The Inclusive GodPosted: April 6, 2012
For some, Christianity needs to be sharply distinguished from ‘natural’ human insights and from alternative religious views. The uniqueness of God’s revelation, culminating in the highly specific incarnation of God in one human individual, has to be preserved at all costs. Otherwise, it is argued, Christianity becomes subservient to the shifting, self-interested and corrupt flux of human cultures. In Christ alone there is salvation.
This position – Christianity verses all other beliefs – is tempting. It heightens the emotional drama of conversion, and helps to give a strong grounding to individual and community identity. The problem is that this comes at a price: the price of denying or restricting God’s presence in creation. It becomes easy to forget that God’s first and highest gift – of existence itself – is a universal one. There is no warrant for claiming that this gift is entirely destroyed or withdrawn. What theologians sometimes call ‘general’ revelation is not of a wholly different and inferior kind from the ‘special’ revelation of distinctive Christian teaching.
God’s encounter with us comes in and through the history of a people, the changing community of church, the fragile matter of the sacraments, the voice of preaching which is always finding new dialects and accents. ‘Special’ revelation is rooted in the original gift of creation, and always mediated through our embodied, imperfect, contextualized modes of human communication.
Surely this is unavoidable if we claim to believe in the Word made flesh, the incarnation of God’s encounter with us in Christ? God does not suddenly set aside time, language, matter and change, in order to speak with a voice of timeless, immediate and self-evident certainty. God does not abolish the created world to to transport eternal truths directly into our souls. Christian revelation is fleshly, particular and always inviting new interpretation, new responses, new ways of proclamation. Our grasp of revelation is always limited. How else could it be if we are to preserve God’s transcendence and the dignity of God’s creation? That does not lessen its challenge, because only as incarnate truth can it touch and transform peoples lives with an otherness which is not of our making.
The Inclusive God. Reclaiming Theology for an Inclusive Church.
Steven Shakespeare and Hugh Rayment Pickard.pg 46-47 2006 Canterbury Press.