Morgan Park

 Baptist Church

Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor

11024 S. Bell Avenue 

Chicago, IL 60643


​Reflection July 1, 2018 

Theology 101: For the Love of God by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Beginning Tuesday, July 10, from 10 am until 11 am at Smith Village (113th Place and Western Avenue),

I will begin a four-part series of lectures on “Theology 101: For
the Love of God.” The four lectures will be on consecutive Tuesdays (July 10, July 17,
July 24, July 31) and all are welcome.
Theology is the study/discussion of the nature/life of God. While I spent seven years
in graduate studies in theology, it has been a life-long pursuit. Who among us is not
interested in the life and love of God? Who among us is not driven to understand better
the life and love of God? Who among us is not seeking to understand the “hunger” we
have for our Creator?
There is, to be sure, an important caveat that I’ve used in a number of sermons. This
caution comes from the first book we studied together after I came as pastor: Biblical
Foundations of Spirituality: Touching a Finger to the Flame by Professor Barbara Bowe:
“Speaking about God … is learning to say the least wrong thing about God because
anything we might say is, by definition, always wrong - wrong because our words can
never fully capture or name adequately the infinite mystery we call God.”
No one speaks for God except God. This is a message I’ve preached again and
again. No church leader speaks for God. No church leader is ever infallible concerning
who God is and what God may be doing among us.
All of our images of God fall incredibly short of who God is. All of our God-talk, all of
our God-preaching, is hopelessly shallow and far off the mark. As the early church
martyr, Justin, rightly wrote: “Anyone who thinks that God can be named is hopelessly
Yet we keep trying to grasp as best we can the fullness of the Divine. We use
various metaphors and analogies to clutch at the immensity of the Almighty. Many of
these metaphors and analogies are deeply rooted in the Bible. This is as it should be.
Again from Bowe: “All our God language (biblical, theological, spiritual) is analogous
and metaphorical (God is like this, God is like that) ... But the biblical command against
making images for God (Exodus 20:4-5) is a reminder to Israel, and to us, that God
cannot be ‘captured’ by our images … We come to realize that the character of the
biblical God is absolute freedom from all that seeks to limit or control God.”
When and where do we get to discuss the nature of God? There is virtually no place
where such discussions can take place. Most people I know are deeply fearful to bring
up theological questions with their pastor - lest the pastor castigate them for not
believing enough! Most Sunday services offer no opportunity to raise theological
questions (although this would not be a bad idea!).
Who is God? This is a very vital question every believer should ponder. What does
Scripture assert regarding the nature of God? Are the images of God found in Scripture
always trustworthy? We would well remember that that no expression of God can be
taken literally since God is Absolute Mystery. Biblical analogies, Biblical metaphors,
surely serve a purpose but when taken literally - they lead always to idolatry! “The
starting point of all our God-talk must be our acknowledgement that, in the final
analysis, God remains unknowable.” (Bowe)
Let me add something from my second book: “I recall a child’s funeral that I attended
in northern Louisiana (while I was pastor and campus minister in Grambling) … The
preacher began by announcing how wonderful it was that this child would not have to
endure the ‘end times’ (that apocalyptic favorite of fundamentalists). God had taken this
child and put him on the other side of ‘the river’ (I wasn’t sure which river) so all of us
would lead moral lives and get to heaven. God ‘took’ this little one to dissuade us from
“I was hard-pressed not to jump up and challenge the preacher. Recognizing the
need for decorum, however, I sat in my seat and simmered. I wondered how such a
sermon could be consoling. In the face of such tragedy, do we feel better depicting God
as a child-slayer? What kind of God ‘snatches’ children from their families in order to
dampen our immoral desires? Perhaps a God worth fearing but not a God worth
worshipping! Sitting in that church, I was acutely embarrassed for God.”
In these up-coming four lectures, I hope to help everyone who attends come to a
healthier understanding of who God is and how God might be working within us and
among us. We’ll explore numerous Biblical understandings as well as exploring the two-
thousand-year-old heritage of Christian theology. These lectures are free and open to
everyone. Just come in the Smith Village south entrance and you’ll find me anxiously
waiting to dialogue about the most important and interesting topic there is!