I just finished reading a post on "Is God a Recovering Practitioner of Violence" (http://zoecarnate.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/is-god-a-recovering-prac...
) and the many passionate responses, some very angry and judgmental.
While I am quite a newcomer to Quakerism, I began pondering this Light Within me, and how my own personal concept of God has grown and continues to expand .. so I began typing. It just flew out of me as so many thoughts were inside and so many wonderful revelations have "unfolded" to me through my experience of seeking some connection with this God-Thing.
So I posted the following:
What wonderful and inspirational thought! This is precisely the thinking that compels me to seek Quakerism (and other progressive Christian thinkers)! I love talking about God-stuff. So many thoughts and so many directions to consider from the many posts. I type pretty fast, so I hope I don’t get too tangential, but I want to chime in.
I am no expert in theology, and my formal education is limited. What I see is that our problems and irreconcilable differences stem completely from traditional “religion” and the prescribed “religious mode of thinking” – Our solution is in trying to draw closer to God and have an intimate relationship with God through this creation around us, even when their thoughts differ from my thoughts.
If in the Judeo-Christan tradition/thinking of the old covenant needed to change – God, because He made a mistake and created a human flaw called “free will”, then He had to provide a “new covenant” to cover His mistake, what’s to say the new covenent doesn’t need to be updated for God’s people today, too? Why do we insist on limiting the endless possiblities of an infinite God?
Our collective knowledge is limited to our collective experiences. Therefore, as our collective experience of God unfolds, so will our collective understanding. In essence, and for me, God just keeps getting bigger and bigger!
Reason only deduces that if the Universe is unfolding and expanding – God is also unfolding and expanding. Christianity today, based on ancient credos affirm belief in all that is “seen and unseen”. Even Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians emphasizes “God is all and in all”. If God is Light, as the Light expands darkness is dispelled and more Truth is exposed as it unfolds. Therefore, this Divine Revelation is not finished. God also continues to reveal Truth to us, through us, and around us in this time. If I pause long enough to be aware of this, I am amazed and only desire more. What wonders will be revealed for the generations to come!
Our responsibility is to permit the next generation any and all liberties to allow the God of their time to manifest for them, whatever God’s will is to be for them – through them – and as God reveals it to them.
To the seeker, “sola scriptura” might suffice, but I cannot accept (for me) that any ancient conception of this god is already complete or perfect. It may have been sufficient for many before, but in an ever changing world, I tend to see the manifestation of the Divine would logically change to meet our needs, here and now. Our ancestors were simply doing what they were shown to do. When they knew better, they did better.
Personally, I worry about those who blindly follow every wind of emotionally driven doctrine without reason, and those who are elevated by massive congregations to any professional position of authority to “speak for God”. God guides and affirms me as the Divine Breath/Spirit bears witness with my spirit. Anyone who proclaims they (or their brand of religion) know Who, or even What God is, or those who believe they know everything that is to be known about God based on any collective ancient manuscripts, probably don’t. The elitism and self-righteousness of organized religion only imposes predetermined limitations on God and justifies the learned hatred and violence toward anything different – all “in the name of God”. Just as the in the past, we need to consider the long history of the extremists of high “Orthodox Christology” (or the orthodoxies of any other religion for that matter) authorities who throughout the ages waged wars and executed any who were free thinking (“liberal”) or questioned the religious hierarchy (“authority”). Such intolerance and pre-boxed-Ideal of this god-thing they perceived is clearly not this Supreme Being we seek to understand today. Their primitive ideas of the gods were due to their limited understanding of their physical world, so they used spiritual (“mystic”) language to attempt to explain the unknown, which was literally everything material around them.
To any genuine theologian, as the philosophy of god evolved into what it is today, we understand the god of Abraham is clearly not the same understanding of god the Jewish people or even evangelical Christians claim to worship in their congregations today. It seems the only ones who don’t know this yet are the people who passionately follow the mainstream evangelical sects.
As many already mentioned, Abraham was a polytheist. El (actually two forms of the word throughout ancient semitic tribes and cultures, one generic meaning “god” and one proper noun that became the “Eli” of the Canaanites) who had a god-wife, Asherah ,who together begat many god/demigod-children. To Abraham, El was the father of many gods and creator of mankind. Simply, the Semitic equivalent (name) of Zeus or any other polytheistic culture’s list of deities. El was one of the many gods, each over an assigned/certain material and natural realm. Abraham was merely a devotee of El. The Hebrew children merely did what they were shown and worshipped the god of their ancestor, but even their understanding of El eventually evolved and unfolded. It wasn’t until the establishment of a geographical Kingdom and Judaism that El became a monotheistic god and “divorced” from Asherah and thier divine offspring.
If the collective understandings of the god(s) of the Hebrew children grew and changed as the people collectively grew in their own identity as a people, why would this god change and evolve/unfold for them, but not for us? If God is constant – then we must allow for God to “unfolding” for us, and keep our understandings open to new revelation, as well.
