Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Changing Face of God

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Changing Face of God

Article excerpt

The Changing Face of God. Edited by Frederick W Schmidt. Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse Publishing, 2000. 97 pp. $12.95 (paper).

This little book reproduces a lecture series at the National Cathedral in Washington. The premise of two of the most famous of the lecturers, Karen Armstrong and Jesus Seminar member Marcus Borg, is that traditional credal Christianity is implausible and unbelievable, and so they are leading the way in envisioning "the changing face of God." I found their essays in particular a depressing combination of neo-Kantian reductionism and effusive enthusiasm for a kinder, gentler, vaguer religion. These two essays could be used as Exhibit A in describing those, as my old systematics professor used to say, who believe in God the good and kind gas.

Both Armstrong and Borg recount oppressive formative experiences in a rigid and doctrinaire form of Christianity, Roman Catholicism for Armstrong, Lutheranism for Borg, that were so traumatic they felt compelled to completely "reimage" the faith. Armstrong's story is a poignant one. It is the story of a scrupulous, perfectionistic young nun who falls into despair because she is not able to achieve spiritual experiences that are sufficiently spectacular. She deals with her revulsion by throwing the baby out with the bath water and attempts to achieve a spirituality without specific theistic commitments. It is tough enough to struggle with scrupulosity, perfectionism and the need to have God's consolation arrive on a preconceived schedule, according to a preconceived form, without your religious order encouraging you in rushing down this dead end, which is apparently just what Dr. …

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