Early in the multimedia-based study of Christian theology, “Living the Questions 2.0: An Introduction to Progressive Christianity” (LtQ2) the question is asked, “What is the character of your God?”

This question has become an on-going personal reflection on what God is and what God is not. I continually elicit input from others. Regardless of how much personal contemplation is involved or how much input from others is folded into it, this reflection will never be authoritative or definitive or complete. I am not writing a creed.

To use this reflection as a personal or group exercise or meditation;
1) First, use two people, who are very good at interpretative reading, to present the list as an uninterrupted dialogue. One person reads the “God is” statements, the other person reads the “God is not” statements. Present it carefully and let it breathe – do not race to the end. Instruct the listeners to withhold judgements and evaluations and responses until the reading is finished. Do not attempt to discern the meaning it has for the author or the intent of the author. Do not, in any way, critique the list. Instead, use the reading of the list as a tool or path for personal introspection.
2) After the reading, provide the listeners with a copy of the list. Also, supply them with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. Have them draw a line down the middle of the paper. At the top, on the left write “GOD IS” and on the right write “GOD IS NOT”. The only requirement of the exercise is that every “God is” quality (sometimes expressed as more than one statement) must be paired with a “God is not” quality (which, likewise, is sometimes expressed as more than one statement). Ask the listeners these questions, pausing thoughtfully between each question.
* What was obvious?
* What was confusing?
* What was surprising?
* What was an epiphany?
* How should this list be edited?
* What should be re-worded, rearranged, re-sequenced, added or changed in some way?
* What should be rejected?
* What should be questioned or examined or given more contemplation?
* What should be affirmed?
* What does your list reveal about your relationship with God?
Let them have time to work solitarily. Then, break into small groups – each person in turn is to share one item from their list. Continue sharing until everyone has expressed most or all of their list. Every response does not have to be unique, duplication of a response among different individuals is permitted. This is about listening and sharing, not arguing, not labeling items as “right” or “wrong”. As they hear responses from others, they can edit their own list. Faith is never a strictly personal journey – it is more meaningful and more fruitful in the company of other travelers and seekers.

Only two assumptions are made. The second assumption is that each individual is in relationship with God and that something of the nature of God can be discerned through that relationship.

The first assumption?
God Is.

* * * * * * * * * *

God Is
God is Only Is
God is not was
God is not will be

God is Reality
God is not imaginary

God Exists
God is Important
God is not superfluous
God is not undeniable
God is not inescapable

God is Mystery
God is not unknowable – God can be experienced
God is not confined or constrained by any list
    – including this list
God is not completely enclosed or fully defined or fully detailed by any list
    – including this list

God is Divine
God is not mortal or finite or ordinary

God is Expecting Us to be Divine
God is not made in our image
God is not anthropomorphic or an action figure

God is Infinite
God is not limitless

God is Good and Holy
God is not bad or evil

God is Love
God is not hate

God is conciousness and concious and mindful
God is not mindless or unconcious or unaware

God is Choices
God is not forced options

God is Questions
God is not answers

God is Grace
God is not spiteful or rejecting or conditional

God is Relationship
God is Freedom
God is not regulation or regimentation
God is not a megalomaniac or needing to be in control

God is Truth
God is not a liar

God is Wise
God is not foolish

God is Light
God is Color
God is more than the Spectrum
God is not darkness

God is Peace
God is not angry or violent or punitive or warring

God is Reconciliation
God is not divisive or feuding or a holder of grudges

God is Vibrant
God is not inactive or lethargic
God is not unresponsive or passive

God is Life
God is not death

God is Growth and Maturation and Forward
God is not shrinking or regressive or stagnant or stuck
God is not infantile or Peter Pan or backward

God is Always New
God is never old

God is Always Speaking
God is never silent
(Bruce Epperly, “Why Progressive Theology Matters: God is Still Speaking”, July 20, 2010)

God is Listening
God is not deaf or inattentive

God is Intelligent and Knowledgeable
God is not stupid or ignorant

God is Creative and Imaginative
God is not destructive or innovation-averse or boring

God is Artistic and Musical
God is not unexpressive

God is Inspirational
God is not depressing or jaded

God is Always-Inviting and All-Accepting and All-Inclusive
God is Welcoming and Hospitable
God is not exclusionary or exploitive
God is not unwelcoming or inhospitable

God is Ever Present and Ever Engaged
God is not absent or unreachable or uninvolved

