Pub Theology Recap Feb 24

Brewing up discussion

A nice night of discussion at Right Brain Brewery, with old and new friends, and a nice pint of Pie Whole – brewed with a whole apple pie from Grand Traverse Pie Company – a nice applely, caramelly, pumpkiny brew.  Discussion was so good, that we only hit the first three of seven topics.  We’ll hold some over for next week.

Topics for the night:

good / bad




Longer version:

1.    Ancient proverb:  “Every time something bad happens, something good happens as well.”
Does it?  Why?  What is your experience?

2.    The oldest known Hebrew Bible texts are silver amulets dated to about the mid-seventh century BCE.  Amulets were worn as charms against evil or injury.  Compare to usage(s) of the text today.

3.  “Much desire to seek after God is nothing of the sort.  For instance, to seek God for eternal life is to seek eternal life, while to seek God for a meaningful existence is to seek a meaningful existence.”
What does it mean to truly seek God?

OK so we didn’t really talk about sasquatch.  At least not for long.  🙂  Discussion about good and bad started out with someone noting that he used to think along the lines of the proverb quoted, that bad things were accompanied or followed up by good things.  However, after a series of seemingly senseless tragedies and difficult circumstances, he had moved to a more cynical place, where bad things ‘just happen’, without a deeper purpose or greater good behind them.

I noted that I like to think that a big picture view could step outside the bad things that happen and see them as part of a larger pattern or whole, and that somehow and someway God has purposes in what happens, and that even out of bad can come good.  And this is a perspective that we are not privy to in this life.  But I also noted that I have a very limited amount of what you could call ‘bad experiences’, certainly a lack of tragedies in my life – and that I’m not the best one to talk from experience.

Someone else noted that it is cruel and perhaps an insult to tell someone who is in the midst of a hardship that it is ‘for a purpose’ or that they have to just step back to ‘see the good’.  It’s not an easy thing.

Maybe bad things just are.  We live in a broken world.  Bad things happen.

But I do believe that God often can use hard situations to bring about good things, but I don’t think those bad things happen expressly so that we can experience something good.

Most people felt the old proverb might be true in a very general sense, but certainly not as an axiom of how things always go.

Regarding the ancient superstitious use of texts of the Bible, it was noted that people still have many superstitions, and that we may even (mis)use the Bible that way today.

Regarding the third quote, from Peter Rollins’ book How (Not) to Speak of God, generated some interesting discussion.  Someone asked if we are ever able to pursue God without some selfish or ulterior motive.  Can we pursue God just for God himself?  Or do the benefits – meaning, life, salvation, peace of mind – always blur our motives, or are the motives themselves? Is it wrong to seek God out of selfish motives?  Is this the one place where hedonism is permitted, as no doubt John Piper and others would assert?

It was a nice, low-key evening, and we’ll save the other topics for next time!

A reading from the backside:
“The weakening of God into the world, described in the
Pauline language of emptying (kenosis), is paradigmatically
expressed in the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, the
birth, but also the death of Jesus.  Kenosis is not a one-time-
only event occurring in the life and death of Jesus but the
ongoing history or tradition inaugurated by this event.  This
process is ‘secularization’, which means not the abandonment
or dissolution of God, but the ‘transcription’ of God into time
and history (the saeculum), thus a successor form of death of God
theology.  Kenosis, as the transcription, translation, or
transmission of God into the world, means establishing the
kingdom of God on earth.

For example, the commonplace complaint that the secular
world has taken the Christ out of Christmas and transcribed it
into “Happy Holidays” is to be viewed as still another success
on Christianity’s part.  For now the Incarnation has been
translated into a popular secular holiday in the West, in which
the spirit of generosity and goodwill among all people prevails.
During the “holidays” this “spirit” of love becomes general
among humankind, which is what in fact this doctrine actually
means: its application in the concrete reality of lived
experience.  The tolerant, nonauthoritarian and pluralistic
democratic societies in the West are the translation into real
political structures of the Christian doctrine of neighbor love.
When the transcendent God is “weakened” – or emptied – into
the world, it assumes the living form of Western cultural life.”
– John Caputo, After the Death of God

Post any of your own thoughts on the evening below!


One thought on “Pub Theology Recap Feb 24

  1. Thought this related to no.1:

    From the preface to The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event:
    As I put the finishing touches on this book, the world reels under the overwhelming violence of the tsunami (“sea wave”) that occurred on the day after Christmas 2004, which destroyed the lives and property of hundreds of thousands of people in south Asia.

    Predictably, many religious leaders have been rushing to the nearest microphone or camera to explain that, while these are all innocent victims, we cannot hope to explain the mystery of God’s ways – implying that this natural disaster is something God foresaw but for deeper reasons known only to the divine mind chose not to forestall. Others are telling us that God has taken this terrible occasion to remind us that we are all sinners and to dish out some much-needed and justifiable punishment to the human race.

    Tell that to the father who lost his grip on this three-year-old daughter and watched in horror as she was carried out to sea.

    Those are blasphemous images of God for me, clear examples of the bankruptcy of thinking of God as a strong force with the power to intervene upon natural processes like the shifting movements of the crustal plates around the Pacific rim as our planet slowly cools – the decision depending upon what suits the divine plan.

    One can look upon the book that follows as an attempt to think of God otherwise.

    John Caputo, January 2005


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