As Quakerism and other protestant-forms were born from questioning the common religious doctrine/thought of their day – by the collective actions of passive resistance and silent protest – we are to be able to question the authoritative thoughts about God for our day. We do more harm and less good when we passively acquiese the ability to reason to those we elevate above us to “authorities” or assumed to be “more qualified”, or when we feel inadequate to discuss our experiences of God’s power in our lives.
To understand that science emerged from philosophy, our various theologies also evolved as we began understanding this material world and the Cosmos. Thus, the human thoughts of God – the Ideal – also transformed with an ever unfolding expansion of available knowledge.
As our collective understanding of our Cosmos continues to unfold – the understanding of God unfolds and expands. Organized religion seems to depend heavily on those who are susceptible to following authoritative personalities and unaccustomed to formulating original thoughts for themselves. Thereby, organized (“professional”) religions propagate themselves and ensure their future through fear and elitist ideations, which sadly inevitably result in keeping the Unlimited in a box – and usually for sale. Today, more than ever, religion is big business ($)!
It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about what I do. My soul is thirsting for something gentler and less of the “my god is bigger than your god” mentality. I hope someone will see Goodness and Love through my actions. However, it all depends on the opportunity to discuss and share my experience of this God-stuff and the Divine Ideals/Principles with others.
My experience has been to be content with someone elses concept of God from the evangelical verbal plenarism and apostolic dispensationalism didn’t work. Not for me, anyway. The legalistic “holiness codes” kept me apart from those “Samaritan” friends and the others God would have me living a richer and fuller life among. Instead, I lived in constant fear of death and the punishment of sin. Today, I try to do better – I don’t do this God-stuff perfect all the time, but I’m giving others freedom to express their own understanding and experiences with God. It’s when we get together and share what God is doing around us, or even through us, God manages to mysteriously manifest and materialize (produces “tangible evidence”) in our midst.
What I have learned is that religion tells me God is outside wanting to get in. I was taught that at my best, I am but an abomination, and any good I do would never be enough, which is only in conflict with my innate desire to Love and serve God. What I am learning is that God is already within me, fighting like hell to come out (through my actions).
Those of us from traditions steeped in high orthodox Christologies, there is a tale of when even the Master once tried explaining to a certain Samaritan woman that God is Spirit, and there will come a day when God will be worshiped not on this mountain, or that mountain, but true believers will worship God in spirit and Truth. What I understand that passage of John 4 to mean was that “Salvation” (her freedom from pre-boxed and preconceived notions about God) was there talking to her. I would guess she was never quite the same because of that experience with the Truth revealed to her that day.
Personally, the critical thought of God that I try to focus on today is this unfolding God within me and my increasing awareness of God’s power around me, then what to do about it. The vital thought is my struggle to become more aware of the Light Within me. Not the God of someone else’s limited misunderstanding that feels the need to be above any other, or more right, or divisive, or legalistic, or able to justify every wind of doctrine by extrapolating strings of plenary scriptures completely out of context.
My thought is – anything I think about God only restricts That Which Is to my limited personal experiences of seeking a relationship with God. So, I must concede that I will never know all there is to know about God and I am not qualified to judge what God reveals to others. However, from my experience comes an understanding that if the Divine abides in me – divine actions will be the result – witnesses such as peace, integrity, equality, patience, kindness, compassion, gentleness, forbearance/tolerance, understanding (which requires listening), forgiveness, and the like.
To say any thought about God is wrong, I have given myself authority over God and denies another’s experience of seeking God. While true in progressive Chritian theologies today, the Quaker Witness of Equality provides room enough for all varieties of theologies and human thoughts about God. It is in our ever vigilant seeking, the actions brought about by the genuine desire to know God, that we find our unique and individual understandings of God that will work for us and help us live the lives we are called to live. The understanding that causes us to act more like living witnesses of Light is what God reveals to me, if I am open enough to what God might reveal and genuinely desire/seek it.
What is important to me is in my ever-growing tolerance of others’ understandings, and in continuing to seek God in my personal understanding. As my personal understanding expands, I believe God unfolds in my life. Then, my actions improve as this God-Thing reveals more Light and Truth to me through my experiences.
As long as we are challenged to live by spiritual Truth and Principles, there is only one thing for which there is no law – Love, and “perfect Love casts out all fear”. It is from God’s perfect Love we see humility and respect in the actions of those who truly strive to become more aware of God, which only again alludes to something that is incomplete/imperfect within ourselves.
To consider something different from what we were told is merely God moving us into more Truth. The proof/evidence of any God-consciousness is in our actions toward God’s other children and better stewardship of God’s creation around us.
To say God is unlimited, yet to stop seeking to increase our collective understandings of any possibilities of God through our personal experiences and growth, we are placing definitive absolutes and finite limitations on the Eternal and Indefinite. By our actions to not even consider new and unfolding possibilities, we impose our will and demands on God and on those who will follow us.
I might be wrong and completely off the mark. However, I don’t want to think of the repercussions or impact my self-righteous actions (manifestations of my self-righteous thinking) might have to hinder any individuals from thinking about God. They just may be responding to a personal invitation from their Light Within themselves to draw even nearer.
Beautiful expression of thoughts and thanks for sharing more of God with me!