Catching water in a net: human attempts to define the divine

A short afternoon meeting for PCN members and those who are regular supporters of PCN Dundee and PCN Dundee University only. We will meet Val who will introduce us to some of the themes from her book, 'Catching water in a net: human attempts to define the divine', and informally discuss these together over refreshments.

Start Date:
Saturday 22 June 2013
Start Time:
Meeting Room, Dundee West Parish Church
Dr Val Webb
Students Free
Angela Smith

Any discussion of the Unknowable is metaphorical and thus tentative, humanly imagined, limited and open-ended; and “truth” comes in many shapes and sizes, depending on where you stand. It is unhelpful to narrow God-talk to a few images, many of which not necessarily the major images in the sacred texts.  This book explores a plethora of Divine metaphors, asking where they came from and why; evaluates whether they still hold water or leak like sieves; and ponders where and how to go from here.  It begins with the human inclination to ask about Something More; talks of the metaphorical nature of God-talk; and explores Divine images — saying nothing or describing what the Divine is not (or whether the Divine is at all); Divine formlessness; images from nature; Divine attributes; anthropomorphic metaphors and their problems when they are seen as reality, especially male ruler images. Metaphors across religions are included to demonstrate the common human search. The book also examines the nature and authority of the Bible and thus its claim that the Jewish Jesus was/became God, with consequences for all subsequent God-talk and religious truth claims. Contemporary challenges from science and inter-religious dialogue lead to new images which may or may not satisfy God-seekers.  Rather than an apologetic for or against the Divine, the book invites readers to observe, think and ask, responding to one’s own questions and experience in order to decide whether or not a Divine shape fits into their world view.  Val Webb


There is a difference between knowing that Something exists (or doesn’t) and knowing what it might be (or not be). The former comes through experiences of awe, presence or fear in unexplained events that on reflection seem orchestrated from beyond, the core of any religion. The latter is a second-hand knowledge – human explanations of a Something that then become the doc trines and rituals of the clan.

Many people have no useful Divine images.  They have walked away from their religious tradition because its God was unbelievable or alien or because their churches, synagogues, or mosques were unable to offer new ways to talk about the Sacred.

How can we make contact with Something that cannot be seen and that has made a career of obscurity and silence, or maybe even doesn’t exist?

What do people mean by claiming the Bible is inspired?  Why are stories on the last page of the Acts of the Apostles more sacred than events that took place the following week?

Ultimate truth about God is never found – the message of this book.  All truth is evolving, correctible, and open to more truth as new factors constantly enter our hanging experience, individually and globally … In the end, talking about God and choosing our Divine metaphors come down to faith statements, and different people come up with different answers from the same material … The search for God is ongoing, even for those who have decided that God is not at all, because even that conviction in an ever-evolving world is necessarily always open to contradiction, just as certainty about a Divine Presence is also open to evolutionary disappointment.

Group Programme