Saturday, January 15, 2011

God Talk: Why Do It?

Talking about God is important.  We don’t have to read very far in Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew scripture and the Christian Bible, before we see that humans, who were created to be in relationship with God and with each other, can benefit in both of those relationships by conferencing a little bit on what relationship with God should look like.  Consider, for example, how differently events might have gone if Eve and Adam or Cain and Able had talked things out.  God talk is the plan that God gave the Hebrews when they asked how to form their children in faith. (You can see that in Deuteronomy Chapter 6.)  It still works that way, as studies in faith formation show us that God talk in families is the strongest predictor for success in passing faith to children.  We can do God talk in families of choice, as well.  Church is that kind of a family; so is an internet forum. 

Discussion in this space will focus on considering who God is.  What is God like?  Over the next year, we will read some of what A.W. Tozer had to say about God from his book, The Attributes of God: A Journey into the Father’s Heart 1 and reflect on it together.  Tozer was a well known preacher and author who believed we can know what God is like, and that it is important that we do.  “History shows,” he wrote, “that no tribe or nation has ever risen morally above its religion. . . .  Christianity at any given time is strong or weak depending upon her concept of God. . . . Our religion is little because our god is little.  Our religion is weak because our god is weak. Our religion is ignoble because the god we serve is ignoble.  We do not see God as [God] is.” 2

Writing as he did, in the mid-twentieth century, Tozer did not concern himself with using gender inclusive language for God.  The portions that we share here from his work will be presented as he originally wrote them.  In our time we should be conscious that our use of language has changed.  We recognize that apart from the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, God does not have gender.  You can change Tozer’s gendered language for God as you read, just as I did, above.  As you read, consider, also, how you could update any exclusively male language for humans that you may see in his work.  The truth he shares is timeless; the way we express it can and should change to reflect our expanding awareness of the value of persons. 

Attention to the value of persons brings us to one final consideration: rules for participation in this discussion.  We will keep our approach to communication considerate and respectful toward other participants.  God talk is a friendly discussion.  “God,” Tozer writes, “is kindhearted, gracious, good-natured and benevolent in intention.   And let us remember that God is cordial.”  We can’t do better than to follow God’s example.  Entries that violate common courtesy will be deleted.  Basically, if you’re not baiting, or bashing others’ views, you’ll be OK. But just to be clear, you should read the details concerning respectful discussion in the footnotes. 3    

That said, let’s get started.  We’re going to begin with an excerpt from Tozer’s chapter on God’s goodness.  Read, reflect, and feel free to respond.

          A local church will only be as great as its conception of God.  An individual Christian will be a success or a failure depending on what he or she thinks of God.  It is critically important that we have a knowledge of the Holy One, that we know what God is like. Of course we can know from the Scriptures – that’s where we go to get our information.   We can know some of it from nature too: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).  But while the pen of nature writes without too much clarity, the Word of God is very, very clear.
          It is very important that we know that God is good.  We read that God is good and doeth good that that His lovingkindness is over all His works. . .  God is not only infinitely good, He is perfectly good.  God is never partway  anything!  When I say that God is kindhearted, I mean that He is perfectly so.  I do not mean that there are ever times when God isn’t feeling good and isn’t kind.  . . .  I joyously announce to you that what God is, He is immutably.  God never changes. What God was, God is.  What God is and was, God will be.4 

Think on these things, and share your thoughts.  Then watch this space.

The God Talk forum is created by Dr. Jane Jacques.  Jane is an ordained deacon and teaches as an adjunct professor of spiritual formation at Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio.        

1   Reprinted from The Attributes of God Volume 1 by A.W. Tozer, copyright © 1997 by Zur Ltd. Used by permission of WingSpread Publishers, a division of Zur Ltd., 800.884.4571.  The book is available for purchase at Just click on Manufacturers, then WingSpread Publishers to see a list of books. This site is for churches to purchase things; is for individuals to purchase.
2   Tozer, 40-41.
3 The Core Rules of Netiquette are excerpted from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea. Click on each rule for elaboration.

4 Tozer 41- 44.

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