Archive for June, 2010

A while back (a long while, I admit), I stated my intent to devote some postings to a synthesis of theological thought drawing on the recent works of several liberal Christian and post-Christian scholars. The delay has been purely a matter of distractions taking time and attention, and I still plan to get to it.

What I can say now is that the overall themes I see in their work are universalism (some more explicitly than others); a compassionate grace that seems to see all of us — not just the “chosen” or “saved” — as worthy of  love; and a view of God as non-personal. They generally shun atonement theology and hold a classically Unitarian view of Jesus as a spirit-filled man, but not the divine Son of God.

There is a noted lack of obsession in their work with delineating who is “in” or “out,” right ot wrong, moral or sinful. There is no sense of exclusivity among them. Even Donald Miller, who might be surprised to be included with John Shelby Spong and Scotty McLennan, writes candidly in Blue Like Jazz of finding much more non-judgmental acceptance and community among a group of free-loving hippies than in the campus church, during his college days. (Overall his views are more traditionally Christian than the others — but still a far cry from the fundamentalists.)

The view of God differs from one to another, but to a person they all have outgrown the traditional idea of God as a super-powerful person. Marcus Borg devoted his book The God We Never Knew to describing and advocating panentheism, the idea that God infuses all things and (differing from the related concept of pantheism) also transcends all things. Unlike the wholly transcendent God of traditional Judeo-Christian theology, Borg’s deity is more organic, dependent on the universe just as the universe is on the deity. Spong’s deity is “the ground of all being” — a concept he gleans from Paul Tillich — and the source of love. Spong calls himself an atheist in that he rejects the idea of theos, a personal God, while embracing an ultimate Source of existence.

All in all, while these scholars are working independently and their thoughts are not completely interlocking, there are broad thematic congruences that, I think, are forming the seeds of a theology for the 21st Century — one that will be right at home in a Unitarian Universalist congregation.


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