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this dream of God is what drives me

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 12, 2007

Chris Johnson alerts us to some deep thoughts from ECUSA's Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the incoming class at Union Theological Seminary September 5 that they need to consider "how theological thinking is going to help to shape the rest of your life."

"The task of theological education really is to help us learn to do theology -- to relate our own stories, and the stories of those around us, to the great stories of our faith, so that we may be able to give an account of the faith that is within us," she said. "Theological education can bless us with the ability to see the need and hurt and injustice of the world, the ways in which God's dream is not yet being realized."

Jefferts Schori based her address, titled "Theological Education and the Dream of God," on Isaiah 61:1-9, saying that the verses sum up God's dream for humanity. "This vision of a restored world, this dream of God, is what drives me," she said.

The cant phrase "God's dreams" -- an expression as fatuous as it is precious -- is enjoying a vogue in the precincts of squish spirituality, including the Roman Catholic variety. It's a particularly annoying affectation. In theological terms, the logic behind the phrase is simple nonsense: an all-knowing, all-powerful God does not have "dreams." God wills. But God's will, in the form in which the Church claims to communicate it reliably, chafes against the desires cherished by many forward-thinking persons. Hence the invocation of God's Dreams serves as a joker in the theological deck, allowing the verbally nimble to deal themselves an escape from unwelcome doctrinal constraints -- and, moreover, to congratulate themselves that their desires would be identical to God's desires, were He only free to speak His mind.

Too harsh? Well, let's spin out a couple highly counterfactual scenarios -- "our own stories, and the stories of those around us," to use the jargon of Jefferts Schori -- in which a Christian might decide "the ways in which God's dream is not yet being realized":

  • God's dream for me is that I abandon my adulterous flirtation with my nurse-receptionist, ask forgiveness of my injured wife, and strive to repair the damage to my difficult and often ungratifying marriage.

  • God's dream for me is that I commit myself to a course of reparative therapy to put my homosexual inclinations behind me, so as to abjure a gay lifestyle and embark on a fruitful Christian marriage.

  • God's dream for me is that I summon the guts to deny myself a longed-for promotion by confronting my supervisor and resisting his pressure to participate in the United Way fundraiser because of its subvention of Planned Parenthood.

Doesn't play, does it? You don't waste a joker on a trick you can take with a face-value card. Where one's future resolve is known to be consonant with traditional Christian doctrine -- and that in a way ordinary Christians would have no trouble understanding and no hesitation expounding in public -- no one ever speaks of "God's dreams." No one would ever need to.

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