Reimagining God

Submitted by Peter on

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Described by the BBC as “the last living heretic,” Lloyd Geering has spent much of his life wrestling with God. Of late, however, he finds himself struggling with the absence of God. The rise of nonreligious, secular culture around the world testifies that he is not alone, that the concept of God has become problematical. Should God be abandoned altogether? Can God be reformed, so to speak?

Drawing from theology, science and his own faith journey—from his call to ministry, through his much-publicized heresy trial, to decades of public speaking, teaching and writing, Geering retraces key developments in the Western understanding of God. He imagines a new spirituality, one that blends a relationship to the natural world with a celebration of the rich inheritance of human culture.

We will begin this study at 7:00 PM (until 8:30) on January 10, 2016 and finish with the classic potluck on February 28. Of course there will be cookies.


Chapter 13
1 – What's wrong with the picture of “spiritual” on pg. 205? Why don't fundamentalists see this?
2 – Is spirit the same kind of word as God? 208
3 – How much time do you spend thinking about the characteristics in Gal 5:22? 209
4 – How do you relate “spirit” and “relation”? 211
5 – What are the differences in how we respond to the differentiation we see in the world vs. how we respond to “an evolving complex whole” or integration? 213
6 – Would Christianity be improved by eliminating the hierarchy? 215
7 – How would you re-balance individuality and communality? 217
Chapter 14
8 – By being “spiritual but not religious”, what are we keeping and what are we discarding? 220
9 - “Nature is the original object of religion.” Comments? 222
10 – Does our universe have or lack an ultimate purpose? Explain. 224
11 – (Extra Credit) How many species have humans destroyed? 226
12 – What word should (have) replace(d) “dominion” in the Genesis stories in order to produce a better relationship between humanity and the eco-sphere? 228
13 – How would you change the celebration of communion, and why? 230
14 – Can you foresee any way to resolve the apocalyptic end of the world seen in fundamental religion with the continued existence of humanity in a natural world? 231
15 – Comment on “Ten Practical Premises.....”. 232

Chapter 11
1 – Why do you think Geering ( and Bonhoeffer) took three centuries as our human “coming of age”? Do you agree or would you choose another period? 170
2 – Is God 100% immanent and 0% transcendent? 173
3 – Why do the “who” and “why” questions come before the “how” questions? 175
4 – What is your response to theodicy? 176
5 – What are your favorite attributes of the universal human culture? 179
6 – Does the fact that I enjoy a good steak for dinner make me a bad person? 182
7 – Do you think humanity will be able to avoid destroying our life support system? 183
Chapter 12
8 – Why is it important to have the best possible story on which to base our lives and actions? 186
9 – Take a look at: Comments?
10 – How do you reconcile the success of 12-Step Groups (AA, etc...) “with[out] having to rely on divine help from the Christ figure”? 190
11 – Why did the church deify Jesus? 193
12 – How do you understand “the reign of God is already here and you do not see it.”? 197
13 – How well does Napa FUMMC “keep alive the teaching of Jesus” as opposed to worshiping Jesus Christ? 199
14 – Is capitalism inconsistent with the teaching of Jesus? 200

Chapter 9
1 – Why is there a conflict between science and religion? Why is there NO conflict between science and religion? 133
2 – Can you imagine a synthesis of science and religion (or any other components) that would answer both the question of how the world works AND what our values should be? 134
3 – What do you think was the most important change in culture that allowed the (rapid) rise of science? 137
4 – Comment on the A. N. Whitehead quote. 138
5 – Are you a realist or a nominalist? Why? 143
6 – Does “confirmed by empirical means” always mean “can be measured by constructed instruments”? 143
7 – How do you understand today's secular world to be the result of our Judeo-Christian tradition?
Chapter 10
8 – What is today's most dangerous idol? 149
9 – What specific religious practice of today will be the superstition of the future? 151
10 – Is “true religion” an oxymoron? 153
11 – What portions of Napa FUMC correspond to items 1, 2 and 3 on pg. 155?
12 – Why is it so hard to modify the Biblical canon? 159
13 – Should Methodists remove scripture from the Wesley quadrilateral? 160
14 – Is there any objective reality behind the word God? 165

Chapter 7
1 – Did you know about / read “Honest to God” when it came out? How does “ground of being” resonate with you? 104
2 – Do you agree that the Lord's Prayer reinforces “an old man in the sky”? What can/should we do about that? (Notice that it is one half of the fixed liturgy at NapaFUMC.) 105
3 – Can we get our resident theologians to say a bit about neo-orthodoxy?
4 – Why is it so difficult to formulate a modern theology? 110
5 – Why do some people prefer 'do it yourself' and others prefer authoritative answers? 112
Chapter 8
6 – Is a classless society inconsistent with 'do it yourself' theology? 118
7 – Is there any way to determine whether the physical world emanates from the mind/spirit or if mind/spirit are products of the physical world? 118
8 – How is language “infinitely superior to visual symbols”? Is television a step backwards? 119
9 – When do you think it made sense to distinguish science from religion? 121
10 – Does your God have the capability of “doing” anything? If so, what? 126
11 – How important to you are constancy and integrity? 129
12 – Are we up to the task? 130

