I Met God in Bermuda, Faith in the 21st Century

It is time to challenge traditional understandings of God in order to create a twenty-first century understanding of faith. So, we have to say goodbye to the Sunday school God and find new ways of thinking about God.
A twenty-first century faith is an open and courageous attitude toward life. It begins with experience, our shared and somewhat messy life experience. While experience is not everything, it is a good starting point. It’s what we know. Ironically, a new description of God can enrich human experience by incorporating the idea of the absence of God.

This is a quite remarkable book. It is entirely unconventional in its approach to Christianity and spirituality and is accessible to all persuasions – from skeptics to seeking Christians. Dr Ogden addresses issues and challenges that go to the heart of belief and faith in today’s complex and sophisticated world. He offers a quite new perspective on life that admits to the doubts and emptiness experiences that we all have and reveals a God with whom we can identify – far removed from the childhood God in the sky. A compelling read.

Review & Commentary

One thought on “I Met God in Bermuda, Faith in the 21st Century

  1. Review

    If you are looking for an easy book on Progressive Christianity to read, I Found God in Bermuda is not it.  Though the book is short, it is densely written. But it is well worth the work it takes to read it. 

     

    Ogden argues that religion in general and Christianity in particular is not held in high esteem by many people.  Many people feel embarrassed when the topic is raised.  There are a number of reasons for this ranging from beliefs in miracles that are impossible to extreme exclusiveness.  But the real litmus test for any religion, according to Ogden, is how it deals with the issue suffering. He goes on to state that God as we know him (the old man in the sky) has failed us on that issue.  The Christian Church has not been able to answer the following questions in a convincing manner.  Where was God during the slave trade? How could God let my five year old daughter die?  Why did God allow me to get cancer? Is God a bad God who causes these things to happen or is he too weak to stop them?   Because many people do not feel that the answers meet their needs at these times they feel that God is not there.

     

    In this book Ogden is wrestling with the concept of God.  In that sense it is a personal book, reflecting Ogden’s personal journal.  On the other hand, it is a very academic book.  There are many academic terms used, but he defines them very well for a lay reader.  I enjoyed the contrast.  Even though it was a struggle determining his positions, it was a chance for me to think about the questions raised in the book.

     

    Ogden is trying to redefine God for the 21st Century.  In doing so he reviews and rejects many older conceptions of God such as Deism and Theism. His arguments are very solid. He does a good job of comparing the beliefs and positions of mainline churches and fundamentalist churches and states he is concentrating on mainline Churches.  He determines that they are all lacking but still have some value for a new conceptualization of God.

     

    Ogden is more interested in defining a concept of God that reflects peoples experience with God then a description of God.  He looks for God in the relationships and experience of people.

     

    God, for him, is not an entity outside of our experience.  God is not in Heaven or in outer space.  God is represented in all of our interrelationships, both human and nonhuman.   It is through these relationships that we experience God.

     

    But as noted above, during times of suffering, the absence of God has to be taken into account.  People experience both the absence and presence of God in their relationships.  He begins by noting that our experiences of the presence of God were fleeting, but it has a lasting impact.  The presence of God occurs when we interact with other humans or the environment and we sense God’s presence. This could be anything from the feeling of connectedness to nature that one experiences at the seashore to someone saying just the right words when one is grieving or depressed that lifts your spirits. It is through these shared experiences that we find the self acceptance that allows us to go through those times when we experience the absence of God.

     

    The absence of God is the most prevalent situation.  On the one hand, even when we do not experience God, God is present, because our unity with God cannot be destroyed.  On the other hand, when we do not experience God, we feel the void and the conviction that only God can fill that void.  Or the relationship between absence and presence of God can be seen as absence is a great sense of loss while presence is that great sense of discovery and rejuvenation.

     

    How does Jesus, the cornerstone of Christianity, fit into this picture?  Jesus’ life represents the presence of God in one’s life.  His healing presence, his acceptance of all, and his acceptance of life all show the presence of God in his life.  His death and resurrection is the epitome of the absence and presence of God.

     

    A major part of Jesus’ teaching was the expression of grace.  Grace occurs when we learn that we are acceptable and accepted.  And that is what Jesus taught.  We experience grace when we learn that even though we have done something wrong that we are still accepted.

     

    All of this produces a faith that is not about what will happen when we die or about any being or thing out there. It is about the meaning, life style and relationships in the here and now.  It is a faith that is not a static.  It is rooted in our relationship with our communities and other aspects of the world. These relationships produce conversation between communities as well as within communities.   The experience of the presence of God emerges through these relationships.   It involves wrestling with the big questions—including suffering.   We do not solve the questions, but find hope in the questions. These relationships produce conversation between communities as well as within communities.   As our relationships and experiences evolve over time our faith grows.   It is a faith that grows and enriches our lives. 

     

    I really thought this was an excellent book.  Even though Ogden never did develop a clear definition of God or a strong explanation of how the interconnections work, I could relate to the idea that there may not be a clear definition of God and we pretty much know of the presence when we sense it.    I think it was a refreshing change from those individuals who are so sure that they understand and know God in the only “right” way.   I do recommend this book.  Hopefully it will get you thinking as it did me,

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