Island Lagoon, SA 2016

What can be said about God?

Andrew: What we can know about God is really very limited.  To be worthy of being called God, God is necessarily very different from us.  There must be a great un-knowable-ness about God… as in the way that we can never fully know another person, but far more so.  Otherwise God is a tame being to be manipulated and appeased.  This idea was discredited millennia ago, popular as it still is.

 Our knowing will not be the knowing of science, reproducible, experimental and able to be digitized. For in essence, although this knowledge in one sense is a ‘reporting of the facts’ it is essentially a controlling knowledge.  It is not a knowledge which understands, it is a knowledge which stands over and controls by knowing.  If God is God, we will truly stand under, and be transformed… enchanted even, as in love, but never fully know in the way of science. 

So the uncertain, fleeting, mysterious and qualitative nature of knowing an essentially unknowable other person is a better model.  For those who want “hard facts” to write down, the true God will always be something of a disappointment.  God’s essential nature, which makes all theology a helpful guess, always makes literalism and fundamentalism among the most wrong of theologies.

 We meet God in epiphany… in a showing upon which we meditate, and  which we interpret, and in which we may recognize.  Our knowing is dangerously clouded with wish fulfillment, and with delusion.  We want a parental “it will be alright” kind of God- in our fear or outrage we want to cry “God is on our side!”.  We can only think of God by analogy… how much of our analogy is real, and how much simply a projection of our needs or desires?  The task seems hopeless, especially in this culture which is so captivated by ‘popular’ science, which thinks it ‘knows’ and yet which is so narrow in this knowing.  We scarcely know how to know.

But we can turn knowing by analogy and projection to a positive.  We long for a God.  Surely, we cry in our aloneness, there must be some point of origin, some source of beginning. 

If we can see the beauty and symmetry of the world, not only ‘nature red in tooth and claw,’

if we can see purpose, not just anarchy and pain…. 

if we see things of goodness, such as agape love, such as altruism,

if we interpret the world in such a way as to think these are not simply some chance evolution,

then perhaps a God would be the epitome of those good and beautiful things. 

 Perhaps in some way, whatever has given rise to this world is full of these attributes, or is the ultimate reality of these attributes.  Might it not be that the world reflects the essence of its origin?

So from the lessons of science, such as ecology…

from the lessons of history, such as what really does sustain people and the world for good… all people, not just an empire or dynasty, or one economy for a few decades,

from social sciences which are a kind of recent history about how people work and what is good for us, and so on…
perhaps we can see what is truly good and enhancing of values like freedom and civility and integrity and kindness. 

 Perhaps a God would be like all that, only more so.  Perhaps God would be the measure of that stuff, rather than it being the measure of God.

 If we are still enough to take time to contemplate the world, perhaps we will see and feel something that might be this God.  Perhaps only like the ripple in the air caused by someone passing, this theorizing about what is good and what a God might be like will take on an independent reality because our beginning to conceptualise what might be will allow us to see what is.  There may grow for us a sense of something more than theory, something of presence.  A presence that some people will call ‘personal,’ feeling someone with them.  Other people will experience it as Grace… a gift that lets them be at peace and at one with the world rather than alienated from it, or from themselves. Others may call it joy…. a feeling of blessedness that is independent of happiness and circumstance.

 In relating to this God, what guide do we have?  Simply the history of what has been understood about God as it interacts with the issues of today.  There have been people of spirit, the Christs, the Mohammads who may be greater or lesser guides.  To be Christian is to acknowledge and to claim that he had an essential understanding of God, and to model our lives around that understanding.

 There are the lessons of religious history, the scriptures written specifically to explain and preserve the corporate experience of God and how God was present in a in a particular part of history. 

 And there is our faith… that seeking to understand the world in  terms of the God we have sensed, and that seeking to live out life according to what we have understood about that God. 

 We can build up large and precise knowledge from this basis.  We can say quite specifically what is a Christian or Muslim response to a situation.  “It is written…”  But little of this has real and good power unless we have come to terms with how little we really know and how much we are inclined to project our own longings upon this little.  Nor will it have real and good and transcending power unless we  have in some way met that reality we have called God.  There is no real power in a theory about God.  The power is in knowing God, in being captured by the reality of the theory.  That knowing might simply be in committing to our theory, even if we feel no presence. “I feel no God, but something there must be and I believe it would be like this…. and therefore I will live this way.”  For others there may be a sense of a presence apart from themselves… something theology called ‘personal’..  But whatever the case, only   committing to the God we understand to be brings real power in our lives.

Sept 28 2001

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