Minimalist Spirituality

I’m a big fan of minimalism.

Those of you who follow me on social media probably know this. I like a lot of posts by folks like Joshua Becker, Be More With Less and The Minimalists and follow people like Marie Kondo, Greg McKeown and Leo Babauta. Each one of these has a unique take on what constitutes a minimalist lifestyle, achieving balance and experiencing contentment in life.

There is one commonality in all interpretations of minimalism and that is that we humans thrive best when we only hold on to that which brings meaning and sparks joy.

I’ve often thought that minimalism would also serve us well in our spirituality. As I reflect on past expressions of my faith, theology, and spiritual practice, it is clear to me that many things that once served a purpose for me no longer meet that need. There are principles I once held dear which, over time, have become, for me, spiritual clutter–clouding my vision, distracting me from what is important, or just taking up space in my soul that would be better given to meaningful pursuits or joyful contemplation.

Whatever we choose and however we practice our faith, juxtaposing it against a minimalist mentality has helped me personally to clarify what is essential to my spiritual wellbeing and what is simply excess baggage that I would do well to discard.

CatPigeonAnd here’s where I may be setting the cat amongst the pigeons.

Over the past twenty-or-so years I have found myself gradually re-forming many of my previously-firmly-held beliefs about God. And that, in many circles, may now classify me as somewhat of a outsider. I believe still in the unconditional nature of God’s love, but I have now defined this as truly unconditional.

PreviouslyI would have stated with not a small amount of cognitive dissonance that God’s love was unconditional as long as I am not gay, I am not fornicating, I attend the right church, listen to the right music, read the right Bible, say the right words and ‘accept Jesus as my personal Saviour’ (not a Biblical concept by the way), or as long as I keep the hundred-or-so rules that ensure God doesn’t reject me. I would even twist my understanding of “unconditional” to say that I put my own conditions on God’s love by sinning (a classic ‘blame the victim’ stance that is characteristic of a fundamentalist mindset).

To me, having gone through the valley of doubt and deconstruction, discovering a God whose love is not only beyond our comprehension but is as the very core of the universe was mind-blowingly liberating. As my eyes became adjusted to these new lenses, I began to see the spiritual clutter that lined the walls of my spiritual home:

  • The feeling of not being good enough
  • The rule book of other’s expectations
  • The tally board that kept score of all my wrongs
  • The tally board that kept score of everyone else’s wrongs
  • The blinkers that once kept me from looking at those in the margins
  • The reasonable arguments that convinced the faithful ones that their understanding is the one, definitive, correct interpretation of the Holy Bible
  • The smug feeling that I was one of the faithful ones
  • The judgemental spectacles through which I viewed all those who did not fit into my understanding of the Divine

Like minimalism, my spiritual minimalist journey has brought my focus into those few truths that truly bring meaning and spark joy in me:

  • God = Love and all love is from God
  • Sin is our choice to live outside of the love of God and in no way affects God’s unconditional and eternal love for us
  • There is no need for us to prove anything to God.
  • God is in the process of reconciling all creation to God’s-self and sometimes–often–chooses to use us in this process
  • Our humanity is a gift, not a curse
  • Our togetherness is God’s design and needs to be nurtured
  • Our differences are chances to show love and develop our understanding

I still believe many of the truths which I was raised to value such as the love, generosity and grace of God, the incarnation of God revealed in Jesus who died and was raised to life by the power of God, the importance of Scriptures in shaping my faith, the creation of this amazing universe by God–although I would nuance these understandings differently than perhaps you would. No, I’m not turning into a Buddhist monk or a Zen master. I am not choosing to live as a hermit or monastic. I am not even working on my new age guru skills.

I am also not devaluing those truths in your spiritual house that bring to you meaning and spark joy in your heart. As we are all different, so is the way that God speaks and relates to each one of us. What I may view as ‘clutter’ may be your most valuable asset. For some, a systematic theology might indeed spark joy, or having a certainty that your Scriptures are infallible and factual may bring meaning. Maybe there’s other forms of spiritual clutter that you need to cast out of your home. Rules that were good to form healthy habits but no longer serve any purpose. Ideas that once brought joy but now provoke feelings of uneasiness or regret.

In the end, the object of living a life of love is to recognise this and, in the midst of these differences, still choose love, because, above faith and hope, it is still the greatest abiding presence.

