Many of us were raised in churches in which we prayed only to our “Heavenly Father.” We had to have a male image of God or none at all. I’ll admit that when I visit churches like this I sometimes feel nostalgic for that level of familiarity and intimacy, even though I know they mostly have created a God in their own image.
Like you, perhaps, I would love to have simpler answers and a more formulaic faith, and I long for absolute answers and certainties. I desperately want to know how to say prayers that work magic, but I’m old enough to know that isn’t real, it isn’t true, and it isn’t God.
That is why I appreciate that, in our modern lesson on Sunday, Barbara Brown Taylor used the word obfuscation in reference to how the Bible reveals God. I never use that word because, in my South Georgia mouth, there’s a good chance it will get mispronounced. It is, however, a good word for progressive people of faith. It is almost as if the Bible deliberately tries to force us into a place of confusion, struggle, and mystery. It’s as if God is serious about this being a journey we must take by faith.
I think the opposite of faith is presumption. We have seen numerous examples of the grave danger of Christianity, Islam, and other faith systems that think they know all about God and have the authority to impose God’s will and way on everyone else. We try to avoid that level of presumption, but I suspect we still are afraid to go all the way and let go of our need to KNOW and simply trust the way of faith. The Bible says, however, that, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
I think this is because anything other than pure faith–unknowing trust, trusting that you don’t know–is presumption. The only way to think we understand God is to force God into shapes and forms we know and understand, and presuming to know about something we don’t have the capacity to know or understand is idolatry. Although there many things about which the Bible seems to deliberately obfuscate this is not one of them.
This is number one on the big 10. In fact, it is number one AND number two. From the very early days, God knew that if humans thought we could comprehend and, therefore, control God we would use and abuse faith to oppress and control our neighbors. That certainly has proven to be accurate.
Rev. Michael Piazza