Friday, 31 August 2012

God as a novelist

The faith of the Maltese people
© Godric Godricson
The idea of God writing individual human activity like a novelist writing a role has its attractions and from this image we doubtless gain a real idea of a personal relationship to a God who is with us and we also develop, manifest and maintain the concept of a God who is with us over time. The author of our lives is there and we have a directing force as others also have a directing force.

Julian of Norwich doubtless had that idea of a directing and personal God when she wrote down her ‘shewings’ and she described her experience as being ‘enfolded in love’. For Julian, there is God who is a reality and God who can be known and who intervenes in our lives.

In a contemporary sense, the novel is a comforting and acceptable genre; although there is a problem in the idea of the novel  in that we are sometimes left with the idea that the novel must have a good ending. If we are in the novel then perhaps we must have a positive outcome? Regrettably, if we hold to the idea of a novel (and with God as the writer) perhaps hard issues and adverse circumstances are harder to bear?  if we believed that we would have a positive ending then a bad outcome is perceived with greater pain and sentiment. In believing that God is ultimately good then we believe that we will have a good ending. We believe that God directs and leads us and in this there is a temptation to give up free will and expect certainty rather than surprises.

An account of lives lived in faith
© Godric Godricson
Against this backfrop, we come up against hard ideas of human suffering. Why Me? We ask why God is not protecting us and we may develop ideas of worthlessness in a meaningless milieux. In perceiving God as a writer and having God in that paradigm has its disadvantages. God acts in the world and we accept that as people of faith and He speaks over time, however, we have a problem and I want to share that problem. I sense that in conservative or even traditionalist Christianity we perceive God as always being with us and interested in what happens to us. We are sometimes in despair when we see God as being absent  from our lives. How then do we talk to God about such occasions? How do we make representation to God?

I hear about past relationships and past pains and in all of this I hear questions. Why did that happen? The problem is asking God about that point in time. We have the concept of theodicy and I could discuss that with people. However, it seems that at some fundamental problem people do not have the words to simply ask God about issues and questions. If we are used to a directing and magisterial God how do we work up the courage to ask questions. Understanding about theodicy is not enough to people who cannot conceptualise asking God a question.  I have friends in the Reformed Jewish tradition who can ask questions of God and they ask “What were you thinking God?”. They “qvetch” and “plotz” about issues and in many ways this is healthy and is engaging with God. My Jewish friends have perhaps moved beyond being simple characters in the novel of their own lives and they have become more like interactive characters who want explanations.

God is the glue that holds the world  together but we have an increasing duty on us to interact with God as we move towards maturity. I know that metaphors are ultimately bound to failure but if I push this metaphor a little further;  we must increasingly learn to co-author the novel as we understand more about God and His world.

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