Is God boring?

I was struck the other week when a friend spoke to me about the hard time he was having drumming up interest in a sermon series on God. It seems it is so much easier to grab people’s interest if the sermons are recognizably about us in some way or other. This is, of course, simply another form of the age-old concern about relevance. In a consumer-oriented age, those who listen to sermons want to know the cash value up front.

As those who believe that the Bible is the word of God and that effective proclamation of that word should show the way it cuts across the grain of life in a fallen world, perhaps this doesn’t bother us overly much. While we don’t want our preaching and teaching to degenerate into an endless series of self-help lessons, we do want people to realize that God’s truth is meant to make a difference. But is there, perhaps, another more serious issue here that we should recognize and address?

19th-century liberal theology has regularly been criticized for turning theology into anthropology—for putting the focus on human beings and our experiences (in particular, our religious experiences) rather than on God. There were certainly philosophical commitments behind this shift, but the practical effect was to ensure that we kept talking about us. This human-centredness in German Protestant theology provoked the revolution of the early 20th century which is usually associated with Karl Barth.

But could we, for other reasons and in a very different way, have allowed
21st-century Christianity to have a very similar orientation to human concerns, human needs and human action? Are we more liberal than we realize? Even when clothed with God-language and fortified with verses from the Bible, are we often just talking about us? Is this where the search for relevance has led us?

Perhaps we need to recapture a sense of wonder at what God is like and what he has done. Perhaps we need to show people again that thinking about God for God’s sake is neither boring nor irrelevant. God himself is not the problem; it is the way we often talk about him.

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