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  • Larry Payne

God Meets Us in a Library

Jan and I enjoy libraries, she as a professional and myself as a bibliophile. Our visit to the Library of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland was a marvelous experience. We toured the museum to see the Book of Kells, an illustrated Bible over 1200 years old. We wandered through the Old Library, with its monumental shelves of leather-bound, centuries-old books. We heard a lecture on the national symbol of Ireland, Brian Boru’s Harp. Maybe that says something wonderful about a country that finds identity in a musical instrument! Both of us have ancestors who spent a generation or two in Ireland which made the twisting streets seem like home.

Humans have been building libraries for centuries. The Library of Hattusa in the ancient, sophisticated Hittite Empire of 3500 years ago collected more than 30,000 clay tablets to organize the Kingdom. From papyrus, to parchment, to paper, and now pixels, the quest for knowledge has marked human society. The legend of Adam and Eve tells of such a thirst to know more, and we’ve not changed at all!

Since the Abrahamic faiths believe mankind reflects the image of God, this quest brings a perspective on the Divine. Open Theism teaches that God is learning in dynamic relationship with the universe. God’s knowledge grows every moment as the universe changes. God has a quest for knowledge which includes absorbing the experience of each creature, including this moment as you are reading and changing from this newsletter. This contrasts with classical theology based in Greek thought that God is unchanging and unaffected by the universe. Thomas Oord puts it this way, “God's essence is eternally unchanging; it's stable and steadfast. But God's experience changes moment by moment; it's flexible and forming. The divine experience is like the growing universe. It changes.”[1] We might say, in standing amid the Trinity College massive bookshelves, that God has learned something from every volume.

Today we are inundated by a daily tsunami of information far beyond our capacity to absorb it or library to contain it. The challenge is to focus on what is essential for promoting personal and community well-being. Don’t give up—God is there with you in learning and choosing the best way to live!

[1] Thomas Jay Oord, Open and Relational Theology. SacraSage Press, 2021. P. 39

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