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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

a feeling God? (part 2)

I'm grateful to Doug Chaplin (Clayboy) for re-clarifying the context of the post I quoted yesterday; the discrediting he mentions is that of a clear gulf between Hebrew and Greek thought
... by the time we get to Jesus. There are different histories and different cultural perceptions, but they have been exaggerated and too much tied to ideas of language and the biblical text.
Please read the rest of his comment on yesterday's post for more.  I feel I did not represent this clearly enough and probably applied it out of context.  Apologies.

I confess I am not at this stage going to comment at length on this - I'm far too theologically rusty to make a good job of it. Rather I'll continue with my main (segmented) post for now.

That's the thing about reading others' blogs - they spark off topics in your mind and before long you're halfway round a different block with your own thoughts!

In my original post, I was going to quote Doug again - I will do so because it was another trigger in my head, but then I'll stop (mis?) quoting him!

In another post on this subject, he says of the biblical emotive language that
I interpret it as the metaphor by which the narrative characterises the changing and developing relationship between God and his people, and part of the process where God’s people grow into a deeper understanding of God. I do not see us as being obliged to refer the narrative metaphors to eternal characteristics.
And off I went round the block again, pondering as I went.  (I like going round the block.  I can get quite addicted to those 'thought sparks'.)

Here is where I struggle.  I do not  disagree that metaphor is heavily used when talking about God - in fact how could it be otherwise?  But I believe nonetheless that it is trying to say something about God.

(There are many tangents and byways of course, easily sidestepping into the nature of scripture, inspiration and the nature of language - is it, as some would say, eternally self-referring? Can language be reliable? I'll pull myself out of that tangent before I get onto a new topic entirely.)

If God does not grieve, mourn, or sympathise, if he does not react in any way, if he does not respond to us in anyway, how does he relate?  Can a relationship be static?  Do we not claim that God is three in one?

And what about passages that express the joy of God - such as in Zephaniah 'he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will delight / exult over you with singing' - I'm not proposing he would literally sing (feel free to discuss), but am I then to say that this verse is obsolete, that there is no delight experienced by God, because it is what we would call a feeling?   

Is it simply a way of saying God approves - but then how do we define approval?  And if we say God is pleased do we take it not as literal pleasure - what then, does it mean?  Is it simply that we think he is pleased and thus interpret it thus?  (Hence, it is all about what we think of God and not true of God at all?)

And does the fact that someone feels change their character? Indeed he is the Father of the heavenly lights,who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1-17)....surely this is a testament to the unfailing, unsteady, utterly reliable character of God who does not do things on mere whim but always acts in line with his character - just, true, loving and holy?  The context of the verse is that he is the source of all giving, and that every perfect gift comes from him, and then goes on to talk about the purpose of God - not the feelings of God.  James later encourages his readers to 'draw near to God and he will draw near to you' - surely a verse of cause and effect?  Of God responding  to humanity?  Not a static idea. (Interestingly, just prior to this verse he quotes a scripture which reads 'God yearns jealously'...)  


Of course, we all probably  come from different traditions;  I'm not an Anglican, for example, and I probably place a little less emphasis on tradition than some.  Plus, writing blog posts like this still makes me feel like I am swimming without armbands on, so please forgive any foolishness or stupidity!


I'm also aware of our own tendencies to navigate towards that which we are most comfortable with (whatever that may be).  But more on that, later.


PS The placement of the emoticons is not in relation to the text - merely corresponding to the main topic!  Just in case you thought I was having mood swings throughout...

3 comments:

Doug Chaplin said...

No apology needed.

May I make one very brief comment. Where I personally value the language of impassibility is in questioning the idea of God "reacting". In my experience, when we react – whatever that reaction is – there is a sense that some at least of our reaction is involuntary, forced on us or drawn from us. God's "reaction" – if we use that language – is, I think, nothing like that because all God's actions are freely chosen and not compelled, coming from his unchanging character and not forced on him by circumstances.

Obviously, you may disagree, but I find that an idea worth arguing for.

Lucy Mills said...

Actually I would agree with that. So much depends on how you see a word, doesn't it...I do believe God's actions are freely chosen and not compelled or forced on him. Perhaps I need to re-think my terminology - is 'respond' better than react?

I do believe God acts in grace in specific ways in specific circumstances. I.e. God may respond to a certain situation because his character is one of grace and compassion - or indeed justice - but his response is grounded in his character, not ours. God's response is always free of influence, but he chooses to interact (?) with his creatures.

Perhaps...?!

When it comes to the feelings of God, in whatever light we see them, I would probably, fumblingly, suggest that these 'feelings' are not influencing character, but instead of expressions of it. To be at 'the mercy of your feelings' is a very human thing and I don't believe God has the kind of muddled 'emotions' a human experiences (a good thing, I suspect!). After all, consider the impact of brain chemicals on human emotion /feeling.

Perhaps, after all, it all comes down to how we define certain words and ideas, as well as our biblical/theological approaches and biases. As with many things.

Half the time I don't know what I think until I try and express it - one of the benefits of writing and discussing!

Doug Chaplin said...

"Half the time I don't know what I think until I try and express it"

Oh, I know that feeling well!

"The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."- Richard Foster