“Our. God. Feels.” Pastor Dave Bushnell slowed down, pronouncing the words distinctly. Then he stopped, giving us a moment for the three syllables to sink in. “Our God reigns” might have been what the audience had expected him to say, from the title—and the refrain—of the popular worship song by that name. This inversion of expectations roped listeners into the message.
Bushnell is a wiry man with close-cropped hair. On the third Sunday in January, he was dressed in faded blue jeans and a red, white, and black plaid button-down shirt. Behind him, a large screen, one of many in the cavernous auditorium of Cornwall Church, displayed a collection of verses from the Bible’s Old and New Testaments. Here were verses in which God the Father and Jesus Christ expressed what sounded suspiciously like emotions. Compassion, distress, sorrow, regret: the whole gamut of human feeling. Such seemingly emotional passages have long presented a problem for theologians because they seem to contradict classical Christian formulations about God—His being all knowing, all powerful, unchanging, and good, for instance.