Tuesday, 11 January 2011

What about God?

To be completely honest, the word "God" does not have a lot to do with my way of being religious - at least not when I consider the word God in a traditional sense. So, when I was asked recently "what is your theology of God?" I fumbled around without a particularly clear answer. The question deserves an answer, even if only because God is the word that plays the central role in most traditional religion.

I find it easy to say what role God does NOT play in my theology. For starters, I am quite convinced that there is no God that controls our lives, unleashes natural disasters, or decides who will "miraculously" survive a terrible plane crash.

I also can not conceive of a God that needs my praise or supplication to encourage God do good in the world. If there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God, would this entity really have a delicate ego in need of human strokes?

I feel certain too that God is not an old white guy with a long beard and a golden heavenly throne. In fact, I can't accept any notion of a gendered God and I don't believe that using the kind of language we use to describe human beings is either helpful or appropriate. God is not the sort of thing we can fully describe or understand; after all, if God is beyond our full comprehension - as most traditions assert - it would probably be best if we could stop trying to do just that.

With all of those traditional images around, I'm inclined to say that the word "God" has more often been an impediment to my spiritual growth than a guide in that journey. After all, it is the prevalence of those views of the divine that kept me away from religion for so many years before I found that there are ways to be religious that don't depend on conceptions of the divine that I find so difficult and unpalatable.

But there have also been times when I have come across understandings of God that do indeed speak to me.

One of these is the conception of God as an intangible force or spirit that leads us toward the good. This God is a flow rather than a consciousness - a direction rather than an answer - a "way" rather than a rule-giver.

Another image of God is as a source - an infinite reservoir of hope and love and compassion upon which we can draw when our own stores have been depleted by misfortune, sorrow, and by the seemingly endless needs of a world in pain.

A third way of seeing God that appeals to me is God as action rather than as entity. This view sees God as the inspiration and revelation that come when we open ourselves to one another and expand ourselves and each other through a deep, authentic interchange. This "God event" brings understanding, compassion, and connection to our lives. God is - in this way of thinking - an action in which we can participate. It is a happening that brings love and justice more surely than any bearded, enthroned, divine ruler.

Can I really put together these loose ends to become a coherent answer to "what is your theology of God?" probably not, and in fact, a clear coherent view of what is essentially unknowable may be contrary to the ineffable nature of the divine essence.

But, a question asked awaits a response, if not an "answer." thus, I would say this:

I conceive of God as beyond understanding. God represents that which we can not prove, or grab hold of and which is yet central to living with wholeness and connection. The conception of God can serve us well if we are careful to avoid the trap of personification. With anthropomorphic images, understandings, and analyses set aside, the incomprehensible, intangible God becomes that which brings us back to the ways in which we choose to live faithfully: to reach outward and be filled when we are depleted, to find a way toward goodness when we are lost, and to participate in the expansive, life-embracing action that helps to create a heaven on earth.


  1. Interesting question!! My answer...

    If there is a divine entity (and I'm a considered agnostic, in that I believe we can never know) then it is unknowable. The many faces of God through the world's religions and histories are simply ways of conceptualising whatever aspect of God is most applicable to human endeavour at the time. It just so happens that the most useful conceptualisation to me is the pagan one, and that's how I focus my meditation and spirituality. But it's just a mental lens, not an anthropomorphalization of the physical moon.

    What one of my committed Anglican friends calls "God" - the answers and voice that comes when praying or meditating - I prefer to conceptualise as my self-conscious being given the opportunity to speak without my conscious/ego getting in the way, even if it's in the guise of the Horned God or one of the Goddess aspects, or from reading tarot cards. He might be right and it might be a divine, sentient entity. I might be right and it might be the untapped reserves of my brain. It might be something else entirely. However, it "works", in that each of us receives the answers we seek from a source we're content to trust. Does it matter that we might be explaining it wrong? I don't think so...

  2. I've really enjoyed reading this blog post Andy and the reply by Red Haired Hiker. Much food for thought and thank you...