Monday, June 25, 2007

Can God Learn?

The Old Testament seems to paint God as very human-like: he gets mad at people, overreacts and wipes them out, regrets it, makes new promises, acts surprised when his people stray again, punishes them again, makes bets with the devil to try to tempt one of his righteous dudes, and can get talked out of following through on his plan by a mere mortal. Oh, and demands total unquestioning obedience and worship. In short, the OT paints a picture of an insecure, manic-depressive, egomaniacal, and definitely not omniscient deity (after all, how could he be surprised or angry if he knew all along that that stuff would happen?).

Painted in that light, God seems to be a deity who, over time, seems to adjust his approach to us...and perhaps finally realizing that he might attract more bees with honey than vinegar, he sends us gentle, humble Jesus, full of love and hope.

This view of God flies in the face of what I learned growing up: which is that God is omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly just, perfectly loving, and most importantly, he never, ever changes (and thus I can trust him!).

But what if God does exist but isn't omniscient/omnipotent/just/loving/unchanging after all? What if he is tempermental? What if he is unpredictable? What if he holds grudges? What if he overreacts at times? What if he is powerless to intervene at times? What if God is on a journey of learning how to relate to us, as much as we are on a journey of learning how to relate to him?

The question that springs to my mind is this: is this a God worth knowing, following, worshiping? What makes a deity worth knowing, following, and worshiping in the first place?

5 comments:

HeIsSailing said...

slapdash ponders:
"What if God is on a journey of learning how to relate to us, as much as we are on a journey of learning how to relate to him?"

What a fascinating idea!! I am sure there is a series of science fiction novels waiting to be written based on this premise. Very cool.

Now, what if this is REALLY the case? .. .. well. .. I used to imaging what if the Bible was a trick of Satan, and God was really the bad guy after all? I figured I could make up gross scenarios and scare myself silly all day long. The smart thing for me is to not take such thoughts too seriously, and try to deal with those things that I can hopefully make some sense out of.

Slapdash said...

***What a fascinating idea!! I am sure there is a series of science fiction novels waiting to be written based on this premise. Very cool.***

I mentioned the idea of God learning to a friend of mine, who immediately asked if I have read God: A Biography. (Nope, haven't read it.) While not totally on point, it does paint a picture of God as a character in development over the whole arc of the Bible. I'm adding it to my "To Read" list!

More seriously, yeah, while it's an interesting idea, I'm not sure "God as learner" is someone I would be psyched to worship as I've been taught God deserves to be worshiped. Funny, while I wish I could relate to God better, I still want God to be...godlike...if he's going to exist at all.

Cragar said...

Very well written and interesting blog so far. Found it via Aa's site. Looking forward to more!

Heather said...

** mentioned the idea of God learning to a friend of mine, who immediately asked if I have read God: A Biography. (Nope, haven't read it.)**

If this is the book by Jack Miles, you should definietly read it. I own it, and it's fascinating.

Mystical Seeker said...

It seems to me that if God is capricious, changes "his" mind, and otherwise exhibits flawed and human characteristics, then this is not God but a god. On the other hand, I am a fan of process theology which believes in a God who is not omnipotent, who changes because she/he embodies the universe which also changes, and who responds to the conditions of the universe at any given time. But this view of God holds that God has a perfect unchanging nature as well as a changing aspect that reflects the changes in the universe contained within God. Also, in this view, God is deeply affected by everything that happens, which means that God is not impassive and that also implies a changing nature.

I think what we see in the Bible's portrayals of God is not so much God changing as the human perception of God that is changing. Early conceptions of God in the Bible were of Yahweh, a tribal war god. Over time, Yahweh was seen to be more universal and more compassionate and loving. This just reflects the human capacity to re-envision God over time as it acquires more wisdom about what the Divine nature can or should be.