Losing Faith

I don’t know about you, but I have a faith problem. My faith problem is simply that I often lose my faith. It’s not a matter of maintaining appearances–I can do that awesomely; after all, I am a pastor’s son. I can look happy and spirit-filled at the drop of a hat.

No, this is far deeper, raw and honest; it’s a place where I find myself all too often.

Maybe it’s the books I read. People have said stuff to me like, “Don’t read (insert name here)’s books. Your faith can’t last if you expose yourself to such dangerous ideas.” Maybe its the blogs I visit and the topics they discuss like post-evangelicalism, post-modernism, post-Darwinian thought, post-Christian, post-colonialism, etc. Maybe its the stuff I put in my ears–words that tell me I need to think freely, have an open mind, be more inclusive, love more/hate less. . . .

Regardless, apart from the fact that there are certainly elements of danger every time I open my mind to entertain a new thought, I would say the greater danger remains in trying to maintain a status quo, an attachment to a system that just doesn’t work and is losing its credibility more each day. I can’t buy into the Evangelical culture any more than I can buy into consumerism, wanton capitalism, or corporate warmongering.

Ideals aside, it’s still Good Friday (and I digress).

Today we remember the cross, the sacrifice of Jesus, the rigged execution of the God-man who came to be revered as Lord,  King and Saviour.

It is a dark day and, perhaps, “Good” Friday is too sanitised a version of this story. This particular day was horrible, terrible, dark, depressing. It was a  time of pain, of loss, of an end to a promise. . . .

The disciples fled.

The women wept.

The soldiers mocked.

The earth kept spinning into night and the one who promised it all had died.

God had left the building.

There was no more promise, no more hope, no more kingdom.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living that day.

Sometimes my faith gives way to anger, pain, regret. Too often God is distant,  silent, unknowing and uncaring. This is my own personal Good Friday . . . or Monday,  or Thursday, or Sunday. . . .

How about you?

(To be continued)

What is Remembered

My dad and I recently traveled to the Philippines to attend a conference where several of his students from Bible College were now serving as pastors and denominational leaders. Everywhere we went, they told stories of “Pastor John” and his radio quartet, choir, music practice.

Dad didn’t go to the Philippines to teach music and direct choirs. He went to teach the Bible and direct a College.

In frustration one night he asked the question that I could tell had been causing him a lot of anguish: “Why don’t they remember my Bible teaching?” (The reverse was implied: “Why is it that all I hear is ‘We remember the music’?”)

What is remembered says a lot about two things:

1. The effectiveness of what was presented, and

2. The response of the person to what was presented.

IGBIPerhaps what dad taught in Theology 101 wasn’t as memorable. This could be the boredom factor of having to go through a systematic study that would, at times, seem tedious and sleep-inducing (Been there; done that.) It could also be a comparative thing: compared to the joy and excitement of singing, traveling around to visit churches and performing on the radio, sitting on a hard wooden seat listening to the 26 reasons why we aren’t Arminian just doesn’t cut it.

Or it could be that the students who were enrolled in the College at the time were far more passionate about and felt connected in singing together than they were about studying Soteriology and proof-texting John Calvin’s 5 Points?

We could look at this example and draw the conclusion that his students should have been more serious about their Bible study and ministerial training and that this should have driven them to enjoy learning and applying themselves to their studies.

But that would be about as fair as expecting the congregation on any given Sunday to leave reciting the main points of the pastor’s sermon rather than singing the memorable chorus of that final song. We are naturally wired to remember things that appeal to all our senses; our minds naturally prioritise that in which we are actively engaged above that which just goes into our ears.

Dad shouldn’t be so hard on himself. He did a great job of teaching, I’m sure. Otherwise the vast majority of his students would not be in the ministry today. I’m sure the essence of their vocation has “Pastor John” written all over it; the music is simply the spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down.

(And, in keeping with this theme, the ending pointed question of this post is, “And who doesn’t like sugar?” not “And how bad was that medicine!”)

We Never Come to the Bible Alone

This excellent post from Jamie Arpin-Ricci speaks volumes about the way we view the Holy Bible. We need to be reminded of this fact every time we approach its pages: we never come to the Bible alone but with a congregation of many, many individuals.

