Monday, September 27, 2010

God is Whoever Raised Jesus from the Dead

Stanley Hauerwas, the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School, has written an interesting essay entitled "Naming God" in which he discusses the perils of assuming we know what we mean when we use the word "God."

Here's a teaser:

... one of the ironies of the recent spate of books defending atheism is the confidence these "new atheists" seem to have in knowing which God it is they are sure does not exist. They have forgotten that one of the crimes of which Romans accused Christians - a crime whose punishment was often death - was that Christians were atheists.

The Romans weren't being unreasonable. All they wanted was for the Christians to acknowledge there were many gods, but Christians were determined atheists. Christians were atheist because they assumed the primary problem was not atheism but idolatry. Idolatry, moreover, has everything to do with thinking that you know God's name. ...

For example, it should not be surprising that in a culture which inscribes its money with "In God We Trust," atheists might be led to think it is interesting - and perhaps even useful - to deny god exists. It does not seem to occur to atheists, however, that the vague god which some seem to confuse with trust in our money cannot be the same God who raised Jesus from the dead, having before raised Israel from Egypt.

This is but a reminder that the word "god" can be very misleading, particularly for those who worship the One who raised Jesus from the dead and Israel from Egypt. For the word "god" can invite us to confuse the One who raised Jesus from the dead with the general designation "god" used to describe the assumption that something had to start it all. ...

The God we worship is not a vague "more" that exists to make our lives meaningful. The God we worship is not "the biggest thing around." The God we worship is not "something had to start it all." The God we worship is not a God that insures that we will somehow get out of life alive. The God we worship is not a God whose ways correspond to our presumptions about how God should be God.

That God has come near to us in Christ does not mean that God is less than God. God is God and we are not.

Yet we believe that the God we worship has made his name known. We believe we have been given the happy task of making his name known. We believe we can make his name known because the God we worship is nearer to us than we are to ourselves - a frightening reality that gives us life. We believe that in the Eucharist, in the meal of bread and wine, just as Jesus is fully God and fully man, this bread and this wine will, through the work of the Spirit, become for us the body and blood of Christ.

Read it all.

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