Modeled on Oregon Reads, and Everybody Reads, Southminster will read a book over the summer and we will engage that book in worship and discussion on my birthday, August 30th, 2015! (Don't tell anyone it is my birthday).
Since it is my birthday and I am the pastor, I get to choose the book. We are reading Nancy Ellen Abrams, A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, Science and the Future of Our Planet.
According to Abrams, we’ve all grown up so steeped in tradition, whether we’ve accepted it or rebelled against it, that it’s hard to grasp that the chance to re-define God is actually in our hands. “But it is,” she proclaims, “and the way we do it will play a leading role in shaping the future of civilization.”Did you get that? Re-defining God is in our hands.
The concept of God is always evolving. The first two chapters of Genesis demonstrate this. Think of how the concept of God or gods has changed over the course of human history. Human beings are constantly in the process of re-defining God. We are often less than honest with ourselves about that. Yes, our conceptions of God are the result of human cultural evolution.
OK. So, if we "made up" God, why not forget "God" altogether and move on then? Some do. But think about that. Must we do that? "God" is a powerful symbol. It is not going away anytime soon. Perhaps we can reclaim and re-define the symbol. All of our language and symbols are products of cultural evolution. There is no reason to throw out our stories just because we know they are stories. We don't throw out "Love" just because we created the concept. We don't throw out language just because we developed language. We don't throw out mathematics just because we invented numbers. All of these things are from us but bigger than us. They are realities that have emerged and are emerging.
What do our God stories tell us about ourselves? They tell us that we aspire. We aspire to learn. We aspire to achieve justice. We aspire to love. We aspire to be in awe. We aspire to goodness. We aspire to transform ourselves and the world. Those aspirations are real and they have a "life of their own" so to speak. Together as a human community we make meaning and seek to name these growing, evolving aspirations that in turn shape us. Perhaps that emerging reality is worthy of the name God. Abrams writes:
"This God did not create the universe—it created the meaning of the universe."I had a chance to meet Nancy Ellen Abrams and her husband, Joel Primack at a conference a few years ago. (In case you are wondering, I am the guy on the right with the hair).
I invited them to be on Religion For Life to talk about their book, The New Universe and the Human Future: How A Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World. You can listen to that interview here.
I am thrilled to share this new book with Southminster and to hear your thoughts about it and about the project of re-defining God.
Fascinating? Yes. Controversial? Absolutely. Fun summer reading? No question!
Pick up the book from your favorite retailer and enjoy the conversation we will have on August 30th. I will also talk with her about A God That Could Be Real in a couple of weeks on Religion For Life!