When sophisticated theologians talk about god, one quickly finds oneself wandering around in a rhetorical fog in which god becomes a constantly shape-shifting entity described by metaphors whose meanings are always just beyond one’s grasp. One has to struggle to understand what they are talking about because what these sophisticated thinkers imagine to be god is so far removed what any ordinary person thinks that I have long suspected that they are actually atheists struggling to find a way to salvage belief in something transcendental that would not be seen as manifestly anti-science or otherwise ridiculous in the circle of intellectuals amongst whom they move.
Pope Francis seems to have a refreshingly down-to earth view of the god he believes in and seems to think that these vague views of god are untenable.
The Christian faith teaches that God is a real, concrete person, not an intangible essence or esoteric mist like “god-spray”, Pope Francis has said.
“We believe in persons and when we talk to God we speak with persons” who are concrete and tangible, not some misty, diffused god-like “‘god spray” that’s a little bit everywhere but who knows what it is.”
Fr Tim Finigan, parish priest in Blackfen, Kent, took up the idea of “god spray” on his blog, saying it sums up “the vague religiosity of many people who are happy enough to use the Church when they need it but stay within the bounds of saying ‘I think it’s nice to have a faith’”.
“I confess that I have already used this quotation in my pastoral ministry and I intend to use it again. It sums up in a gentle way an attitude that we have to challenge,” Fr Finigan said.
It will be interesting to see how theologians respond to this, people like that well-known fog machine Marilynne Robinson whose idea of god seems exactly like the ‘esoteric mist’ or ‘god-spray’ that Francis is dismissing. When Francis says that many people say they believe in god but do not have a clear idea of who he is, he is talking to you, Marilynne. He wants you to shape up and stop talking nonsense.