The Listening God
I am attending a conference on liturgical worship. It’s the Association of Reformed and Liturgical Theology. I’m not sure I’m Reformed in my theology (okay at least a little bit), but I do believe that liturgy is at the heart of the Christian faith. That is, without worship, and liturgy has to do with worship, Christianity becomes little more than either a social club or a service organization. Those might be fine, in and of themselves, but they’re not the essence of Christianity. That would be the God we know in Jesus and experience through the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit.
Okay, with that as an introduction I get to the statement that titles this piece. Our plenary speaker for this conference is philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, who wrote an important book on liturgical theology (from a philosopher’s perspective) titled The God We Worship: An Exploration of Liturgical Theology (my review appeared on this blog in August). In the book and in the presentation he spoke of God as the “Listening God.” In the presentation and in a later conversation he noted that he could find no theologians who spoke of God in these terms. They might speak of the God who responds, but not in terms of listening. We know from Scripture that God listens. That’s the message that God gave to Moses in the burning bush. God said to Moses: “I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know their pain.” (Exodus 3:7).
The idea that God listens stands at the heart of worship. Why else would I pray if God does not listen? Of course, often our prayers are more directed at the congregation than God. Still, we pray to God because we expect to be heard by God.
I’m on a mission though. I need to find some theologians who speak not only of a responsive God, but a listening God!