in Patagonia, not the writings of countless inspired writers over hundreds of years to people who were growing and learning and didn’t yet know all the things we know, or all the things human beings from the future will know.
God is not allowed to have employed human beings in all their humanity, but was required to strip away their ability to err while they wrote God’s perfect book. Why? Because modern Christians said so, and we require God to toe the line to our notions about God.
God’s not dead, but if you listen to many Christians these days it sure seems like God is in a vegetative state. But don’t worry; God will one day wake up and review the security tapes and punish those who disobeyed and reward those who obeyed.
Is this what faith in God has come to – just the affirmation that God is not dead?
Or is God really alive?
Is God ahead of us, as Rob Bell suggests?
Is God still speaking, as the United Church of Christ affirms?
Is God still waiting impatiently ahead of us for us to “grow into salvation” (I Peter 2:2)?
God’s not dead.
God is surely alive.
And that is terrifying because it means God is not tame. God cannot be nailed down to obey what people said about God in the Bible. God is free to be better and more loving and more gracious and more inclusive than anyone could ever ask or think. God is free to make the stone that the builders rejected the cornerstone, and I’m not just talking about Jesus.
God is faithful, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t free to love in ways or directions or people that our ancestors of the faith (or we) would find offensive. God is faithful love, and sometimes love must be tough and invite into the kingdom those whom the current occupants would strongly prefer to keep out, thank you very much.
And God may not insist upon changing them into the kind of people we would find acceptable, either.
God’s ways are higher than ours.
God’s ways are also higher than those of the people God inspired to write the Bible.