God is Patient
God is not impatient

God is Challenging and Insistent and Relentless
God is an Educator encouraging Learning and Questioning, Knowledge and Wisdom
God is not stopped or paused or giving up on us
God is not a trainer or a score-keeper or an examiner or an inquisitor
God is not dismissive or authoritarian

God is Sympathy and Empathy and Caring and Generous
God is not petty or insincere or callous or greedy

God is Trustworthy
God is not treacherous

God is Careful
God is not reckless

God is the Creator, Artist, Designer, Engineer, and Programmer
God’s Creation is Designed as a Fractal
God’s Creation Works Chaotically
God’s creation does not work randomly
God is not a dictator, puppet master, control-freak, or mechanic
God is not micro-managing or fixing the universe
God is not experimenting or playing with the universe

God is Consistent
God is not capricious
God performs neither miracles nor acts of retribution
God neither intervenes nor condemns

God is Guiding
God is an Influential Presence
God is not intrusive or manipulative
God is not demanding or passive/aggressive
God is not arrogant or tyrannical

God is Liberation
God is not enslaving or restrictive or confining
God is not judgmental or condemning

God is a Good Companion and Friend
God is not arrogant or mean or vindictive
God is not retaliatory or punishing

God Acts only out of Love
God Acts only with Love
God Loves Unconditionally and Uncontrollably
God Invites and Welcomes and Includes without exception or qualification
God does not act out of either vengeance or a sense of punishment
God does not provide either vengeance or punishment
God does not act out of either favoritism or exclusion
God does not choose any person over any other person
God does not choose any group of people over any other group of people
God does not eliminate, abandon, or exclude anyone for any reason for any length of time

God is Singular and Solitary
There are neither multiple nor opposing divine forces

God Acts only To Create or To Transform or To Be in a Loving Relationship with creation
God does not destroy or abandon

God is Humorous and Funny
God is not a prankster, joker, jester, comedian, clown, or fool

God’s Power is Relational and Persuasive
God’s Power is Subservient to the healthy and dialogical relationship God has with creation
God’s Power works through a Shared Vision
God’s power is not unilateral or demanding
God’s power is not definitive of God’s character
(Bruce Epperly, “Divine Power – Unilateral or Relational?”, May 25, 2010)

God has Limits
God without limits is too small and too thin and too diffuse
God is not omnipotent or omniscient or omnipresent

    God is not omnipotent
    God cannot destroy, control, hate, lie, impose, manipulate, exclude, punish, retaliate,
         judge, condemn, act vindictively or capriciously
    God does not imperil our existence or our humanity
    (LtQ2, John Shelby Sprong)

    God is neither omniscient nor omnipresent
    God is Always Here with us in the Now
    God Permeates and Imbues our being – our thoughts, emotions, choices, and actions
        – only through our invitation and practice
    God is an Influential Presence
        only to the extent that we make ourselves aware of it
        and learn to be sensitive to it
    God is in Relationship with us
        while being deliberately unaware of our future
        and forgivingly dismissive of our past
    God is not in the past or the future
    God cannot intrude in or interfere with or impose on life
    God does not preplan or predestine the course or end of life


About Doug Sloan

Doug is a member of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 4950 East Wabash Avenue, P.O. Box 3125, Terre Haute, IN 47803-0125 (812-877-9959). Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is an open and affirming congregation. Doug is an Elder, has served as Treasurer, enjoys his continuing membership in the choir as the lowest voiced bass and currently is serving as an At-Large member of the Regional Board of the Indiana Disciples of Christ. As a member of the O&A Elders group, he helped write a resolution to change the ordination policy of the Indiana Region. The resolution will be presented at the 2012 Indiana Regional Assembly. He graduated in 2009 with a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana State University and a BS in Management Information Systems from Ball State University in 1997. Since August 2005, he has been a member of the CIS Adjunct Faculty at the Terre Haute campus of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He has been published in DisciplesWorld and Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. In the summer of 2010, Doug became a contributor to this blog: [D]mergent.org
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4 Responses to GOD IS…

  1. yies1 says:

    Wow. Powerful and Enjoyable.


  2. cryingwhale says:

    Excuse me, but I believe you have a half-God, with your “is” and “is not”. It seems to me that you talk about love, and not God who is behind it all.

  3. cryingwhale says:

    My answer would be that God is behind all and everything – even evil and hate.

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