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Pondering the Existence of God: A Review of “The God You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In” by Jeffrey E. Frantz

 
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey E. Frantz was a minister in the United Church of Christ for more than forty years. In writing about God, the great mystery that challenges all persons of faith, in The God You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In, Frantz was speaking to his congregation. He knew just the right topics to cover and the right questions to answer for any layperson seeking to bring depth to his or her faith.

Frantz begins by discrediting the God of supernatural theism. Most Christians believe in this God—a God who is a person, male by gender, who resides in a place called heaven, the upper tier of a three-tiered universe, who answers prayer, who intervenes in human affairs, who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. In responding to this traditional understanding of God, Frantz asks questions like where is heaven, how come only some prayers are answered, and if God is both loving and omnipotent, why did he allow six million Jews to die during the Holocaust.

In its place, Frantz offers a God whose essence is Spirit, a God of infinite love and compassion, an abiding presence, an endless mystery, a God that is both immanent and transcendent (panentheism). He then describes what this God is like—compassionate, a loving energy that pervades the universe, life-giving. In making these claims, there is one major caveat. According to Frantz, God is the great more of the universe, more than any definition or image humans can create.

God’s character is revealed through the prophets and Jesus. Such a revelation is possible because the prophets and Jesus were filled with the divine presence. From these spiritual leaders, we come to know God’s character as radically inclusive, nonviolent, with a passionate concern for economic and social justice.

Toward the end of this well written and argued book, Frantz demonstrates how this God of loving Spirit plays out in the larger Christian story as found in both the Old and New Testaments. It’s a well done review of the biblical roots of the Christian faith.

Throughout it all Frantz’s brilliance as a teacher shines forth. He has a remarkable ability to explain a complex theological idea or to arrive at the essence of what a theologian is trying to communicate in simple, straight forward language.

Fifty plus years ago I was given an assignment to write a paper on Paul Tillich’s concept of God as the Ground of All Being as Tillich developed it in the second volume of his Systematic Theology. For two days I read words with little or no understanding. Eventually something appeared on paper, but it wasn’t very good. Frantz outlines the essence of this famous designation for God in two paragraphs. It is one of the best explanations I have ever read. I could easily summarize his explanation here, but I want you to read the book. It is that good!

~ Dr. Rick Herrick
 
Dr. Rick Herrick (PhD, Tulane University), a former tenured university professor and magazine editor, is the author of four published novels and two works of nonfiction. His most recent book, A Christian Foreign Policy, presents a new way of looking at the relationship between religion and politics.
 
 
 
As this book affirms, God continues to be the great conundrum, the great mystery, the great challenge of human existence. Paradoxically, while people have long claimed to doubt the existence of God, God is still the most important reality in the world.

While many, in recent decades, have wanted to cease using the term God, the author prefers to not relinquish the term because, “for me, along with Martin Buber, it bears too great and complex a meaning and has too many sacred associations.” As an expression of Progressive Christianity, this book invites people to move beyond the God of supernatural theism, the God in the sky, the God of antiquity and the three-tiered universe. The conception of God presented in this book sees God as the great MORE of the universe, more than anything we can say, think, or conceive about God. God is understood mostly as Spirit, but also as infinite love and energy, abiding presence and endless mystery.
 
 
 
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Frantz is a retired United Church of Christ minister. He had long term pastorates in San Diego County and in Miami Lakes, Florida. His service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama in the late sixties spurred his commitment to social-justice ministries and to a spirit of ecumenism as a local church pastor. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Pacific School of Religion. He is the author of The Bible You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In and his just published book: The God You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In. Dr. Frantz and his wife, Yvette, are now retired and living in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Review & Commentary