BibleGrowing up in a rural, evangelical community, it was not uncommon for me to hear the idea that all we need in order to know God and His will is the Bible. If anyone of us wants to know the truth about God and understand His will, all we had to do was open up Scripture and study. The Holy Spirit was all the guide we needed. We were cautioned about commentaries — they might be helpful, but we should never substitute the “explicit truth of Scripture” for the opinions of others. In its worst expressions, this led to anti-academic sentiment (and even anti-intellectualism). While the heart of this bias was genuine and well intentioned, they were also misguided and misleading. The truth is that we never come to the Bible alone.

Let’s say you open to the New Testament and read Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. The fact is, your are reading it in a translation. Immediately you are not alone. The work and minds behind that translation required endless hours of study, scholarship, debate and more. It is, after all, only one of hundreds of translations available. Even if you decided to learn the language of the original text(s), you’d still have to rely on that same scholarship. Already the room is filled with countless others who are helping you read the text.

This says nothing about the fact that you are reading the text through the lens of your place in history, culture, race, language, gender, age, education, experience, etc. Layer upon layer of bias, influence and context shapes how you read, what you understand as you read and how you respond to the implications of that understanding. As if that weren’t enough, even the people who were listening to Jesus’ words in the moments He spoke them often understood and responded to them differently. Even His closest friends and disciples got it wrong time and again. So, you see, no one comes to the Bible alone.

Read the rest of this post here.

Revisiting The Shack

ShackRevisitedThe minute I started reading Paul Young’s novel The Shack, I was entranced. Young took me into a  world where God came down in the form of three unlikely individuals and messed with the life of a broken and cynical man. Through its pages I saw a new portrait of a God I knew, yet, strangely, seem to have never met–a God who lavishes love, grace and forgiveness on humanity with such unrelenting fervor . . . and I found myself stopping and questioning my own sensibility at times: Does such a Being even exist?

After all, there is another darker, more sinister, picture of God to which I had been accustomed: a God who hates, bring destruction and devastation, strikes humankind with his fierce (and righteous?) anger, holding us to ransom over the flames of hell.

I remember telling a friend that I was reading The Shack and found it to be the most incredible story of grace I had ever come across. I loaned her my copy and, before hiding it away in her handbag rather quickly, she told me that she could not let her friends see her with it–especially those in her church fellowship group–because it was so heretical. (Puzzled expression on my face, and I think I said something along the lines of “You’ve got to be kidding!”)

To me, this book was so straightforwardly simple and showed a wonderful picture of a God I wanted to know. To her, it was another threat to a “safe” theology which enabled her to live quite comfortably amongst her like-minded acquaintances.

So when I received a copy of The Shack Revisited by C. Baxter Kruger (2012: Hachette Book Group/Hodder & Stoughton), I jumped into it head first, hoping to make some sense of Evangelicalism’s strange love-hate relationship with this recent bestseller.

Kruger lets us into a little history of the original volume: Young never intended this book to be published, but wrote it for his family to explain his own experience over 11 years of brokenness and the realisation of the overwhelming love and forgiveness of God in his life. What we read is his own story, although viewed in the life of Mack. Mack lost his daughter Missy and became overwhelmed by his own Great Sadness. That Sadness–and the period of Young’s own life it represents–is characterised by the seemingly very real absence of God. As Kruger comments, “That is a lonely place.” (p.23).

Kruger’s companion volume to The Shack was not solicited by Young. It arose out of Kruger’s own interaction with The Shack and out of the profound impact this book had in his life and ministry. The Shack Revisited is a well-rounded explanation of the underpinning theology of the novel, written with the average pew-sitting Christian in mind. It takes into account not only how the Biblical writers saw God’s relationship within God’s self and with Creation, but also teaching from numerous Church writers and theologians, including many from the first centuries of Christianity’s existence. I was quite pleased to read so much commentary within this book that echoed the writings of one of my favourite authors and theologians, C.S. Lewis. In fact, as Kruger rightfully states, the fingerprints of C.S. Lewis are all over this book. Themes such as those by which Lewis is so constantly taken to addressing are found throughout the volume and the author makes this abundantly clear:

Within us all there lies a broken dream, “our inconsolable secret,” as Lewis calls it, that is so precious to us we protect it with a thousand defenses. “The secret which hurts us much,” Lewis says, “That you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence.” We know that we are made for glory, but only know hints of its joy. In the midst of life we long for more. Something is missing: creation is aflame with a glory we cannot touch but we know it’s ours. We are moved by ancient music, but cannot find the great dance. So “we pine,” as Lewis says. But such pining is too much to bear. So we bury our longing and protect our dream’s sleep. (p. 36)

After laying the groundwork in showing the background and purpose of this book, Kruger breaks into the theological themes of Young’s book with the common understanding many Christians have of God. He shows the one view of God as being an angry Deity intent on holding sinners over the flames of hell’s fire (as represented in Jerry Falwell’s favourite sermon of all time, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards) (p.53) The other view, demonstrated so beautifully in The Shack is one portrayed by Athanasius in where God has never abandoned human beings who has always walked alongside brokenness.

