Reflection on our Theologies and Idolatries

This course seeks to train us to 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.

Choose someone you know, preferably an elder or someone your senior, and interview him or her about his or her understanding of God. The person does not need to be a believer (whatever you take that to mean). Compare and contrast that person's image of God with the image of God you are getting from this course. How do these images compare? coincide? complement? contradict? In your comparison, make sure you draw substantively on the course materials as they are relevant: lectures, Newbigin, and either Barron or Barth/Ratzinger on the identity of God — and, if they too are relevant, Narciso or Wilson on renderings of God from outside communities of faith.

Now evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of that person's image of God. Based on what you know so far, is his or her God an "idol" — that is, a fundamentally false and harmful image (even if accurate in some respects), or an "icon" — i.e., a fundamentally true and helpful one (even if distorted in some respects)?

Note that this assignment has three aspects: description, comparison, and evaluation. You can mix them together in your essay, but you need to do all three clearly enough that your readers can tell, or you will not have fulfilled the assignment.

Please keep your paper three pages, double-spaced, and follow the directions in my handout for writing papers. 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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