Attempting "something substantive about God"

Back on Tuesday, Tony Jones wrote "A Challenge to Liberal Bloggers to Write One Post About God":
I challenge all progressive theo-bloggers to write one post about God between now and August 15.
I mean, all of you: Fred, Scot, Rachel, MPT, John Shore, everyone at the Patheos Progressive Portal, and all of you I haven’t mentioned or even ever read. Write something substantive about God. Not about Jesus, not about the Bible, but about God.
Now that I'm done, as Tony Jones would put it, "clearing my throat," I'm gonna (pardon the metaphor) spit it out.
God is sacred, and near at hand and difficult to grasp, and love in an eldritch non-Euclidean way, and kinda self-explanatory but not so much, and above my pay grade.
So there you go: a substantive sentence. And having said that, let's unpack this thing.

#1: God is sacred.

This sounds kinda remedial, and it really is, but it's more important and less disputable than most of the omni* statements that get made about God: God is sacred. You don't worship a car's engine or its engineer, you don't worship the computer's OS or its programmer - but you do worship God, because God's an appropriate object of worship.

This is a brutal truth that comes before most else. Possibly even before God loving, in his eldritch non-Euclidean way (see #3 below.) To believe in God is to worship God, for very plastic values of "worship." And although I'm not totally sure why yet (see #4 below), I know that when I wrote those last few sentences I chose "do" rather than "should" for a reason.

#2: God is near at hand and difficult to grasp.

(So maybe I did quote "Patmos" there. Does anyone know who Hölderlin is? Anyone? Bueller? Didn't think so. Moving on...)

The challenge was to write something substantive about God - not Jesus, not the Bible, but God. The scholastic way to do that would be to define God, and usually that comes in the form of omni* statements: that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, a lot of all-stuff I'm not sure I can actually defend.

The Ancient of Days
You can't say that God looks like this,
because God is here. (I confess that I
only posted this because I love Blake.)
The most important of those omni* statements, and the one that's usually left out, is omnipresent: God is everywhere, even (especially) in places where he isn't. God isn't abstract. God isn't discrete. God isn't something we can reify and point to.
Where is God? God's immanent.
Where is God? God's in my blind spots.
Where is God? God's with us, and we're with him. (Unless we're not.)
God is omnipresent. That's enormous, and enormously important.

God is not a cosmic watchmaker who never needs to look at the assembled watches again, because God is here. The tsar is very dead, but God is not high above because God is here. God does not look like Urizen in "The Ancient of Days" (as shown to your right) because that's pointing there to describe God, and God is here.

It also fucks up God-talk, or if it doesn't it really should. God's being near at hand makes Him difficult to grasp.

We talk about discrete things we can point to, or even people we can point to, in a very different way than we talk about people that are in the room and, presumably, able to speak for and present themselves. This side of time, God is more than we can point to and see; this side of time, God is more than we can write down and define. (A long long time ago, better and smarter people than I will ever be tried. One of them concluded that the world wouldn't be big enough to hold what was written.)

So how do we let God speak? And how do we listen? Those are good questions for better people (see #5 below.)

#3: God is love in an eldritch, non-Euclidean way.

Before I started taking this Christian thing seriously, I learned most of my theology from H.P. Lovecraft. The man had some serious problems (what with the fascist sympathizing and such), but I'll give credit where credit is due: he provided the best metaphor I can think of to explain this Christian thing. A metaphor that's good enough to justify including what'd otherwise be a weary and tedious truth to proclaim.

I'm hesitant to say that God is love, even though the Christian tradition would say that unhesitatingly. It's not that I disagree with it - just that right now I can't appreciate love enough to say something that wouldn't (to me, anyways) feel insulting to God. And I say that as somebody who is in love, in a way that apparently makes people squee. So I'm gonna take the left-hand path here; rather than using theological rhetoric, I'm gonna use Lovecraftian rhetoric and hopefully get my point across faster.
Calling Him "Love" reifies Him, reduces Him to what our frail mortal minds can grasp without shattering. Just as all of life is an expression of the Black Goat of the Woods With a Thousand Young, all of love is an expression of Him. Actually trying to look is physically dangerous, and those who have seen before fail to describe Him in ways that are either deliberately vague or remarkably weird. He was revealed to us in the past, and was made incarnate in the world once; by the time that was over, the universe had been broken.

