I was at Cedar Ridge Church in Maryland last Sunday and the sermon, led by two of the church’s pastors, revolved around the issue to caring for those on the margins. To construct their theology on this issue, the speakers showed some clips from the recent move Lars and the Real Girl.
In this film, Lars, a quiet, introverted, stand-off-ish type or person has a guest stay with him for a while. This guest, however, is a life-size inflatable doll that he believes to be a real person. Although I thought it was interesting how the speakers tied this movie into their discussion on caring for those on the margins of a community, I drew another metaphor from the film.
Many people possess theologies that they believe to be completely real and 100% true. As they would say, they are truly true. Yet these people are like Lars; while they believe their views are totally true, they are, in reality, false. They have become inflated by other people, communities, and themselves. Gordon Kauffman believes that no human being can know about God. They can surmise, hypothesize, and theorize, but no one can truly know about God, for our infinite God cannot be fully captured or understood in finite language or human thoughts. As soon as people believe their views of God to be totally true, therefore, they have idolized their views, placing them above God in the importance in their lives. Like Lars, many people cannot see that their views of God are not really God, but inflated, partial perspectives of the vast character of the creator, sustainer, and redeemer for the world.
So, how are we to understand God? How do we come to know a bit about the infinate God? We talk. And we listen as others talk. And we reflect on what we have heard. And we talk. And the cycle continues in a process that is similar to what Catholic religious eductor Tom Groome calls “shared praxis.” As we talk and listen and reflect, we should not seek to come to a point where we know God and know about God so perfectly that we do not need to talk anymore. Rather, the point of this approach is to generate more talk, listening, and reflecting. It is ongoing, neverending, for none of us can know God entire.
Let’s deflate our blow-up doll theologies and engage in robust conversation in order to see more and more of this unknowable God.