The God of all is good and supremely noble by nature. Therefore he is the lover of humanity. [Athanasius quoted by Khaled Anatolios, Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought.]

As, then, the creatures whom he had created . . . were in fact perishing, and such noble works were on the road to ruin, what then was God, being Good, to do? Was he to let corruption and death have their way with them? In that case, what was the use of having made them in the beginning  . . . It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave man to be carried off by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of Himself. [Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God] (p.55)

Kruger assumes of the reader a Trinitarian theological understanding (chapter 6). So much of the book is caught up in the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit, perhaps because this is the point in which critics have accused Young of going too far. (Whilst the apparent human-likeness of each person of the Trinity was refreshing and enlightening to me when I first read The Shack, to many that has brought God into disrepute, making God too familiar and not so much a distant other-worldly entity as their theology would dictate.) Drawing from the gospel record and from the interpretation of this by the early Church fathers, he shows the involvement of God with humankind from the very beginning, through the Hebrew patriarchs and into the coming of Jesus. The interplay between the three persons is shown as always being a given throughout the story of God (chapters 7 and 8)

This is not polytheism (as was the accusation made by the Jews against early Christians), nor modalism (where God manifested in different ways at different times), but a true relationship. Jesus claimed this, telling his disciples that he and his father were one, that  he would send the Spirit to them who would be as he himself to them. The most common demonstration of this relationship has always been the baptism of Jesus where the Spirit appeared above him as a dove and the voice is heard saying “This is the son whom I love. . . .” (This debate over the nature of God culminated in the councils of Nicaea (325 C.E.) and Constantinople (381 C.E.) affirming the nature of the Trinity.)

Kruger introduces the idea of perichoresis: an understanding of the triune God as a mutual indwelling without a loss of personal identity, as Sarayu tells Mack: “You cannot share with one and not share with us all.”

Then why does not needs us–why does God love us? Is God not enough in God’s self? Does not that relationship within the Trinity satisfy God in itself?

Chapter 10 is worth the price of this book. Here Kruger addresses the love of God for humans within the context of perichoresis. In fact, he shows how the love of God could not exist if it were not for the triune nature of God. As Richard of St Victor said, “There can be no love without relationship.” C.S. Lewis added to this: “Love is something one person has for another person. If God was a single person before the world was made, He was not love.” In this, Karl Barth says, we were “created to be loved, and to live loved, and to love others without agenda.”

The Father  Son and Spirit love us for our benefit, not for increasing their membership rolls, or for making themselves look good, or from anything they can get from us.There is no need in the blessed Trinity. It is an overflowing fountain of other-centered love. The shared life of Father Son and Spirit is about giving, not taking; sharing, not hoarding; blessing others with life for their sake, not manipulating for divine control. The Father, Son and Spirit are focused on giving themselves for our benefit, so that we too can experience real life. They need nothing in return. (p. 120)

The result of this is thus:

We were created that we could be, that we could live and share in the life and joy of the triune God. Jesus’ Father is not holding his breath to see if we jump through the right hoops before he decides our fate. There is no list. We are not here to “glorify God” by our religious performance. We are here to live “in the glory” of the blessed Trinity. (p. 121)

What place, then does the wrath of God have in the context of such a relationship? Kruger puts it this way:

Wrath is the love of the triune God in passionate action, saying “No!” It is love’s fiery opposition to our destruction. Likewise, the judgement of God is not the divine “dark said” finally having its say. To judge is to discern, to see into a matter and understand what is wrong in order to make it right and whole. Thus, as Pope Benedict said, “The judgement of God is hope,both because it is justice and because it is grace” [Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 47] (p. 128).

