A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

There have been a few newspaper articles on the case of the Danish Lutheran minister, Thorkild Grosboll, who was defrocked because of his views, including his rejection of a belief in a "physical God". The way the story protrays it, and the reaction it has received on various sites is, the minister was an atheist and there was a certain ludicrousness to the idea as the NY Times put it, of having a "man of God", a pastor, not believing in God.

So I did a little investigating. Unfortunately all I could find were a smattering of newspaper articles on his ideas. He did write a book called A Stone in the Shoe, where he laid out some of his religious beliefs. I e-mailed the author of the newspaper article I linked below as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark and both said that the book unfortunately is not written in English. I also e-mailed the pastor but he never responded.

Here's my take on this. The problem with the storyline, is that even from the smattering bits of info one could get on the pastor's views, it's not at all evident that he is an atheist. Grosboll says that he believes in the divine, but not a physical God. He writes that "God is only a question. He is supposed to be a constant stone in the shoe." So what does this mean? My impression is that Grosboll understand God to be an ideal.

One other clue can be had by trying to get a hold of what Grosboll means by the divine. Though we do get some help from Theodor Jorgensen, of the University of Copenhagen who writes "Grosboll represents a secular theology where the neighbor is made divine." This reminds me of Carter Heyward's definition of God as the power in relation, or Martin Buber's claims that God is to be found in the intersection of an I-Thou relation with another person (and with nature as well).

So God is both an ideal and to be found in our neighbor.

There are some points that could be raised in criticism of Grosboll, in terms of his conception of God. But that seems to me to be the point. Because this story was pushed in places like the NY Times as one of an atheist minister, most readers who happened across the story were not invited to consider the issues surrounding the revision of God language.

The most sympathetic piece I found on the issue was by Susan Ager of the Detroit Free Press.

  • Pastor sets himself on a rocky road

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