This week has questions submitted by our readers.
Week 3 Questions
     I hope that this really is one question, but it has a two-part background in that it attempts to bridge both chapters (5 & 6) – i.e., that Geering’s take on Jung’s understanding of myth [p. 80] leads right into de Chardin’s understanding of the evolving process of how humans have been manifesting God [p. 100].
a.     On reviewing Jung, Geering says this:  “Myths are the means by which the collective human unconscious tries to bring some order into the chaos of our experience, to organize our perception of reality, and to resolve the various tensions we experience in our encounter with the external world. … Therefore, religion may be said to have begun with the telling of stories or myths” [p. 80].
b.    Then Geering concludes that, for de Chardin, “God is the evolving process.  We humans are part of it. … In fact, so far as this planet is concerned, maybe even within the vast universe, we humans represent the evolving manifestation of God” [p. 100].

The question, then, is this:  Through all of our stories and myths about God, does this prove, without any shadow of a doubt, that human beings have just invented God – that we really are representations of the “evolving manifestation of God”?  Has all of this just been an evolving process of our own invention, or might there yet be some kind of entity, beyond us, who’s behind the process itself?  Explain the reasons for your conclusion.
Pages 84-85
Is the God within us the same as the God outside of us? Assuming our church taught they were the same, do you think people would be more or less likely to become followers of the human Jesus who had an extraordinary God-consciousness?
"Among all my patients over thirty-five there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life."
Question, part A:
    How is it that different ones of us find our "outlook" in the form of a question, or a quest,  or a dogmatic truth, or a story or a myth or... but it is ours, in whatever form that works for us?
part B
    How is it that we will fight to the death defending our particular form of an outlook, believing ours is right and the other person's is wrong?
here's a question:  in re. the discussion in pages 80-82; if, as in Jung's model, all humans are endowed with a deep "collective unconscious" what,who or where did that come from and additionally, why is it manifested so differently?
I think humans did not create God. Since the time of more primitive people there has been an awareness or recognition that there is something greater and more powerful than ourselves that has been around since the beginning of time and will be around long after we are gone (the eternal). With the advent of language that something got called God. So yes, we created the name or names as the case may be. But, it existed before it was named and may exist when that term is no longer in use. You cannot create something that already exists. But what you can and do create is your idea or image of what that something may or may not be. You may even consider mankind to be offspring (the finite) of that something or process. Because we have brains that are highly individual based on our inheritance and life experiences, there are probably no two images or ideas of God that are exactly alike. As we evolve and learn more about our universe through science our image or idea of what that something or process is will also evolve. What today is still unknown or not yet explicable is what I am calling the mysterious.
Have you ever had a dream sequence that you know you've never seen the content nor heard of it? How did you explain it? Did you think it might be a message from a higher power? 
Which of chapters 5 or 6 did you find most interesting or identify with the most or enjoy the most or ….. AND why?
Well, here's another for your consideration:  Since most in the scientific community subscribe in general to the "Big Bang" theory, what was behind/before that defining instant (no scientific answer has been put forward to my knowledge?  Perhaps Teilhard's postulations (p. 89-93) offer some insight - your thoughts?

I have been asked to include page numbers, so they follow the questions.
Chapter 3 Schleiermacher
1 – What would you contribute to the Christmas Dialogue? 47
2 – How is your religion more objective or subjective? 49
3 – "[A]ll normal humans have some experience of God-consciousness.” Comment? 50
4 – What new doctrine does today's Christianity produce? 53
5 – Compare Schleiermacher's God Consciousness with Jesus' Kingdom of God. 55
Chapter 4 Feuerbach
6 – What is the development from the animal to the human state? Why do we speak of this development mythologically? 60
7 – (Extra Credit) How does Hegel differ from Plato? 62
8 – Why did it take so long to arrive at the idea that Man Made God rather than the other way around? 64
9 – What do you think of the idea that God got the good stuff and people got the bad stuff? 67
10 – How do historical facts differ from religious facts? 68
11 – Trinity represents community. Comments? 70
12 – So far, which God do like best?

1 – Is your best thinking analytical or synthetic? What ideas has it generated?
2 – How has 'wrestling with God” been a part of your life? (in somewhat less than book length)
Chapter 1
3 – What do you think is true about Christianity that we should spend large sums of money? (that being the primary measure of value today)
4 - “No one in the church takes that story literally these days.” Comments?
5 - “The God that is know is an idol.” Comments?
6 – What can we do to make Napa FUMC (or your church of choice) “this-worldly”? Is it a good idea to do that?
7 – Where (How) do you think the idea of God came from? Who sh/would you ask this question of?
Chapter 2
8 – What do you believe that “you know ain't true”?
9 – What do believe in this century that your offspring will not believe in the next century?
10 – How often (or when) do you take an inventory of your beliefs?
11 – How are doubt and science related?
12 – In what do you have the most faith? Is that your God?
13 – How do you feel about using the word God?