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A better understanding of God?

Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, who most of us likely had never heard of until recently, has gone out of his way to attack the religious conservatism of Vice President Mike Pence.

Buttigieg, who is gay, has framed his sexuality in religious terms and used language that many Democratic presidential hopefuls do not. He speaks openly about his faith.

“If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade,” Buttigieg said. “And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: that if you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

He has called religious conservatism a “fanatical” ideology.

Religion as political tool is not new, but there have been few Democrats using faith as a campaign talking point lately. For the most part, it has been Republicans who openly discuss their religious beliefs, often to the amusement of so-called progressives.

While I would never vote for Buttigieg, and while our views of Christianity are markedly different, I’m glad to see that Republicans are not the only ones open to discussing something that 75 percent of Americans claim to be. And discuss in a very specific way, not just lofty language about a higher power or a greater good.

Where Buttigieg has gone wrong is that he assumes his ideas of God and Christianity are more correct than Pence’s because they are more progressive or newer. We too often treat theology like a science, and assume that as humanity grows more intelligent our views of God will grow more perfect. But theology is not science.

Our understanding of God does not arc toward a greater knowledge of him simply because humanity has made progress in science, technology and medicine. In fact, it may be moving further away.

Would a serious theologian assume he/she knows more of God than the Apostle Paul? Of course not. Would a serious scientist assume he/she knows more than a scientist of the 1800s? Of course.

Humanity moves toward more knowledge, not less, when it comes to things we can see, measure and test. But we can’t see and measure God in this way. Just this week, the first image of a black hole was created, something that would have been unthinkable 250 years ago.

It’s not surprising that we know more now about space and time and matter. But we can’t apply this same logical process to our understanding of God.   We can’t apply algorithms to aid in our understanding of him.

It might be that humanity’s natural bent is not toward a better understanding of God, but a warping of who God is. Our default trajectory as humans may be to conform God to our image, not the other way round. Already, you can see it in a version of Christianity that ignores the Bible, assuming it to only be an outdated attempt by man to understand God. That sort of Christianity does in fact progress, just like science, but not toward a more perfect knowledge.

It moves further from God and closer to man. It takes what man finds worthy and makes gods of them. It treats truth as bendable, scripture as mere suggestion.

Buttigieg’s faith may be more progressive, but that doesn’t make it more correct. At least he is willing to discuss it though. We need more open discussions about faith, and not just among neighbors and friends. We need our nation’s leaders to be upfront about what they believe — or don’t — about God. Discussing views of God and religion that are different than our own helps us to truly understand what we believe.

Contact publisher Luke Horton at luke.horton@dailyleader.com