Take a trip with me. Think back to when you were five or six years old. What was your “working image” of God? As best I can remember, I thought of God as an old guy with a long white beard and a white robe sitting on a throne looking down on the earth like a benevolent father figure. Now, we could continue this exercise on to ages 12, 18, 30, and so forth. In each situation, I would have a different idea of God and, I imagine, so would you. Did God change? No, but our perception of God did.
This is the issue that Brian McLaren addresses in A new Kind of Christianity as he considers the varied images of God found in the Bible—creator, avenger, lover, friend, shepherd, etc. Did God change? No, but the understanding of God’s followers did over time as they encountered new challenges, opportunities, and failures. Their perceptions and understanding changed as they encountered life.
What does this say to contemporary Christians? McLaren says, “If we can look back and see the process unfolding in the past—in the Bible, in theological history—then we have no reason to believe that the process has stopped unfolding now, even at this very moment as I write, as you read.” In other words, we are still involved in a dynamic process with a living God who cares about us and wants to provide the insight and understanding that we need for today.
The challenge for the church is the following statement: “To be a member of a faith community . . . is not be a lucky member of the group that has finally arrived; it is to be in a cohort that is learning together.” The church is not a bunch of pioneers who have drawn up their wagons in a defensive posture, but a group who are traveling through new territory that challenges their assumptions and expectations. Each new day provides new vistas and difficulties, but God is along for the journey to provide insight and understanding. God as traveling companion--that is a beautiful picture.
Note: The writer received no compensation from the author or publisher of this book in exchange for this commentary.