From the perspective of an Evangelical Christian, C. Baxter Kruger has done a remarkable job of revealing to the reader of The Shack the theological skeleton on which the story written by Wm. Paul Young forms the visible part of this remarkable body of truth. For the person who has read the book, but who may have questions about the integrity of the facts, this is a must-read. For the one who would so much love to embrace the reality of the loving, caring and relational God but who wonders how it will fit within their existing understanding of God’s nature, you need to read this. If you have any misgivings about the reality of a relationship with God, if your are in a place of brokenness, if you feel that God is not with you or for you, then you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of The Shack and revel in the truth found in its pages: how much God loves you and wants to heal your life and bring you to a place of freedom and grace–and then you must read The Shack Revisited, if nothing more then for Chapter 10!

__________

* I realise that here I may lose those who understand God’s objective as only accepting those who personally repeat a prescribed prayer, perform a required ritual, or live in a particular way. While this may be deducted from several “proof texts” in Scripture, this is not in accordance with the general understanding of the nature and work of God as understood by those who lived during the immediate centuries following the events written in the gospel record.

“Here we go again . . .”

I recall around 20 years ago I spent a week transcribing a series of Bible College lectures for a correspondence school—32 all up—through the book of Romans. This was a tedious task since the speaker (a well-known pastor in those circles) often repeated himself, and used so many clichés (which had to be either paraphrased or edited out due to the sheer number of recurrences).

One thing that surprised me while I was listening to this series wasn’t the way the speaker would quote verses (as they say) “Left, right and centre” in support of his arguments, but the way that the collection of verses he used could well be counted on both hands. In 32 hours of speaking, he used countless verses, but the vast majority of these were simply a recall of his “favourites.”

I knew, as I was typing in the words from the cassette tape playing next to me, that not five minutes into the lecture, the pastor would use at least one of his favourite verses from Ephesians and another from Colossians. I remember mentally rolling my eyes and thinking, “Here we go again . . .” Before the hour was done, at least one of those verses would have made another two or three appearances in one form or another.

Fast forward a few years, and I find myself in a Bible study with a similar Bible teacher, well-studied, well-articulated, but once again choosing to use his repertoire of well-worn passages to repeatedly emphasise whatever point they were trying to make at the time.

I found the same thing when I was setting up a website a couple of years ago. Throughout the myriad of articles, the writer had liberally used his “top 10” Scripture verses in every possible context.

When I was going through the ordination process fresh out of university, I thought I had all the right answers. I believe that I satisfied the criteria and said all the right things during the two sessions I had with the ordination committee. Then, towards the end of the last session, one of the pastors commented on one of the sermons I had submitted to the committee, drawing my attention to the fact that I had never mentioned one particular catchphrase which was a hallmark of this particular Fellowship. It was his opinion that we must always bring people back to a particular theological premise, regardless of the context of the rest of the message.

I’m aware that these people were all doing their very best with what they had been given and with thew understanding they possessed at the time. They all loved God with all their heart and revered the Bible, believed sincerely in the fact that it is God’s inspired book, and paid special attention numerous times to the original languages and how the nuance of certain Greek or Hebrew words could add another amazing dimension to understanding the message of the text. But somehow, they all still reverted to a lazy habit of taking their favourite verses and juxtaposing them against whatever topic they were addressing in any number of varied ways.

Now I know people who would normally listen to these preachers would do so for an hour a week. Like any normal church attendee, they would probably forget 99% of what was spoken. Thus, when the speaker started “expositing” the following week, they wouldn’t comprehend that he has quoted the same five verses every week for the past seven, or that, for some reason, he always seemed to weave in “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” into every sermon topic for the past year.

I use this as a lesson and perhaps a warning to all who claim to speak for God in any capacity: Don’t be lazy and give in to the temptation to fall back on the familiar. Likewise, don’t think you must always bring people’s attention to your favourite (aka “God’s favourite”) sayings. Use fresh expressions—in this instance verses that aren’t frayed around the edges due to overuse—to support and reinforce the truth you are telling. Never go into a group study, lecture, or pulpit expecting to “wing it” because this is the time when you will find yourself falling back on the familiar, the tried and tested.

Let’s face it: God can use anyone, even if they are ill-prepared. But more effective is the one who can stand up and articulate truth with passion, freshness and clarity. Make this your goal, otherwise the only response you may solicit from those hearing your voice may be: “Here we go again . . .”

Does God Need Our Help?

