Reflection on our Theologies and Idolatries

"There are many gods and many lords," said Paul (1 Cor. 8:5). We have spent some time in class discussing the diversity of beliefs about God. Many in our culture insist that such beliefs are not to be criticized, only affirmed; a mentor and friend in my field calls this "relativism." Others insist that what they believe is just right and that all people must believe it; my colleague calls this "imperialism." This course is pursuing an alternative to both, in which we remain both centered on God as revealed definitively in Jesus Christ and open to ways we might understand that definitive revelation better than we do now.

That is an acquired skill. I intend this assignment to help you acquire it.

Compare and contrast either your own image of God, or that of someone close to you, with the image of God you are getting from this course. Draw substantively on the course materials (McKim, Work, Newbigin, Barron) in your description. How do these images compare? coincide? complement? contradict?

Now evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your (or your loved one's) image of God. Based on what you know so far (and admitting that we are still quite early in the course), is his or her God an "idol" — that is, a false and harmful image, or an "icon" — i.e., a true and helpful one?

Note that this is a two-part assignment: description, and evaluation. You need to do both clearly enough that your readers can tell, or you will not have fulfilled the assignment. Note also that failure to draw substantively and not just shallowly on all the course materials listed will constitute failure to answer the question. Finally, note that you have a lot to accomplish in such a short paper, so your prose will need to be both pithy and concise if you are to do well.

Please keep your paper three pages, double-spaced, and follow the directions in my handout for writing papers. Focus on Harvey chapter 3. Remember, I want to see proper style, clear writing, a thorough answer to the question, and explicit citations of course materials.

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