God and the Good in Life
By Dwight Welch
At the church where I work, my senior pastor will ask the 4th through 6th grade youth group, where God was at during the past week. If it is like most weeks, these kids will not be thinking about God in terms of any sort of dramatic experience. Rather they are being asked to consider where God was when they were on the playground, studying for a test, on the bus ride home, playing with friends, and so on. That is, they are being asked to consider God in the everyday goings-on of life.
The supposition behind such a question is that God is a pervasive feature of reality that can be found in any number of occasions and contexts. In that, Bruce Epperly’s statement that “God is present in every moment of life” is something I would like to build upon. Instead of an interventionist deity who breaks the laws of nature every once in a while or a deistic absentee landlord, we’re asked to consider a God who is part and parcel of our reality. Of course God is not to be confused with just reality. Otherwise there would be no point to asking the question; no discernment to be had.
But rather God is to be identified with that reality which works towards wholeness, well being, just relations, and transformation of our reality towards a better reality. That is, God is identified with whatever is good in life. This suggests something which in varying degrees is accessible to all. The young Disciples group could be asked to consider God in their life because they all experience the good in life in various ways, which they are in a position to reflect upon.
In so doing any number of modes of inquiry would be needed. The reflective processes of these youth are one mode. The resources the Christian tradition has had in terms of practices, worship, and thought is another. But I want to agree with Bruce Epperly and other progressives that the resources other religious traditions will be key as well. And there are other disciplines which will be relevant; the sciences, economics, sociology, philosophy, and so forth. The traffic between these modes and how they interrelate I don’t think can be avoided long in the church. That concern informed how I sought to relate to miracles.
To agree also with Gordon Kaufman, a turning towards the good in life, metanoia, will not be the result of some single act, it will be the result of any number of conditions, some individual, some material and social that can act in ways which humanize our existence, move us towards other regard, and relate us to each other and the world in more life building ways. That will take the combined work of any number of agencies, all of which can be understood as divine when pointed to a salvific end.
In such an account, God can be related to any number of practices and traditions, but the ones which will potently connect us are those that have grounding in our experience, in the communities where we live, and validated by a range of disciplines, focusing on whatever achievements we have had in relating well to the world and to each other. Therefore, to see God in the doctors working for a cure is not a grudging acceptance of the mundane while the real religious concern is in the unknown. Rather we should most likely find God in what has been gained through the increase of knowledge of the world for the purposes of securing a better life for all.
Dwight Welch is finishing his final year at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis as a MDiv student with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He also serves as a student pastor at First Christian in Sheridan Indiana. Previously Dwight did graduate work in philosophy while serving as a campus minister at University Christian Ministries at Southern Illinois University.