This too-strange-to-be-true story from Urban Legends:

ARKANSAS CITY (AP) — A Little Rock woman was killed yesterday after leaping through her moving car’s sun roof during an incident best described as “a mistaken rapture” by dozens of eye witnesses. Thirteen other people were injured after a twenty-car pile up resulted from people trying to avoid hitting the woman who was apparently convinced that the rapture was occurring when she saw twelve people floating up into the air, and then passed a man on the side of the road who she claimed was Jesus.

“She started screaming “He’s back, He’s back” and climbed right out of the sunroof and jumped off the roof of the car,” said Everet Williams, husband of 28-year-old Georgann Williams who was pronounced dead at the scene. “I was slowing down but she wouldn’t wait till I stopped,” Williams said. She thought the rapture was happening and was convinced that Jesus was gonna lift her up into the sky,” he went on to say.

“This is the strangest thing I’ve seen since I’ve been on the force,”said Paul Madison, first officer on the scene. Madison questioned the man who looked like Jesus and discovered that he was dressed up as Jesus and was on his way to a toga costume party when the tarp covering the bed of his pickup truck came loose and released twelve blowup dolls filled with helium which floated up into the air.

Ernie Jenkins, 32, of Fort Smith, who’s been told by several of his friends that he looks like Jesus, pulled over and lifted his arms into the air in frustration, and said “Come back here,” just as the Williams’ car passed him.

Mrs. Williams was sure that it was Jesus lifting people up into the sky as they passed by him, according to her husband, who says his wife loved Jesus more than anything else.

When asked for comments about the twelve dolls, Jenkins replied “This is all just too weird for me. I never expected anything like this to happen.”

Fortunately, this account, though widely circulated by reputable media distributors, has been proven to be false. I do, however, believe there is a believability to this tale simply because we, as humans in desperation to see something happen, tend to think we need to help God along to execute God’s grand plan. How else could you explain this misguided woman actually jumping out of her car’s sunroof?) Much of the popular theology in circulation supports this theory:

  • If we can send missionaries to all people-groups of the world, then Jesus will return (assumed to be the meaning of the verse, “The gospel will be preached in all the world, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14)
  • When the world sinks the lowest it can possibly go into sin, corruption and decay (spiritual, physical, mental and environmental), the we will see the Kingdom of God established. (Great for those who don’t want to care for creation and prefer the decadent lifestyle of waste and plunder.)
  • When every nation is actively engaged in war against Israel, the Antichrist will be revealed and the tribulation will take place (This, of course, followed by Armageddon and the reign of Jesus on earth).
  • If we do our part, then God will be obligated to bless us. (The basis of the support for most televangelists, revival preachers, and prosperity theologians.)

While we many may see these ideas as common sense (or sound theology?), this whole idea is reminiscent of the scientific study that shows how we naturally see God as being like us, loving who we love and hating what we hate. This same god will follow our guidelines on how he (and this god is most often a “he”) should act and bows to the pressure of his accountability to us, the epitome of his creation. This is evident in the way Christians today view Jesus, as Johnjoe McFadden, on the Richard Dawkins Foundation blog, states quite accurately:

A study led by Lee Ross of Stanford University in California has found that the Jesus of liberal Christians is very different from the one envisaged by conservatives. The researchers asked respondents to imagine what Jesus would have thought about contemporary issues such as taxation, immigration, same-sex marriage and abortion. Perhaps not surprisingly, Christian Republicans imagined a Jesus who tended to be against wealth redistribution, illegal immigrants, abortion and same-sex marriage; whereas the Jesus of Democrat-voting Christians would have had far more liberal opinions. The Bible may claim that God created man in his own image, but the study suggests man creates God in his own image.

So, we naively worship a god who is just like us, only a more perfect version. Who does, in fact, need us because, even though he is infinite in power, limits himself to the capacity of a chameleon-like genie to changes to be however the beholder wishes him to be.

By simply naming God, we ascribe to God a character that we humans ourselves define. Rightly has hymn writer Bernadette Farrell written about “God, beyond all names,” for we could not begin to describe God except in our own mortal–limited–language.

Therefore, let us not assume that God needs our help in any activity. Being God means God has in God’s own self the power and ability to do whatever is to be done.

Rather, count it as a privilege and a grace to join God in the work already begun–God’s mission–of bringing Jesus’ good news to life in our world.

And should God in wisdom choose to catch you up to heaven, kindly let God alone do so–no assistance will be required.