Recently a student I’d taught decades ago made this comment to me: “It’s been more than 20 years since I took your class and I’ve forgotten almost everything you taught. What I do remember from your class is that we’re supposed to always try not to make God look stupid.”
I hope that’s true. I hope that’s something people take away from my lectures and writings because I believe that the first task of any Christian apologetics is to rescue God from stupidity, arbitrariness, narrowness, legalism, rigidity, tribalism and everything else that’s bad but gets associated with God. A healthy theology of God must underwrite all our apologetics and pastoral practices. Anything we do in the name of God should reflect God.
It’s no accident that atheism, anti-clericalism and the many diatribes levelled against the Church and religion today can always point to some bad theology or Church practice on which to base their scepticism and anger. Atheism is always a parasite, feeding off bad religion. So too is much of the negativity towards the churches which is so common today. An anti-Church attitude feeds on bad religion and so we who believe in God and Church should be examining ourselves more than defending ourselves.
Moreover, more important than the criticism of atheists are the many people who have been hurt by their churches. A huge number of persons today no longer go to church or have a very strained relationship to their churches because what they’ve met in their churches doesn’t speak well of God.
I say this in sympathy. It’s not easy to do God adequately, let alone well. But we must try, and so all of our sacramental and pastoral practices need to reflect a healthy theology of God, that is, reflect the God whom Jesus incarnated and revealed. What did Jesus reveal about God?
First, that God has no favourites and that there must be full equality among races, among rich and poor, among slave and free, and among male and female. No one person, race, gender or nation is more favoured than others by God. Nobody is first. All are privileged.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection