>Sometimes you have to start in the middle. So here is the definition of the weakness of God that we ‘ended’ up with.
Then we will go back to a few weeks ago when we were working it out.
We will end where we started (the middle) with this definition again
and then I will propose something new for the road ahead !

These are mostly emails conversations that I have gotten permission to use (that is why I changed the identity or location of the writer) the one’s at the end were comments on the website.

here is where we are now

ET
Hey! what about this:

What if every time I said “weakness’ , if I said (in parentheses)
“God’s inverted redefinition of Power we see in Christ – 1 Cor. 1:25)

would that help?

now we go back

Michigan
When I first read your blog my first reaction was to question where God was weak. Personally I don’t like the idea of a weak God, but I came to the conclusion that a being is weak or strong is like to our word for an abstract concept. As you know the Latin/Western world views something as strong only as long as it can conquer something else, creating dominance, and vis versa, the loser is weak. As I read through your paper I can to realize that we I might call strength is not as such. I asked myself if a great strength can be found in adhering to mercy. I think back to Aslan in the Lion, the Witch, and the wardrobe He gives his live for the safety of another. The Lion is taken is what seems to everyone as weakness, but it the action has an inherent strength. All that to say this: what is even though Caputo speak of God as “weak”, what westerns should do is rearrange our definition of strong and weak. If true strength is revealed through weakness then it is in fact strong. Thus if being strong is truly a form of a weak or cowardly mind then it is weak.

Therefore, in my own head, even though Caputo make a case for a weak God, the underlying tone is the God being called weak by western humanity is truly strong than we know. Thus a slight reversal in our names for abstract ideas can change our culture.

I loved the idea of theo-poetics, but I still have a hard time wrestling with Christ as an event of God. I still somewhat see this as a denying that Christ was incarnate. If you wouldn’t mind helping me with that, I would appreciate that. It seems that if Christ is an event of God than Jesus is just a human with a deep connection to God who is still distant, where the classical idea is the God was among us on Earth. I still prefer the later.

Louisiana
I do not have an opinion to share on the weakness of God. From some of the discussion I’ve heard, it sounds like the sticking point is the difference between God being weak, and God choosing to be weak. I would tend to list towards the latter opinion, but again, I haven’t read all of your thoughts on the subject yet.

My question would be, then, how is God redeeming this? Or, how is God trying to work through us to redeem this?

Institutional Christianity is increasingly becoming irrelevant in America; “We are in charge” may be doomed sooner rather than later. It’s mostly the crazy Christians that get TV air-time. I would say this is equivalent to reality TV: institutional Christianity in America is becoming a ridiculous side-show. So maybe you don’t have to be a cynic for too much longer. Maybe the over-the-top caricature of institutional Christianity that seems to get the most media attention is making room for us to provide an ever more striking contrast as an alternative.

Republic of Island
You know, I love the architecture of all the “churches” here, but they are giant imposing reminders of who’s (or who was) in charge.

There are boxes with family names in the older church buildings where the rich folks used to sit (chief seats). I know old folks who won’t go to church because they remember that when they were little, they had to sit in the back while the rich folks sat in front.

There are monuments in church buildings here that praise soldiers who died in service of God and (country) halfway across the world while trying to conquer a foreign people.

80% of our income goes out the door (to the denominational hierarchy). Some of it goes to pay for the upkeep of empty church buildings.

Our denomination has a “Redundant Buildings” Committee.

Here we are at the end of the empire, trying to figure out what’s important. It is an interesting time to be working (in this system).

North Dakota
“The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God”. For me, the cross really is powerful. Salvation is found in it, healing is found in it. In a profound feat of weakness, defeat, and quiet victory over sin and death, God’s power has been shown to us through the cross. “A bruised reed he did not break, and a flickering candle he did not snuff out”, but in the process, he provided salvation and healing to any and all who would call
on him. Because I am a real Christian, and am against the argument culture of denominationalism/Christian Sectism/Conservative/Liberalism, I REALLY DO THINK GOD IS STRONGER and MORE POWERFUL than anyone in the world. I do not think America is powerful. I think I just have an enlightened perspective:-) Take the way I spend my time: I spend the most amount of my time and energy on those who are on the fringe, annoying to other people, have mental disorders. I do that because I believe that “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick” and Jesus came to call “not the righteous, but the sinners to repentance”. I see the power of God in these conversations/discipleship scenarios. When I hear about a need from someone who will have no way to return the favor, I’m ALL OVER THAT most of the time because I believe that I’m supposed to not
invite those who can’t return the favor to the lavish banquet. I am with Jesus in weak ministry to the weak. I feel God’s presence in it, and in a twist, I see HIS POWER, and the POWER OF HIS CROSS. I just have such a different perspective on power than the world, that I really have come full circle to the point that I see Jesus and the cross as power, and talk-radio/voting/and politics as NOT-POWER. I do understand why you are hitting this thing hard.
I was so mad last week because I met with someone who is a very passionate follower of Christ. My one problem with them, was I was explaining how for us as followers of Jesus, I do not see how we can participate in any military machine. He said, “but in Ecclesiastes it says there is a time for war”. Yeah? Well, it also says there is a time to die. Let me ask you, was death part of God’s original plan? Why the hell did Jesus come anyway? Like you so rightly said it in your PODCAST, we did not learn the lessons from Jesus that we were supposed to, and now we are Spiritually retarded. I mean, if not to revise things, then why did Jesus come at all? Why did he die on the cross? So, I guess I am with you, and I understand your methods of communication. Because I feel the power of the cross in my life, and in the lives of the lowly and weak around me, I have an upside-down opinion on power.

What the heck do we do with the Bible and people’s mis-understanding of it? This is such a bad problem. People think that because something happened in the Old Testament, it’s fair game, and no one seems to understand what Jesus came and did. It seems that people see what GOD did in the Old Testament, then appoint themselves as ‘god’ in the New Covenant. “We can do what GOD did in the Old Testament!!!” No, Jesus modeled for us God’s desire for humanity. READ YOUR bible, and stop ‘cherry-picking’ from the Old Testament. YOU ARE NOT GOD (Romans 8:28-30). Jesus was the “firstborn” among many brothers. That means that everyone after him is supposed to be like him, NOT like GOD in the Old Testament examples, or even like Old Testament
peoples. Please leave being GOD to GOD. Right? Jesus is the firstborn, we are his offspring. We are to “Walk as Jesus did”.

Now that I understand that you are “hitting this thing hard” and that you DO consider Jesus’ healing and such to be powerful, I feel fine. It just seemed like when people asked you about the healing of Jesus, or salvation, or any other displays of power, you defaulted to “God isn’t able to help, God is weak” without explaining his healing and salvation fit. You were trying to keep people from defaulting to Caesar-like America-like power. I get it. For me, it seemed like you were avoiding questions that might challenge your thesis, which I felt was lame. I don’t think so anymore. I see what you’re doing, and I’m cool with it. I think we are actually in agreement about this stuff. The more I consider it and think about it, and read the Scriptures, the more I know what you are saying. The real question is, what is God’s nature? What is God like? We see all the way through the Old Testament God appointing Prophets and Patriarchs to accomplish His will (which didn’t go well, and He didn’t interfere for the most part), then in the New Testament, persecution, the cross, a virtually invisible resurrection from the dead and ascension, then a persecuted, murdered, minority Church to spread the Gospel. You are right that we should heed these stories of what God has done in order to see what God is like in His Nature. One interesting story of Annanias and Saphira (sp?). God put them to death for deceiving, and claiming to give all, but only giving some. Is that God’s holiness or what? Some would read that story and say God was choosing a display of power to make a point about not doing “unholy things” in the presence of “holy God”. Maybe it was just unavoidable because of God’s nature. Whatever. Random thoughts.

I agree with you that God is weak, in that His power is not coercive or dominating. I was just confused by your insistence that he is weak without comment on his power in healing and salvation. I’m still thinking about the idea that God can’t do anything unless through us. Us good protestants say that Jesus is the only way to God, and so we are in essence saying, “God needed a body” to accomplish salvation, even His own body. Interesting stuff, and interesting thought. I know that practically, I live my life like this is true. Even when God does provide for his people, it is through angels, and actions on the part of his people. This does seem to be how God is, what He’s like, and how he carries out his will. Anyway, I get ya that POWER as defined by you is the worlds power of domination and coercion. I was just missing the talk about the power I feel is in the cross. See above for my writing on that.

Delaware
I find the conversation here at Everyday Theology very helpful and incredibly interesting. Before I ask my questions though, let me say, as gently as possible: God is not the author of death. He is not sending anyone a message through the earthquake in Haiti. If there is a spiritual component to this horrible event it originated in Hell, not Heaven. Don’t worry, the Pat Robertsons of the world will continue to marginalize themselves by saying anti-Christian things like his latest, until no one is listening to him anymore.

I do however have a couple of unresolved questions. ET says that this disaster was caused by shifting tectonic plates and unresolved poverty. Yes, this is the vehicle through which death was delivered. But I do believe that there is a spiritual component to this event. I am not sure what it is, but I suspect it has something to do with Satan’s desire to kill, steal and destroy and my failure as a follower of Jesus to bring redemption to the people of Haiti. Is there a spiritual component to this disaster?

Second question: While Jesus displayed a glaring lack of human power he did display an incredible amount of heaven’s power (healing sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead and so forth). While the weakness of Jesus has got me thinking about what the Gospel really is and how it is totally and utterly opposed to empire, I still see a power offered to his disciples that inserted the impossible into human tragedy. Where does this authority over sickness and death fit in this emerging theology?

ET
Wow. you have quickly gotten to the heart of the matter. I really like what you said in your first paragraph. Powerful statements.

First question: I can only tell you what I think. I think that the tectonic plates are ‘natural’ in origin. I think that the systemic poverty is ‘human’ in origin. and I think that IF there is anything ‘spiritual’ that it is people’s response to tragedy and hurt. Christ’s body reaching out, holding the hurting, healing wounds and reaching into the wound.

second question – this is a tough one. I want to believe. I do not want to be a cynic. If we have the power to raise people from the dead and heal the sick, why are we not flying ‘miracle teams’ over there to raise the dead and heal the sick? IF EVER we were going to step up into an ACTS like authority and take ‘dominion’ (as someone else has said) then THIS would certainly be the time do that!! The world is watching – it would be publicized on GLOBAL TV. The world would SEE and BELIEVE.

please understand me. I have seen miracles. I believe. I just don’t know that it is predictable enough to ‘go public’ with it. I think that we 1) show up 2) love without condition or judgment 3) serve 4) pray and see what happens. That really is the best I have right now. I mean, if you feel called to get on an airplane and fly down … or better yet – just pray from where you are that the dead in Haiti will get up and start to tell of God and his power, you can do that right now.

I am just saying that I do not think that is that way it works. I think that God is weak. I think that God loves weakness. I think that God works in our weakness. That is why I think we go (in weakness) and serve (in our weakness) and embrace others weakness and that is how God is made manifest, in our weakness.

Ike in Bosnia
Hello Everyday,

Wow, lots of good stuff to chew on.

I’m still do not agree that if we say to the people of Haiti, “God is weak” that that is somehow a more palatable, 21st-century message. Likewise, if we say, “Good news Haiti, God is in control” I don’t believe that it is outdated, nor that it is proven wrong by present facts and reality.

We do have to wrestle with pain and death in this world. We can make the world a better place but we cannot make it a perfect place without pain and death. And there is a reason for that. God is in the process of redemption but has not completed it yet.

Why is it that when human suffering was commonplace and taken for granted it was OK to say that God is almighty. Now, however, we can’t say that because it doesn’t fit our context?

You once indirectly criticized a preacher for refusing to believe in a Jesus who could be beat up. That concept of Jesus just didn’t fit with what he decided was right or proper. But at the same time I’m hearing that we cannot believe in a strong God because it doesn’t fit 21 century concepts of what is real or works or is proper?

When did we, the citizens of the 21st century, decide how God should be? And when did God say, “Oh, you’re right. I have to change myself to fit your your conceptions of me?”

I think one amazing point of the incarnation, the manger and the cross is that God did things his way in a manner that didn’t fit the preconceived notions of the day.

Then by the resurrection God showed strength in the midst of weakness. God will do the same in our weakness. As we are weak, God is strong and proves that God is faithful to those who have that trust.

At some point we must all wrestle with the true God, as is. I am created, God is creator. Somehow I feel we are getting this backwards.

ET
Ike – You know how much I like you! And how much your contribution here means to me. So I am not saying this to you per se but just throwing it ‘out there’.

When we say that “God is in control” what does that mean? To the people of Haiti does that mean anything? In the Balkan Wars when Catholic Croats, Serbian Orthodox Christians and Bosnian Muslims were raping and killing each other… in what way was God in control?

I am not sure that God is in control. I am growing to believe that God is a weak.

The first objection someone makes is to say ‘ God isn’t weak, in the Old Testament…” but that raises a whole new set of questions.

-Is that God dead? I mean, why doesn’t that stuff happen now?
– If he’s that strong and he doesn’t do anything, maybe he doesn’t care. I mean if you’re telling me that he’s strong then maybe he’s not as loving as we’ve been told.
– Is it possible that the ancient Hebrews were mistaken and YHWH isn’t the King of Heaven (God most High) like they thought and was, in actuality, a regional Deity and we have outgrown his power?

Maybe it would be best if people didn’t just tell me how ancient societies conceived of their God. I am asking a real question: what if God is weak? What if the explanation of the evil in the world isn’t Theodicy or Sovereignty or any of the constructs of the past? Maybe we have conceived of God wrongly and God isn’t who we were told he was. If Jesus is God ( which is what I believe) then maybe HE should be a lens by which we can evaluate what happens in history.

The difference between me and the bully preacher from Seattle is that I am not saying that if God isn’t who I thought he was that I won’t worship him. What I am saying is that maybe God has shown who he is and we have chosen to stick with a previously conceived notion that is far more fantasy and façade than revelation.

What ever God turns out to be, I will worship. I’m not telling God who God has to be. I am asking what if God isn’t who we told that God was.
I am looking at who God has revealed God’s self to be in Christ and in history — and I’m wondering if God is really weak and it is WE who will not accept that.

ET
Hey! what about this:

What if every time I said “weakness’ , if I said (in parentheses)
“God’s inverted redefinition of Power we see in Christ – 1 Cor. 1:25)

would that help?

that is where we find ourself in this conversation

Here is something to power us on the road ahead:

I am presenting the New Testament as a “poetics” of the kingdom of God, a theo-poetics — as opposed to a “theo-logic”, an ethics, or a church dogmatics — as a complex of narratives, parables, and paradoxes of which Jesus is the centerpiece. From a work such as that cannot simply and straightforwardly “derived” a course of action. We need instead to “arrive” at an instantiation, a concretization, a way to translate it into existence, all the while letting it happen (arriver) to us, allowing ourselves to come under its spell and be transformed by the event it harbors. For that we require a delicate style of interpretation, a “hermeneutics”…
– John Caputo

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