That period is over now... for now. He is not physically present, no not yet, but His Ghost has made itself known in the world, and has driven tens of millions of people to scream gibberish. The ancient codices that revealed this were written down in antiquity; they have been translated, and propagated throughout the world. And while the world may have forgotten it, those books have still driven their readers to do what they would never have done otherwise, to radically change direction, to become unrecognizable as themselves.

Because they know, we know very well, that the time is coming, that the stars will become right, and the veil will be lifted. On that day, those who have hoped for its coming will behold Him as He is, and we will be like He is. On that day, our transformation will be complete.

That day will break the universe again, doom the world, end time, behold the death of death itself. Let all with ears to hear prepare themselves for the coming strange aeon - or strive in vain to wrong the stars.
Iä! Iä!
 That was... astonishingly fun to write.

#4: God is kinda self-explanatory but not so much.

My original intent in writing this was to say something. Once "God is love in an eldritch non-Euclidean way" was added in, and this became #4, I realized that I'd gone beyond that a bit, and was now trying to show something that I don't have words to say.

God is, as I mentioned way back there in the beginning (#1), difficult to grasp. While I'm willing to say most of what I allegorized just above, I don't know how to say that, and while I believe it, it's not exactly the most a priori stuff in the world. How do I defend it? Fucked if I know. That's the realm of apologetics - and in the mainline, we don't do apologetics, we do contrition. So why am I skipping past so much of this? Because

#5: God is above my pay grade.

The challenge was to write something substantive about God; not Jesus, or the Bible, but about God. This clause definitely doesn't qualify, because it's not about God, or Jesus, or the Bible. It's about me. Yes, God likes to pick prophets against their best wishes. Yes, Jonah hated his job and Moses claimed a speech impediment. But really: Who the fuck am I to God-talk? I'm a fucking catechumen, not Julian of Norwich.

This isn't a matter of academia. This is a matter of competence. Say what we will about rightist God-talkers, but the ones who get paid attention can usually claim more authority than "I am very loud." However wrong their readings, they have read, and more than me. However wrong their words, they can speak, better than I. They've been doing this for years. That is, in fact, often What They Do Professionally.

And then there's me.

I only started taking this Christianity thing seriously last Christmas Eve, driving into Pennsylvania and discovering the entirety of "O Holy Night." I only started doing this Christianity thing seriously on Trinity Sunday, five months later. I have enough of a grasp of theology to get myself in trouble; huge swathes of Scripture are still foreign to me. I routinely open my underused NRSV Bibles and find books and chapters that I'm certain I never read before. I have no certification to do any talking, and if I were to be tested for such certification right now I'm quite certain that I'd fail the test dismally.

Never mind "born again," I'm still fucking gestating.

I realize that this is kinda devastating to one of the points that Tony Jones may have been trying to make (that non-rightists are competent to do God-talk), but in the interest of full disclosure that's pretty much where things stand right now. Trying to walk that walk. Trying to abide. Trying to love.

Trying to radically change direction and become something new, and trying to take that effort more seriously. And since I think (and hope) I said something substantial about God after these six hours sitting in front of a monitor pounding on a keyboard, I'm gonna take these closing moments to get this rant off my chest.

I'm not wise by any reasonable human standards; not powerful; not competent to fucking speak. I probably am panentheistic, not that it matters. But it wouldn't be hugely hard to ditch Christianity again, the way I did for the last ten years. And I don't intend to, because I do take this Christianity thing seriously, and I do mean to do this Christianity thing well.

With that said, let the record show that taking my convictions seriously makes me happy.
And since I've always sucked at writing endings, kthxbai.

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