DEFINING GOD

May 10, 2018

 

 

 

How do you define God? Is He some ethereal being "up there" or "out there" beyond the black hole? Is He a malevolent old man meticulously keeping a ledger of our behavior? Anything or anyone you can define, you inevitably confine. The ultimate presumption is to believe what we think about God defines Him. Humans have an insatiable need to categorize and quantify. Being wired with five senses, we can’t resist measuring, counting, and naming. Our left brain is adept at logic, calculation, and language, fearing anything it cannot explain.

 

When man invented quill and paper, he began, with darkened consciousness, to capture his idea of God. However, God cannot be 'comprehended' in any specific idea or concept.  God cannot be defined by emotion or spiritual sensation. Our experiences may remind us of God’s presence, but their absence does not prove God’s absence.  God eclipses our minds and is greater than our hearts. Augustine said, “The supreme excellence of divinity exceeds the capacity of our customary speech. For God is more truthfully contemplated than spoken about, and is more truly there than thought can comprehend.” The Word (bible), and our words about The Word point to a reality greater than words can contain. Our attempts to describe Him are like a toddler attempting to explain trigonometry.

 

The scriptures use metaphors to refer to God as creator, a father, even a mother who gives birth, and nurses her children.  However, these are only metaphors, they do not fully define who God is in God’s entirety.  Ignatian spirituality for example does not constrict God to a particular gender or metaphor. I read a blog recently that used the pronoun she for God.  Calling God she can sound blasphemous to those who have always known God as a Father. I don't think the writer was saying that God is a woman, just as no one should assume that other biblical metaphors can fully sum up God's essence.  I think, as Ignatius would tell us, that since God meets us and communicates with us uniquely, certain metaphors and images of God are more helpful for some than for others. If you were talking to someone who has no religious background and had an abusive father, telling them God is a loving father wouldn't compute.   Thomas Aquinas said,  “God speaks according to the mode of the receiver.” Using a particular metaphor or pronoun can highlight a certain aspect of God’s character, but we must remember that metaphors are still limiting. 

 

I agree with the Christian mystic of the thirteenth century, Meister Eckhart, when he expressed the indescribable God like this: “I pray God to rid me of God.” The Cloud of Unknowing, written by an anonymous English monk said, “Thought cannot comprehend God. And so, I prefer to abandon all I can know, choosing rather to love him whom I cannot know. Though we cannot fully know him we can love him”. In the later stages of the journey, of course, loving becomes its own kind of knowing—the deepest kind of knowing. God may be reached and held close by means of love, but never by means of thought." 

 

I'll leave you with the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:19-21 Living Bible (TLB) "For God says, “I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.” So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense.  For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance."

 

-RW

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