Is God the Good We Do? (A reflection on last month’s PARABLE)


benedikt book imageWriting, especially poetry and theology, resides deep in my soul. It makes me ache—words make me ache. The finitude and infinitude of language, and the power of that paradox make me ache. Speaking for myself, then, I felt discomfited as our guest seemed to dismiss those things that are much of my lifeblood—poësis and metaphor. And apparently, I was not the only one wondering about God and suffering in Benedikt’s solution to “traditional theology’s problematic issues of theodicy and omniscience.”

To backtrack, our guest for Parable in January was Michael Benedikt, a professor of architecture at the University of Texas. Benedikt wrote a provocative book called God is the Good We Do: Theology of Theopraxy. Theopraxy is Michael Benedikt’s word, meaning God is practiced or performed—God is summoned into being by the practice. He described God as a certain pattern of action—action performed by humans. Benedikt, too, professes fascination with poetry and metaphor, understanding metaphor as poësis (a Greek word meaning production, composition) rather than science. For Benedikt, what ultimately matters is how one carries oneself in the world, not the metaphor. God is good, and only good, and we bring God into being only when we perform good acts.

My discomfort was ameliorated by John Burnett’s comment about how freeing it is to think about God in new ways, but yet not fully agreeing with Benedikt—that his argument limits God, a thought running itself over and over in my head as our guest spoke—gets to the very heart of the evening’s conversation. Benedikt’s parents experienced the Holocaust—surviving barely imaginable suffering. But where is God within that suffering? Is God in suffering? And can our words truly limit God? Is it we who bring God into being when we perform good? Are we imago dei or is God imago hominus?

It’s now a month later, and I hope that it is apparent in my writing that I am still turning this over in my mind, still aching, considering words and action. Humans are creatures of action, of participation, and part of that participation comes in the form of language, of words. And so I invite you to Parable, to be pleasantly and discomfortably stretched in a safe space.

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