"Napa Valley" Brocken InaGlory. Licensed. Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0
Q earlier observed that one very respectable tradition maintains that the best theology is silence in the face of Mystery. Yet most of us will wish to talk about God. Note the italics there. Ideas "about" God are in a different category from an experience of God. As Snark observed in an earlier Dialogue, one of the tasks of theology is to reflect upon experience. As you consider ideas about God in this Dialogue remember that theological ideas are not a substitute for the experience of God . . . of the sacred, the holy, the transcendent. At best, theological ideas can point and urge us toward that experience. Afterwards, we can theologize about the meaning of it.
When people say that they don't believe in God . . . that they're atheists . . . it's not always clear what they mean by "God." Very often, the idea of "God" they reject is one that some people of faith also find lacking . . . and don't believe in either. In this Dialogue, Q explores one aspect of this theme.
As an alert reader, you are correct in thinking that "pleonastic," "logorrheic" and "prolix" are "obfuscatory" . . . which is probably another one! "In the beginning was the Word . . ." but thankfully it wasn't any of these! This digression does, however, bring us to Snark's take on some of the negative aspects of imagining God in "theistic" terms.
- Do Snark's objections to "theism" make sense to you? Discuss.
- When you were young, did you mix up Santa Claus and God? Know anybody who seems to do that?
- Do you think the idea of a theistic God is hard to square with our contemporary ideas about the cosmos? Can "a robust sense of transcendence, mystery and wonder responsibly coexist with the very best science has to teach us?"
- Most people (according to many polls) report having had an experience of the sacred . . . of God. Those same polls indicate that a minority of these people have shared with others their experience. They said they feared ridicule, etc. Have you had an experience(s) of the sacred . . . of God? How do you think about that experience? When you try to put it into words, what do you wind up saying? The theistic idea of God may very well fit with your experience . . . or it may not. By now, we hope there's enough trust in your group for the sharing of these intimate experiences. If so, please do so . . . remembering to keep the group's culture safe from judgment and ridicule.
- Advocatus and Snark continue to struggle with their conflicted relationship . . . and will continue to do so! Snark tries to find "the courage of connection" with Advocatus. Does that phrase resonate in your experience? Have you struggled to find courage to pursue a relationship with someone who's sometimes difficult to understand? Discuss.
- Readers have often found this chapter quite surprising. In your experience, have you discovered deeper, positive . . . surprising connections . . . with someone you've been in conflict with?
- What do you make of Advocatus' surprising response to Snark? Do you think it comes out of Advocatus' long, sometimes-very-wise, experience? Does Snark's literally reaching out for Advocatus have anything to do with it?