Thursday, January 17, 2013

Does God Speak?

Does God really “speak”?  Did he speak about slavery?  Christians describe the Scriptures as the “word of God”.  If, as the ancient traditions say, “God speaks”, how does he speak?  Personally, I do not think that God has vocal chords nor does he cause vibrations that activate my hearing so that I can hear him “speak”.  If it happens, I think it happens in some other way.  And, if when we humans write or speak words that in faith we describe as “words of God”, and even in faith adopting the presupposition that they are the “words of God”, do they remain the words of God forever?  Maybe some or much of human words is mixed with God’s words.  Or maybe God’s words are human words spoken for God as best we can.  As we make better choices, the best of the past is no longer any good and “God speaks anew”.  Who decides which words are the “words of God”?  We have the preserved traditions, but I think that they fail us too many times.  I have heard all the reasons why the Bible is “FOR” slavery, and I have heard all the reasons why the Bible is “AGAINST” slavery.  If the Bible is the “word of God”, complete for all time, why would it have been so hard for someone to have it written, “Do not own another human being”?  Even assuming the traditions are true, there seems to be a thousand interpretations of every word.  Some say that the “religious authorities” decide what the “word of God” is.  The pope is an example.  Certainly the religious leaders of the US South said that slavery was endorsed and ordained by God.  Oops, I think they got it wrong or else God got it wrong.  Others say we must submit to the authority of tradition, much like the Greek Orthodox.  The Protestants say the Bible is the authority and when the problem with multiple interpretations raises its ugly head, some Protestants say that the Bible is “self evident truth” and, with passion and zeal and even combativeness, some want to impose their own version of “self evident truth” on everyone else.  Whatever the Bible meant or did not mean about slavery, many Christians in the US felt slavery was a perfectly good thing at least up until the Civil War and some persisted past that tragic history.  Others said that slavery was wrong long before the Civil War.  At least in the US, sometime around or just past the US Civil War, God finally made it clear…..Human slavery is wrong!  So maybe, a gradual building of a community’s inter-subjective consensus, periodically canonized, punctuated by individual and community crisis so strong that the old is cast aside and a new consensus emerges is a description of “God speaking”.  The emergence and creativity of the new becomes the “word of God”.  So maybe in the simplest terms, we make it up.  But for myself, I would add that in the creativity of the new that we make up, truly “God speaks”.  What took him so long regarding slavery?  Or did we take a long time to listen and hear?