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God–Endless Mystery, Always Evolving

 

Because the nature and reality of God are always more than our language about God, the only language we have for conversation on God is the language of metaphor.  In other words, in our God talk it is not possible for us to be more definitive or precise because, finally, God cannot be reduced to our verbal assessments about God.

The language of metaphorical narrative is the best we can do.  However, this is not a bad thing; quite the contrary.  Indeed, metaphorical language about God is not only more adequate language (meaning it comes closer to the truth of our intuitions and thoughts about God), it is also a much richer, more expansive, creative, and open way of talking about the Holy One.

Questions of believability about God are very personal questions.  Understandably, belief or unbelief in God varies from person to person.  There is a radical freedom to our belief in God.  This has to be the case.  As human persons, regarding questions of God, or the Spirit, we have to be free to make our own discernments.  There is no other way of doing faith than in freedom, as we are moved by the mystery and wonder of the Spirit.

Fascination with God.  In the introduction to her book, A History of God, Karen Armstrong points out the stunning paradox of belief in God: how over the unfolding centuries, people have claimed:  “While God doesn’t really exist, God is still the most important reality in the world.”

According to Freud, human conceptions of God began to evolve tens of thousands of years ago (estimates range from 100,000 to 250,000 years) after human beings first became self-conscious.  The threshold between consciousness and self-consciousness was a significant barrier along the 13.8 billion year track of evolution.  However, once self-consciousness settled in, we became aware of our mortality and, according to Freud, mass hysteria overcame the human spirit.  In response to this hysteria, over the centuries human beings began to create conceptions of God–of some reality, some power, some protector–to which we could appeal to control and orchestrate events here on earth.

(For a more in depth reflection on Freud and God, I refer you to the chapter on Freud in my new book on God, The God You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In, recently out on Amazon.)

The more we delve in to the reality of God, the truth of God, and the mystery of God, the more we realize how human conceptions of God are the product of the creative imagination–much like music, poetry, and the arts.  This does not diminish God; on the contrary, it enlarges our capacity to conceive of God.

I believe in God.  As a young person growing up, I always had a sense of the presence of

God.  However, I never thought of God as the God of supernatural theism–as an actual being up in the sky or in heaven (wherever that is) who was somehow overseeing events down here on earth.  Somehow, I thought of God as some loosely defined Spirit or presence.  Over the decades as a local church pastor, this God of Spirit eventually became a God of infinite love and energy, abiding presence, and endless mystery.

To be straight forward, I want there to be a God.  Indeed, I like the idea of believing in God.  Independently of human conceptions of God (however they have evolved over the centuries), I believe in God.  About God, I believe God, like the universe, is always evolving, always in the process of becoming.  Along the way, God is forever inviting us to higher spiritual ground.  The spiritual high ground is where love and compassion mingle with humbleness of spirit and profound gratitude for the gift of life.

I respect people who do not believe in God.  But part of me always wants to say: Wow, can’t you do any better than that?  For crying out loud, come up with a bigger God; imagine a new, more adequate conception of the divine.  In other words, Don’t give up on God.  Work it out; it takes time and effort.

In his recent book, Unbelievable, John Shelby Spong has a chapter on “Our Definition of God: Evolving, Never Fixed.”  In casual conversation on God in church settings, Spong notes how people seldom realize how unbelievable their God talk is.  Serious God talk is hard work.  It takes effort and energy.  That is why, Spong says, “Most people cannot bring themselves to embrace the levels of ambiguity that theology requires.”  Again, conversation on God asks something of us.  It’s hard work.  It asks us to work out a conception of God that is adequate to our modern experience in the evolving world.

The big question.  In thinking about God and the creation process, for me, a big question looms over us.  This big question gets at the heart of what God talk and God belief are all about.  The big question is this: Is there some reality, some truth, some presence, some awareness in the universe that is transcendent of human beings?

In other words, are human beings and human experience exhaustive of the ongoing evolution of the universe.  Put another way, are human beings the final disclosure in the evolution of the universe, of life, and of creation?  Finally, are human experience and life as we know it all there is?

This big question has consumed our minds and thoughts since we began walking the earth.  In response to the question of human beings being the final disclosure of the evolutionary process, I want to say NO, we are not the final disclosure.  There is more; I just don’t know what it is.  Put another way, it has not yet evolved.

Others might not agree.  They might think human beings are indeed the final disclosure.  They might think, this is it; we humans are the end of the evolutionary process.  My problem is, I don’t believe this; and I certainly do not want to believe this.  For me, God continues to be the great more of the universe.  More than anything we can say, think, imagine, or conceive about God.  As endless mystery and ultimate meaning, the God of Spirit, infinite love and energy (and more) welcomes us to the journey.

 

The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Frantz is a retired church pastor who began his ministry in the Baptist tradition before becoming a minister in the United Church of Christ. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Pacific School of Religion. He is the author of The Bible You Didn’t Know You Could Believe In and his just published book: The God You Didn’t Know  You Could Believe InDr. Frantz and his wife, Yvette, are now retired and living in Boynton Beach, Florida.

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