What’s your God like? A warm encouraging being? Or is it a mechanical power that bleakly makes the universe go on and on- a thing that has no interest in something as infinitesimally small as me.
The author Thomas Hardy in his poem “The Oxen” once referred to “The Dreaming, Dark, Dumb Thing that turns the handle of the idle show”.I am unaware of Hardy’s own religious views, but whatever they were the words are a brilliant description of the god who, to the minds of many people is at the heart of the universe.
Hardy is apparently referring to his view of God and the universe.
It is a thing, deliberately stripped of the personality which makes friendship, community, and love, possible.It is a mindless thing, far away from our everyday world, on a different plain altogether.It is dark, obscure and seems to inhabit a world of shadow and gloom, like some surreal rock and roll video clip.This god is without speech.It is “the Dreaming, Dark, Dumb Thing ….”It seems to me that speech is the richest, most subtle, most enduring capacity of human friendships that we have.Am I right in thinking that to be deaf or dumb is, even more than blindness, an affliction or hindrance which cuts you off from others?
This is a ‘god’ without a power purpose or personhood.It “turns the handles of this idle Show”.It has no more interest or purpose than is displayed in the idle turning of the handle of a mechanical device which makes puppet figures go through their meaningless, and trivial, and predetermined motions.History exists, but in the hands of such a god it is, indeed, like life to Macbeth, “ A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
This is real atheism, not the sort of bold illogic which simply declares that there is no god without ever being in a position to know.Here is the atheism which allows there to be a god, but a god who is a dreaming, dark, dumb Thing;a god whose only power, if power it be, is to make us jog through our paces in a meaningless ritual.
It seems to me that a Hardy’s god is very popular in our day and age.People want to retain the word /god/ if only so they can mis-use it.There is also the comfort of knowing that, in an emergency, god is there to be spoken to and like luck, may well be favourably disposed from time to time.I once heard a radio journalist ask someone who was caught in a cyclone “Are you going to put your faith in God’s hands, or are look to some more secure means?”For most people, the capacity of God’s power is unclear.The extent of his interests in individuals is unknown.The concept of obedience to God is a wild thought.Any notion of His right to judge our lives and our accountability to Him have become distasteful.There is a fake memory of the Christian God, but it is a god shorn of the very things which make him personal, which made personal relationships possible.
The god that I have been describing above could not be any more unlike the god which the Bible portrays.The God of the Bible, whose lives are rejected in our day and age is alleged in its pages to be alive and active.The God who sustains and orders both history and every event in our world with a dynamic, purposeful energy and a burning love.He is not dumb, but is a speaking God, who makes claims to our lives both now and in the future.
What do you make of the idea that there is a personal God who can speak and relate in a way that is not that different to the most meaningful conversation and relationships we have ever been involved in?
If you like it come bring your questions and join us on Sunday mornings! --
The Revd. Ross Hathway
St Nicholas Anglican Church, Goulburn
Office 02 4821 4976
17 Kinghorne St, Goulburn
TO KNOW CHRIST AND TO MAKE HIM KNOWN