I used to think that things were real, and change was something that happened to them over time. Now I think that change is real, and things are events that happen over time. Change is the constant and things come and go, appear and disappear.
—Brian McLaren, Do I Stay Christian?
CAC teacher Brian McLaren locates resistance to change in our misunderstanding of God and encourages us to embrace reality’s dynamism:
Richard Rohr often recounts a story from seminary, when a professor ended … the semester by saying that Christian theology has in many ways been more influenced by the thought of Greek philosophers than by Jesus’ thinking. A case in point is the Greek idea of absolute perfection, the idea that if something is transcendent, it is unchangeable, immovable, absolute, and incapable of transition.
Because we want to lift God to the highest level possible, many of us were taught to conceive of God in this Greek category of perfection. After all, what’s the alternative—imperfection?
McLaren reflects on his own study of Genesis:
I had been preaching through the creation story of Genesis, and I realized that the universe described there didn’t fit with the categories of Greek philosophy. The universe fashioned by the word and creative character of God was not immovable. It was not absolute and incapable of change. It was not immutable or static or, in the Greek sense, perfect….
In the Hebrew poetry of Genesis 1, God’s creation was, simply put, in process. It started simple and grew more complex. It started in chaos, and order took shape. It started without life, and life “sprang forth” and “multiplied.” A sentence formed in my head that day … : “Hebrew good is better than Greek perfect.”
In other words, Greek perfect is static, but Hebrew good is dynamic. Greek perfect is sterile and changeless, but Hebrew good is fertile and fruitful….
Could this deep-seated understanding help explain why so many Christians today remain chained to the past, unable to imagine that change could be for the better, unable to accept that the present order, while superior to the past for some, is still deeply unjust for many and therefore deserves to be challenged and changed? Could sin be better understood as a refusal to accept needed change, a refusal to grow, a resistance to the arc of transition that bends toward justice?
Sometime soon, I hope you can take a walk outdoors or find a place to sit and observe the created world. Seasons change. Trees grow. Rivers flow. Rocks roll downstream and go from rough and sharp to smooth and round. You can look in the mirror and sense the same reality in your own face: new wrinkles, new wisdom.
Perhaps you can look at this world in transition and dare to echo God in Genesis [1:31]: behold, it is good … it is very good. Perhaps you can see transition as an essential part of that goodness that is better than perfection.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—McEl Chevrier, Untitled. CAC Staff, Exercise in Grief and Lamentation. Jessie Jones, Untitled. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise.
Story from Our Community:
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on my 50-year journey as a follower of Jesus. I grew up in a very conservative denomination, but I hit a profound pivot point that changed everything about my walk with God. In past few years, the Daily Meditations have been a major driver of a similar pivot point — the transition from certainty into wonder. I can no longer imagine a life in which I see things in the dualistic frame so many of my friends continue to hold onto. For me, the sense of wondrous mystery has become the hallmark of God’s presence. Standing in my newfound beliefs can be a lonely experience but finding this CAC “family” of fellow travelers has truly opened a healing and comforting space for me. —Greg L.