Sunday, May 1, 2011

Casual theology.

I lost my temper in Pentateuch class last Tuesday.

I really, really like Professor Fretheim, and I really, really like the course material, and I really, really like having a class with six of my very best friends here at the seminary and sitting in our little heretics corner / Pentateuch Party / babe seminarians section.  I do.  I really do.

But I've come to hate the class.

For a while I thought it was because there were some members of the class who got out of undergrad with a very, very limited understanding of the meaning of G-d's grace (i.e.:  people who devour bacon cheeseburgers while insisting that Leviticus 18:22 should be established as an American constitutional law).

And during Tuesday's class I thought it was because I am literally sick of hearing people refer to G-d as He.  He, He, He, He, He, He, He.  Sick of it.  I understand that everyone is in a different place in the process of understanding who G-d is and how to speak of G-d but really.  Are we, the next generation of public Christian leaders, this shortsighted about G-d?

On Tuesday we had a lot of He He He He He.  (Not from Professor Fretheim, who is as mentioned phenomenal, but from various classmates.)  I sort of gave up on the discussion midway through and just tuned out, coming back when Fretheim spoke.

After class I realized my problem isn't so much with He He He as with how everyone who uses it seems to be talking about G-d - how casually we speak of G-d.

I mean this is G-d.  Adonai Eloheinu, melek ha'olam.  Ruler of the universe.  Creator of everything.  Spirit that gives life.  Redeemer of humanity.  And we talk about HIM like HE is something we can grasp, like HE is something we not only understand but can make assertions about.

Other students spent so much time in Pentateuch on Tuesday arguing about how to understand the Biblical stories of G-d changing G-d's mind (Exodus 32:14) because "G-d has perfect foreknowledge and immutability."  And we spent so much time arguing last semester in Systematic Theology about similar things.

We have these preconceived notions of G-d, completely unexamined and only vaguely established in philosophy or scripture or neither, and we absolutely insist on them because we perceive that everything rides on it and we're not prepared to accept that maybe it's just not true that everything rides on it and maybe it's just not true that our preconceived, subconscious, and vaguely founded notions are actual truth.

We need to be honest about our own assumptions about G-d and we need to stop making such blind assertions about G-d without knowing why we came to them and what truly rides on them.  And we need to stop being so casual about the Holy Name of the Creator of All Things and the Savior of the World.

And that's why I don't say He,

and that's why I don't write the full word.

Because, when I force myself to skip easy pronouns and use alternate names, it makes me think about what I actually believe about G-d.  

1 comment:

  1. I really like this. Thanks for posting. I'm just a lowly linguistics undergrad at a state school; I have no Bible/theology training at all except what I've picked up at church and from the internet. It is refreshing to hear someone thinking seriously about beliefs and not just discussing the unfathomable like it's easy to understand.