Tony Jones set up a challenge last week, asking progressive Christian bloggers to write something substantive about God. Not Jesus. Not Justice. Not society. God. While this might seem like a strange thing, I think the move was meant to get at talking about God’s characteristics. God’s character. God’s being. Instead of the ilk of progressive minded religious blogs focusing on meeting the needs of others (or complaining about what the Conservative side is doing), he wants to see some straight talk about God. I think this is great, and I’m going to avoid my typical raison d’être of deconstruction to try my hand at this. While I would hardly consider my blog a “progressive Christian blog” (or a theologian) I think, in many respects, I lean that way more these days. So, here is me throwing my hat into the ring.
Growing up, I was always told that God had certain characteristics. Omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. These big three are said to encompass God’s characteristics. However, I think there is a problem with this, because when these big scary words are the main descriptors of God, we often get a God that is cold and distant. We are none of these things, and there is a great gulf between the human being and God when these are the characteristics so often harped upon. This also leads very nicely into God being the judge, because how can you be a judge of everything without having these characteristics?
I don’t want to dump those ideas, however. I think, very emphatically, that God is all of those things. God must be, or else God is something not God like. What I think the danger here is, is that God becomes removed from us in this scenario. It also tends to focus God on being a static, immovable object. However, considering that God does indeed change God’s mind in the Hebrew Scriptures, that God is actively involved in the world. God, in all that omni-whatever, is engaged with the people of the world. God is engaged with the ones whom God desires to be engaged with. And, God is about raising the dead. This is the hope of the Jewish people of the first century; that the resurrection of the dead would happen. That God would impact and engage the world and bring hope and healing to the land. It’s the hope of Israel throughout the Old Testament; that God would restore the broken relationship between Godself, the people, and creation.
God uses those omni-characteristics to heal us, to lead and guide us, and restore us and his creation. As much is implied in the story of Job, where after everything has been taken from Job, God still restores to him everything he had, and then some.* And how does God lead us there? Through re-aligning ourselves with God. For those of you who need some proof-texting, I offer up 2 Chronicles 7:14.** The passage states that if the people confess and re-align themselves with God, then the land will be healed and the people restored. And, if this is the kind of God that we follow, then it makes sense why progressive individuals want to seek reconciliation with others and “the land.” Because that’s what God does, in all God’s infinite, omni-character. This is a God worth believing in. This is a God of love for the people and the land.
*Of course, the book of Job is far more complex than this, but it works for this example
**And much like Job, the following passage complicates this. In short, the theme is being aligned with God and God will be with you in this restorative process. Remember, this is a 600-ish word blog post, not a dissertation.