Bible Review 5:5, October 1989

My View

Neither the liberal nor the conservative God is adequate

By Joanne Swenson

Bible Review

Do we in liberal, mainline denominations serve up a kind of worship that fails to convey God as experienceable, present and active in our lives and world? Are we neglecting to treat God as real?

When I served a United Church of Christ congregation in Boston, I puzzled over the large number of Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty and students who attended a burgeoning, evangelically oriented congregation in our neighborhood. How could scientifically trained people be at home in a church with such an anachronistic view of the world? It made me bristle.

Perhaps I didn’t understand that the M.I.T. crowd is seeking a God as real as the phenomena they daily work with in the laboratory. Empirical reality makes their world go ‘round. Why should the God they worship be any less real? In this conservative church and thousands more like it, God’s reality is portrayed in terms respected by the scientist: knowable, predictably present, bringing coherence to all the world’s phenomena with an all-encompassing law, one who makes things happen, is involved in the life of persons. The average American is ipso facto a scientist by virtue of our participation and tacit trust in a rational-functional worldview. Therefore, a “scientific” God—one who “behaves” like other objects we consider real—holds enormous attraction.

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