Sunday, January 11, 2015

God Is God

The always articulate and engaging creator of the Secular Wings blog often graces my blog with engaging comments. On my recent post about My Pantheism And What Became Of It, she asked me

"I gave in, and admitted that God was God."

Any chance that you will writing about the God in future writings? The Bible God as you once believed? Triune? Heaven? Hell? Resurrected Jesus? etc. Wondering what you mean by God.

Just in case some of my other readers might be curious along those same lines, I thought I would make an answer the subject of my next post, which happens to be this one.

God is a loaded word now, I know. I type it and automatically many will readers conjure up images of the fundamentalist's version, or maybe more accurately, vision, of Yahweh.

Nevertheless, it still serves as a handy shorthand for referring to the Ultimate Reality. I'm also quite comfortable talking about the Logos, the Supreme Mind, (don't care much for the title Almighty, because I think it calls to mind the idea of an anthropomorphic "superman," which doesn't adequately express the way I think about God), the Creator, etc. Emerson's "Oversoul" is nice, I think. Yeah, I really like that latter. But it, too, is subject to misinterpretation. Therefore, I mostly stick with God - as a shorthand for that which the finite mind cannot fully comprehend.

My summary paragraph in my what happened to my pantheism post was

Before I embraced Pantheism I had been a Deist. I was looking for a way to reconcile my feelings about creation with the hard facts of science. A distant and detached God did not do that for me. A metaphorical God, sexed up atheism [here I was using Richard Dawkins' characterization], did not do it. I am returning to my earliest belief [here I mean before my childhood indoctrination into fundamentalist Christianity] - that there is an ultimate reality, or as C.S. Lewis put it in telling of his turning from Atheism to Theism, "I gave in, and admitted that God was God." I had been in rebellion against my deepest intuitions for many years, but now I'm returning. I'm returning to peace of mind and heart.

I chose that particular Lewis quote because after watching a dramatization of his conversion from Atheism to - not at first Christianity, but - a generic Theism, contained in the excellent PBS special The Question of God, I was moved to think about my own struggle.

When, in that dramatization, Lewis knelt by his in bed in his lonely room, clasped his hands in prayer, and, as his own later narration put it, "gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."

I couldn't help but think of how tired I had become of struggling with myself about the God question. And that is how I found peace. Not in being "converted" to anything; no, I had simply came to peace with what I had known in my heart since childhood: I do believe in God and never stopped believing. I tried to, I suppose, I had redefined God almost beyond all practical understanding. But to be honest with myself, I did believe God and do believe in God. I could never embrace the concept that I (and all of us) was a tiny and insignificant part of a huge cosmic accident, that existence was some freak incident coming, literally, out of nowhere, with no ultimate purpose whatsoever.

This has nothing to do with "the Bible God." Indeed, I don't think there is a "Bible God." There are several different visions of God in the Bible. The systematic theologians created the concept of "the Bible God." They ignore and downplay the evolution of the concept of God contained in their sacred literature.

No, what I think about God is that God is the Ultimate Reality, the cause and sustainer of this great morality play we call life.

I believe the various religions and concepts about God, mine included, are all imperfect human attempts to understand that Reality. Imperfect because we humans are finite creatures. I believe there is a Divine Source which waters the thousands of rivers and streams from which the spiritually minded drink and bath.

The word religion is also problematic. But I have found it somewhat indispensable in my efforts to explain what I believe. Here I suppose I must be content to take a quote from Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits which resonates with me:

The foundation of religion is not the affirmation that God is, but that God is concerned with man and the world; that, having created this world, he has not abandoned it, leaving it to its own devices; that he cares about his creation.

I must now leave untouched some the other points that were brought up in the original question. My still developing thoughts about those things will be the subject of future posts.


  1. "Indeed, I don't think there is a "Bible God." There are several different visions of God in the Bible. The systematic theologians created the concept of "the Bible God." They ignore and downplay the evolution of the concept of God contained in their sacred literature."

    I am much closer to being a conventional christian than you, but I still agree with this, and think it is very important. Once we understand that there are several viewpoints expressed in the Old Testament, signs of progress in understanding between the law and the prophets and then into the New Testament, and that the NT writers and Jesus don't always treat the OT as literal and sometimes change its meaning, it must change something in how we think.

    People mostly argue about what we each think is the true belief about God, but I also wonder about how much fuzziness about the margins is acceptable to God. In mathematical terms, we argue about the mean but I also wonder about the standard deviation.

    I too like the Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits quote.

    1. Hi unkleE, and thanks for your comment. I bet if you talked to twenty different people who know me - say, people I work with, my neighbors, old friends, people I do business with, my cyber friends, even my family - you would come up with twenty different expressions of who I am. I'm certain there would be great similarities, but I'm sure there would be some conflicting ideas. How much more so with God, who is experienced by billions of us!

  2. Many versions of God in the bible, I guess I never heard that put so succinctly, but yes, I can see that. We all chose our pet version (wrathful/hates the sames things I do- loving/ all forgiving).

    I like to think of ulimate reality as non-anthropomorphic myself, if there is such a thing.

    1. Hi, Alice. God is envisioned different ways throughout the Bible. Sometimes rather crudely, I think, especially in the Pentateuch. I'm with you on thinking about the ultimate reality as non-anthropomorphic. But speaking anthropomorphically is handy sometimes in making points. Other times not so much. Religious language is rich in metaphor.

  3. Just getting back to your blog now. Thanks for clarification. Looking forward to your "developing" thoughts. Especially in regards to the rest of my question. :)

    1. Yes, I will be getting to that as promised, as soon as I have the time to do it justice. Not an easy thing to do. I mean trying to put these things into words in a way which expresses adequately what I think. And I'm still rather open-minded about these things.