If God is love, then why is human history (especially in the 20th Century) characterized by such unspeakable suffering? If God created and interacts with the world, then why is modern science so good at explaining, anticipating, and altering our world without giving God much consideration? Amidst the swirling religious diversity of 21st Century American society and the relative popularity of atheism, why bother believing in God, let alone a roughly “Christian” God? Does “divine action” reduce God to a supernatural agent who arbitrarily protects some of us from harm some of the time, but leaves others to suffer mercilessly? What do people mean when they say they “experience God,” and can we learn anything remotely conclusive from those stories? Is all talk of God purely speculative, meaningless projection?
Those questions keep me up at night. Unable to ignore them any longer, I have decided to devote my reading time over the next twelve months to explore and research these kinds of questions.
How did I get here?
I was raised in a theologically moderate-conservative Evangelical church and family. From a young age, my faith was personal and active, a crucial component of my identity. Although I, like so many college students, eventually encountered a tsunami of doubt that threatened to make my childhood faith impossible, I eventually learned to revise and reinterpret my beliefs without obstructing living faith or unbridled questioning. By closely reading thinkers from John Caputo to Jurgen Moltmann to Marcus Borg, I found a way of being a Christian that doesn’t require me to turn off my brain.
So far, I’ve concentrated on methodological questions of epistemology, the appropriation of mainstream New Testament historical criticism, Church History, and biblical interpretation. I have found good-enough-for-now answers to many of those questions by re-imagining my faith as a relationship with God and community rather than intellectual assent to one or another set of propositional truth-claims.
But what about those tricky and fascinating questions about God? Although I don’t think they can ever be answered conclusively, I have already seen that effort, research, and thinking can turn my tough questions into a re-imagined and re-engaged faith. My goal is not to answer my questions “once-and-for-all,” still less to defend someone else’s dogma. Rather, I hope to give my doubt and curiosity proper attention and see where they lead me. I’m excited to see what I will find when I turn my energy towards my tough questions about God.
My “God Project”
Of course, where I end up at the end of these twelve months will depend in large part on how I go about this project. My aim is to engage my questions in an integrated and holistic way, accessing my head, heart, and community. For lack of a better title, I am calling this adventure my “God project”. (“God adventure” and “God journey” may be used interchangeably.)
To help me consider different ways of thinking about God, I will be learning from a bunch of different resources, including 14 books. I am primarily interested in science, religious experience, atheism, “the problem of evil,” and contemporary options in big-tent Christian theology. I will periodically post bite-sized, readable summaries and highlights from what I learn to this blog. To get the full annotated list of resources I’ll be exploring, click here.
God-questions are not pure intellectual curiosity. My own spirituality, or “relationship with God”, has always been very important to me, even as it has always been a challenge. I have experienced (and continue to experience) the rhythm of God’s nearness one moment and stark absence the next. To help me work on my spiritual life, I will be regularly meeting with a spiritual director (shout out to the Charlotte Spirituality Center!). I will also read the Bible in a year and spend time praying daily. As best I can, I will be sharing the personal spiritual insights and challenges I face via this blog.
I have always had a concerning tendency towards arrogant, isolated individualism. To remind me that I’m not the only one with something to say about God, I will be relying on conversations with friends at church (I go to a Methodist church in Charlotte), my family, and comments on this blog. While my opinions don’t and won’t mirror the beliefs of my church or my friends, I expect that my relationships with other people will play an important role in this adventure.
My hope is that by making my God adventure public through this blog, other people can benefit from my borderline obsessive interest in exploring theological (and related) questions. Consider yourself invited to join the conversation. Please feel free to share your thoughts and stories and/or tell me that I’m wrong at any point. I can’t wait for your feedback!
If this project seems interesting to you, the best way to follow along is to find “Follow blog via email” at the bottom of this page. If you enter your email address into that box, you will receive an email update with each blog post (roughly one or two per week).