Written by one of the most prolific and devoted writers – William Placher – Narratives of a Vulnerable God became a challenging but very interesting discussion about the place of God in the universe and every person’s heart. Significantly, this book became a very intriguing plot for the utmost believers who had to percept the essence of God as the all-mighty power. The work is entirely interesting and worth reading over and over again. One of the turning points in altering the understanding of God is in chapter 3 where Placher does make you rethink the traditional understanding of God standing outside of time. There is nothing more tempting and, at the same time, challenging for a believer than reconsidering the fully-used to- notions and aspects of the religion. William Platcher was a masterful debunker of the myths and common traditional beliefs. It is not that he turned the understanding upside down; rather it was a mysterious guideline for people to love and cherish their God even more through perceiving God’s love differently – more maturely. So, this paper will elaborate on a different perception of the overall concept of religion through changing a concept of God’s eternity to God’s trustworthiness, which is more mature and closer to heart conception.
Placher skillfully offers a piece of writing in chapter 3 that presents Christological ideas to make everybody turn to religion and pay precise attention to biblical narratives. The most powerful and significant result of Placher’s writing was that he determined God’s love as a prerogative not entire power in the first place. This derives a notion that God’s primary effect is love and this means he is vulnerable to suffering just like people are. However, many consider religion to be somewhat despotic (though it is an exaggerated term) since God exercises his power roughly and irreversibly sometimes and all that people have to do is put up with his decisions compliantly. As such, Placher’s work is unbelievably great in debunking this concept and telling people that God loves them as much as they can love anyone because God is the same as human beings since he can suffer.
Therefore, there is another notion that is derived from the author’s writing. The reader ultimately understands that God is eternal not because of timelessness but rather because of his trustworthiness. Moreover, Placher uses the image of Trinity as proof of mutual love. He claims that a person tends to indicate God with power that makes him free from the burden which is not so because God as Triune is exactly the image of mutual love and sacrifice. God does not look at the world and earthly problems as if they do not matter. “Time is not a standing circumstance but a flowing one” (NVG, p. 29) and God does follow the time just like people do. He does not exercise his power disregarding the time frames, on the contrary: he loves people, and his son’s sacrifice means he is trustworthy. That means a lot here is God’s inner mutuality of love. The author highlights that his love is harmonious as the Trinity is.
Moreover, the thought that Placher tended to convey to the reader about the timelessness of God is perfectly supported with the explanation of the religion’s need as a political driving force. Unfortunately, religion has long been a tool of late capitalist society. This led to altered religious beliefs conveyed into the masses. People started taking up faith as an intolerable and patriarchal issue. However, Platcher does a great job dealing with this historical-theological period as a wonderful example of how God survived through that and remains in people’s hearts. Hence, this may give a powerful start to renewing Protestant churches and maybe the culture overall. Addressing the term of maturity, it is necessary to say that people have long been guided by past political orders’ authorities to believe that religion and the substance of God’s faith is something full of sufferings compulsorily. A person was led to the thought that he/she had to obey because God wants him/her to, while this could bring lots of suffering to a person’s life. Thus, true believers had to put up with the fact that God uses his power to make people suffer, which in its turn was considered to be a perfect way to revelation. In other words, the nation had to undergo struggles, grief, pain, etc to find out why God puts them through this; they had to understand how strong they were for God would never impose such hardships if he did not a person to see his real love. However, Placher argues this in his book, chapter three, and does it masterfully. He explains that the entire concept of religion back in the days was made up to make people more obedient and feel safer about political events. He argues that nowadays people have to accept the religious concepts differently because God loves people and undergoes the same suffering. This places him approximately at the same place with a suffering human though always a little higher as a universe’s creator.
The significance of Placher’s work is in its mediatory character. The reason the author claims that God is timeless is that there were different societal conditions to form religion’s adaptation, as stated above. So, Placher tended to mediate between claims that gospels are full of ambiguity (post-structuralism) and history-like biblical stories to prove the trustworthiness of the Bible. What Placher offers is not confront the Biblical stories dialogically claiming that he exists or does not exist, neither does he suggest looking for ambiguities and indefinite endings in Bible; rather, he strives to create a different environment to say that God is a source of love disregarding how this may fit into current or separately taken political or social atmosphere. It is decisive to know that God does not exercise his almighty power to show his significance and make people scared, it is all the way around: God’s power is love and that is why he is so mighty.
It has to be understood from Narratives of a Vulnerable God that it is much more pleasant to percept God as a caring and loving being than an out-of-touch king with superpowers. This concept makes God closer to people because they start associating him with themselves which leads to a better understanding of his motives. The explanation of Placher in chapter three of his book unveils a proper understanding of God’s intentions and his closeness to people’s soles. However, in this case, we can validly argue that while God is being so vulnerable, why would people need such a ruler? The purpose of this question is to reveal the author’s intention to show readers that God does not need to be unchanged, unmoving, and compassionless to rule the world as people used to be convinced past several centuries in a row. On the contrary, this kind of vulnerability makes him a wise, thoughtful, and sympathetic power that guides people and makes them follow this example. The postliberal theology of William Placher is just a wonderful representation of God that happens to be transcendental. This means that God can be kind and sympathetic which means he is inevitably immanent in creation. Unlike many other theologists, Placher makes it possible to transcend God and, therefore, realize that the all-mighty power from above does act and make decisions the same way as ordinary people do – with hesitation, sometimes pain, and sacrifice. God risks vulnerability to show people he is somewhat tangible.
In conclusion, it has to be said that Placher did a great job unveiling God’s vulnerability to Christians. He did unveil his vulnerability as closeness to people’s feelings and emotions rather than God’s weakness, which directly places God at the most respected and wisest position any ruler has ever taken. This way God is free of time boundaries. He is eternal because people’s feelings have always been the same and God is sympathetic and trustworthy disregarding time, social conditions, and politics.
Placher, William C. Narratives of a Vulnerable God. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994. Print.