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.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The God of the Living

There has been some discussion on the way some Christians are able to exploit human weakness, get folks who are down and out, and use that as a reason why they need God and the church.

I have no doubt that God and the church can make a way for people in desperate straits. But we can't reside there. Faith and God doesn't begin and end in crises situations, but rather over the whole of life, in the good and heroic situations as well the bad and the mundane.

That's not to downplay the role faith can play in a crises, but the kind of religion which stays there or has to induce it in an exploitative manner speaks badly of the religion founded by a man who called people into life.

One German theologian who highlights this issue is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was martyred by the Nazis but while in prison he wrote this on April 30th, 1944:
Religious people speak of God when human perception is at an end, or human resources fail; it is really always the Deus ex machina they call to their aid, either for the so called solving of insoluble problems or as support in human failures

Always, that is to say, helping out human weakness or on the borders of human existence. Of necessity, that can only go on until men can, by their own strength push those borders a little further, so that God becomes superfluous as a Deus ex machina.

I have come to be doubtful even about talking of "borders of human existence" It always seems to me that in talking thus we are only seeking to frantically to make room for God.

I should like to speak of God not on the borders of life but at its center, therefore not in death but in his life. On the borders it seems to me better to hold our peace and leave the problem unsolved.

The church stands not where the human powers give out, on the borders, but in the center of the village. That is the way it is in the Old Testament and in this sense we still read the New Testament far too little on the basis of the Old.


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