Reimagining God by Lloyd Geering
This should become a classic!
Lloyd Geering lays the groundwork for the salvation of the churches. That they need salvation is obvious. First, they are fading, people not attending, or attending from habit and second, the churches are needed as the bearers of the mythology, the truth hidden in mystery which evades the direct path of knowledge.
Every theology at one time was built with reference to the science of its day. When the theology now preached in the churches was developed the possibility of a God surrounded by happy souls in a place called heaven fit our complete ignorance on what lay beyond the blue of the skies. My grandson, recently graduated from kindergarten, corrected the adults at the Thanksgiving dinner on their misunderstandings of the number, size and order of the planets. If I tell him about heaven he is going to ask “Where is it?” and expect me to point it out. I am not going to risk my good standing as an intelligent human being with him and yet my local preacher still thinks heaven is up there somewhere, or, no he is not that far out of the stream, he talks as if he thinks its up there somewhere, and shakes the confidence of all kindergarten graduates who sit in the pews, not only in the theology but in his credibility.
So we need a new theology appropriate to the science of our day, starting with a new Image for God. This, Geering points out, is not as radical a task as it might seem since all images of God in the past have been the product of human imagination why not put our century’s imagination influenced by our century’s science to work on what God might be like. (Hey, Geering is not a heretic. In the late 1950’s he was tried for heresy by the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand and found not guilty. That should settle that!)
At one time our spiritual ancestors imagined God as living in a box they carried around, then in a temple. Even before that they imagined multiple gods guiding their race. Once God was local to the Hebrews, fighting their fights against other and lesser gods. Now the official God of our tradition looks a lot like Aristotle dreamed him, the unmoved mover, overseeing the universe.
Knowing what we know, can we not come closer to the mark than those who knew less?
Using evolutionary principles, (Teilhard d’ Chardin), and depth psychology, (Carl Jung) and several of the great philosophers of all the times, Geering presents a perfectly reasonable image of God. Is it the final depiction of God? Did he get it right? Of course not. It cannot be gotten right.
The Hebrews avoided saying God’s name because they did not want to give the impression that they thought they knew him. Thomas Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologica, a three volume compilation of theology based on the principles of Aristotle in which, a very tiny part indeed, Aquinas states that we cannot know God. On his deathbed he asked that all his writings be burnt. While he had said that we cannot know God, as a certified mystic he had experienced God, and the gap between his experience and his knowledge overwhelmed him. However it did not faze his publisher.
While there is no correct answer to the question, “Who is God?” Geering’s hypothesis fits our times and since our science is more accurate than the science of Aristotle, he is probably closer to the mark. Of course he risks having the image he has imagined taken as the reality but what are you going to do? We humans seem to require an image.
While I am impressed with Geering’s theology, that is not my point, nor his for that matter. What he, I hope, will succeed in doing is to hallow the work of reimagining. It’s what we stopped doing since the time of Galileo at least. This book shakes us out of a deadly rut and could put the churches back in the business of guiding the faithful instead of embarrassing them.