Monday, December 1, 2014

What is God?

It's Advent, which some denominations consider the beginning of the church year; I've declared a new phase in my life to be less busy and more reflective, so I will start writing about some aspects of religion and "the church."

Why not start with God.  There are numerous writings about "What is God", "Who is God", "Knowing God" and countless others.  To become a minister in the Presbyterian Church, and I suspect in many other denominations, one must write a statement of faith.  Many, actually most, model their statement after the Apostles Creed which I remember reciting in church every Sunday as a child.  I believe in God the father, the son and the holy spirit or holy ghost.  I've heard said that the Trinity is the basis for our faith; without the belief in the "three persons" our faith could not exist.

Let's start there.  First, the Holy Spirit is difficult to understand and often plays an inferior role to the other two, even by those who profess the equality of the three.  Perhaps the Holy SPirit is merely our explanation of God influencing our lives.  Maybe a distinct individual is not a fact but our way of understanding and explaining a part of God's behavior.

Now we're down to two, and many persons and religions question whether Jesus was God or a great influential teacher.  Perhaps it doesn't matter what Jesus was, just that his message of love is relevant and powerful.  Besides if Jesus is the son of God and we are the children of God, how are we different than Jesus with regard to our relationship to God?  Are we not created in the image of God or are we a lesser sampling of the image of God?  We don't have to give up the message of Jesus by not considering Jesus God.

Now we're down to just God which is consistent with many other religions of the world.  If there's one God and all religions have some form of doctrine around the Golden Rule of "doing to others as you would have them do to you" maybe there are more similarities than differences among religions.  After all even those who claim Jesus as a source of their religious beliefs and doctrines have major differences.  Maybe we need to look beyond our family tree of religions for advice and consultation.

Finally there remains the question of the actual existence of a God.  Personally, as often as I try to claim there is no God, I find myself reflecting that God does exist.  However, I heard Steve King, the author, say recently in an interview that he believes in God because if God does exist, he's got it right and if God doesn't exist, he'll never know when he dies.  Another statement that I've heard repeated frequently, and probably only recently heeded its value or importance, is that as broken human beings we need to believe that there is a higher power that will help us be unbroken.  That in itself does not mean that there is a God, only that we think we need a God to exist to fulfill our lives.

So what would I include in my statement of faith?  There is a God.  It's that same God that all persons call God by their many different names and is described by their many different theologies.  Jesus is an awesome teacher as were Mohamed and Buddha and Moses and possibly but not necessarily God.  It's a continuous journey and with every moment there's an opportunity to understand more.  I rejoice with the seekers and sojourners and suffer for those who think they have reached the end of the journey and nothing can or will change.

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