In the midst of reading and writing for my summer reading project at the Restless, Young, and Reforming blog a tension within my own theology has become apparent to me. I’m not proposing a solution to that tension here, I’m just identifying it and there will probably be more posts to come which wrestle with it.
Here is the tension:
On the one hand, I want to affirm that Jesus is the Word of God incarnate and that as such he teaches us to be compassionate and to care for the marginalized (in many ways echoing the message of the prophets). He calls us to a ministry which represents God’s kingdom on earth, and God’s kingdom is meant to bring good news to the poor and oppressed seeking hope.
On the other hand, I think that the narratives of the Old Testament (and to some extent the New, but there is certainly much more of this in the Old) portray God as uncontrollable. God cannot be put in a box. In many ways God is unpredictable. God brings blessing and curse upon people and there is no way to manipulate God and ensure that we only receive the good. Even the righteous are tested, and the tests are often like tossing a ring of gold into the fire to burn off impurities: they are intense and painful.
How do we make sense of these two images of God? Some have proposed that this contrast actually points to two deities: YHWH vs. Jesus with Jesus ultimately winning. The orthodox tradition of Christianity has consistently rejected anything that seems to suggest this, and I think for good reasons. The solution to this tension is not to divide the deity into two beings. With that said, I don’t quite know what the solution to the tension is yet… So this may become a major interest in future writings here and elsewhere. Be prepared.
For the moment, I have a possible metaphor that has occurred to me in the midst of my time here at camp. My house here is overlooking a beautiful little lake and we often get a fantastic breeze blowing in off the water. Both water and the wind are wonderful and nourishing and refreshing things to experience. But they can also both be extremely dangerous and unpredictable. A strong storm can be very destructive. A hidden current can pull you far away from shore before you realize what’s happening. Both of these natural phenomenon are as powerful and uncontrollable as they are beautiful and life-giving. Somehow that tension must be worked into our theology as well.