Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who Is God?

The question of God’s identity and personality have engaged and vexed theologians, philosophers, and ordinary people for as long as humans have walked this earth. Many explanations and theories of his existence and nature have been proffered, some better than others. We offer an explanation which is not common in main stream theology circles – at least circles of the Christian variety. God is at heart a story teller.

To those with an academic approach to theology, the supposition that God is a storyteller in his nature may appear to be at odds with right theology. Many theologians will dissect God into a series of attributes such as righteousness, justice, love, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, veracity, eternity, immutability, and sovereignty. Although these attributes may be true of God’s character, we do God a disservice if we make them our primary line of analysis.

Dissecting God into a series of attributes is a bit mechanical and certainly desiccating. Doing so is like decomposing a pizza into its molecular blocks in answer to the question, what is a pizza? At some point these questions of character require analysis and development but starting and stopping there leaves us with the trees for the forest.

I am certainly not a theologian, but I find the subject as fascinating as the conspiracies which shape America – an exploratory excursus to this website’s theme which I hope some of you will indulge. Yet in thinking about how the world works, how history unfolds, and how God has revealed himself, I am forced to abandon the mechanistic analysis for something more holistic.

My first observation in support of seeing God as primarily a story teller is the way he reveals himself to us. As I am sure you have divined by now, my hermeneutical approach is based upon the Bible – an approach which I cannot persuade anyone else to follow however right it seems to me. Some of you may wish to catch the next surf at this point.

If you read the Old Testament you cannot avoid the many stories which it tells. I was thrilled as a child to hear the stories of creation, Moses, Joseph, Joshua, David, Solomon, Elijah, Daniel, Esther, and so many more. Their stories are exciting and full of so many lessons – while only rarely – and sometimes never – touching a line of formal theology. God interacts with us in history as people.

God also speaks to us in many modes – a burning bush, an oracle from Sinai, prose, poetry, prophecy, formally and informally. If you have ever wondered why we create art, it is because we are like our Father who is the first story teller – the first artist.

The stories do not stop with Malachi – they continue into the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation where many stories – some heroic – are told without ever resorting to formal theology. At one point, Paul tells us that we are God’s workmanship but the underlying Greek word is really poem. We are each a poem of God – a story.

Each of our lives is a story with a moral or lesson God wants us all to learn. Many of the stories are tragic but most of them contain moments of joy and heartache just as the Lamentations tell us – a time for this and a time for that.

The Hebrew language is fabulously suited to storytelling and it is no wonder why God used it to tell us about himself. The consecutive waw – a connector – is rife throughout the books of the Hebrew Bible – a wonderful little copulative which takes the reader through an oftentimes meandering story. It is not the language of logic or formal discourse.

We may wonder why God choses the stories that he tells, but he has his reasons. Even suffering Job did not have a clue for the reason for his trials until after they ended and Moses told his story. And let me add a secret: even the stories we tell are God's stories. We are more connected to God than we will ever know this side of heaven.

The Bible certainly tells the greatest story ever told, but that is because God is a story teller nonpareil.

Copyright 2010-12 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.

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