Just yesterday I was having a conversation with one of the summer interns at Mt. Irenaeus when I said to him that the God of the theologians was not God as I had experienced him. Too often I/we let theologians limit our concept of God. God becomes pigeon-holed and limited by what the God scholars say and speak. I don’t intend to demonize theologians, that’s not my mission. I’m grateful that theologians think and write. Today in my mail comes this gift from the Merton Institute and it expresses almost the same sentiment.
Just as we have a superficial, external mask which we put together with words and actions that do not fully represent all that is in us, so even believers deal with a God who is made up of words, feelings, reassuring slogans, and this is less the God of faith than the product of religious and social routines. Such a “God” can become a substitute for the truth of the invisible God of faith, and though this comforting image may seem real to us, he is really a kind of idol. His chief function is to protect us against a deep encounter with our true inner self and with the true God.
Thomas Merton. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone & Patrick Hart, editors (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jonvanovich, 1985): 42.