Monday, January 16, 2012

Theology From The Plain Part One - The Term "God"

I am a person who uses God language.  Atheism does not make sense to me given my approach to God.  You see, to me “God” is the word for “that which is” or for whatever is ultimate.  So it makes little sense to me to think that God doesn’t exist.  I can certainly criticize different concepts of God and be labeled an atheist because I don’t believe in this or that version of God, but “God” is my preferred term in seeking for a greater understanding and experience of existence.   I don’t want to use a term like “unfathomable mystery”, at least not exclusively.  I want to use the term “God”.   The former has too much of a connotation of being “out there”.  Rather, God (I am going to stop using quotes now) is more personable and encompasses me, and all things, more readily.
So what is God?   Well that’s the journey, isn’t it?  Is God a person in any sense?  Is God the selfless void from which all things spring - the ultimate expression of humility and giving love?  Is God the cosmos?  Is the cosmos in God?
I have ideas about all of this, but I am also pretty agnostic about many things.  In fact, I have come to love the label “reverent agnostic”.
But I am not agnostic in approaching existence through the interface of faith. And my idea of faith is not intellectual submission to specific claims about history or authority, but rather it is simple trust.
Perhaps I can be criticized for being too flexible with the idea of God.  I realize that in the culture wars of today, God has come to mean certain things, but throughout history God has meant many things.  Even to the deacon in the pew every week, how do we really know what associations he or she brings to the word God?  You see, I do believe that most people approach God in a way that is more personal than doctrinal.
In light of this, I could be criticized for making God an irrelevant term.  If it can mean anything to anybody, then what is its use?
This is simple.  God is a useful concept not because it unites us in what we see, but because it unites us in a common direction of looking.
I understand that for others the term does not work this way.  Perhaps it has been spoiled by the trappings of sectarian religion.  This is fine, of course.  I understand that for others, different frameworks might work better.  But for me, God remains at the epicenter of what it means to explore this life.
We argue about what we see and what we hope to see.  But, for those who employ the term, God is a finite crucible into which we try to pour the infinite. 


  1. This made me smile for several reasons but one in particular is that I am constantly wanting to yell at people here in Oklahoma...."Give me back my theological terms or learn what they really mean." I am clearly in the minority with my belief that I can say God in prayer rather than or more frequently than Jesus and still be Christian. You put it much more eloquently than I, but I am with you.

  2. God has been spoiled by the trappings of sectarian religion. Brilliantly stated piece. Thanks.

  3. Thanks AmyC and J.Elmore!

    Thanks for your perspectives - I love it when people obviously care and seek - despite losing the taste for certain religious practices or doctrines. I feel you both probably fit into this category.....?