Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why do I believe... part 2 (existence of God)

 Why do I believe in God?

So I’ve mentioned God a few times.  Who is He, and why does it matter?  Again, my religion does teach various things about God – that “He” is a family of 3 persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that “He” relates to us in a personal way.  We believe this because it has been revealed this way in the Bible.  But what about those who do not follow the Bible?  What about those who don’t follow any holy book?  Telling them that God is like this because it says so in the Bible is of little consequence. 

This is why I don’t think focusing on the Trinity is the best way to go when trying to explain my faith in God.  Believing in something “because someone said so” is hardly an argument worth stating. 

I believe that God has revealed Himself to us, and continues to do so, but that it is impossible to know Him fully in this life.  An anecdotal side-note here:  I was recently at my best friend’s funeral.  Various people were asked to share a few words about her, and as I listened and shared my own take on who she was, I realized something very life-altering.  Every person who spoke about my friend, Rachel, spoke the truth.  Everything that was said about her was true.  Yet not a single one of us had the full knowledge of her as a person.  Not me, her best friend of 17 years, not her husband of 7 years, not her mother of 34 years.  This was so not because we didn’t love her or pay enough attention to know all sides of her.  This was because we are too complicated as human beings to be fully known by any single other human being.  Only God Himself can fully know us.  Likewise, only God Himself has the power to fully know Himself.  If we can’t even fully know each other, how can we ever expect to fully know God?  We can’t.

So all I can say here about God is that I believe He is the source of all things, including natural laws, the cosmos, nature, all creatures, and everything we may attempt to claim as our own.  I believe that God can only be known in terms of metaphors.  He can be experienced this side of heaven, but we can never express that experience for someone else’s benefit.  We cannot get to know God second-hand.

I also believe that God is not a singular entity, as we often traditionally think of Him, even in the sense that we use a singular (and further limiting masculine) pronoun to refer to the Almighty.  This is merely a convention of convenience.  The Jews have it right – to pronounce the name of God is to presume to know more about Him than we really do.  Instead – and this is what I believe the Trinitarian doctrine attempts to do – God is that which exists where there is love, a relationship.  Taken at face value, this may sound like God is an abstract concept with little appeal for most spiritually-minded folk.  And I think this is why God has revealed the personal aspects of Himself to us, for our benefit, to ease our ability to relate to Him. 

Yet I also believe that if anything stands in the way of our better knowing God, better serving Him, it needs to be ignored, at least for the time being.  If the concept of the Trinity is not helpful the way I believe it is meant to be, then I don’t think it’s necessary to push for it.  Rather than saying that God is three persons, as is believed by Christians, why not say that God is a person, Creator-Father, who incarnated Himself as the man-Jesus, and who remains among us as a Holy Spirit?  Again, the point of my argument is not to teach Christianity, but rather to try to make sense of the existence of God for those who aren’t convinced.

So, God is Source, God is Relationship, God is Mystery.  If you think about it, this translates quite easily to the common saying, God is Love.  Where does our hope, inspiration, courage come from, if not from having love for someone and being moved to act based on that love?  And in even more basic terms, ideally speaking, the way God intended, where does each of us come from, if not from the mutual love that our parents expressed for each other?  We come from love, and we live thanks to love.  So God is Love-as-Source.

Likewise, love cannot be known in isolation, but only in a relationship between people.  While the English language has gotten lazy in its use of the word, we cannot say that loving chocolate, or soccer, or our new haircut is anywhere in the same vicinity as the love we speak of when we talk about loving our parents, children, spouse, siblings, friends.  This kind of love is of God.  So God is Love-as-Relationship.

Finally, what exactly is love?  Can we point to it?  Can we describe it?  Can we picture it?  We only know it based on its results, don’t we?  We only know it’s there based on what surrounds it.  If there is joy, peace, fun, then we know there’s love.  But if there’s violence, sorrow, pain, then we start to question if love is there.  Therefore, love is really a mystery, expressed differently between different individuals, all having equal value.  So God is Love-as-Mystery.

God is not actually someone we can meet and look in the eye and shake hands with.  God is not one of us in the sense that we are all equals.  We are created in His image, yes, but clearly we’re all slightly different – therefore, no single one of us is the mirror image of God.  Rather, put together, all of humanity reflects the image of God.  God is bigger than any one of us.  But it’s very hard to be comforted by such an abstract concept, that seems so distant in spite of being within us.

I leave you with what I consider one of the most beautiful expressions of faith in God found in the Bible.  As I read through Isaiah, I always find myself nodding in agreement and thinking that no doubt creation itself is all the proof I need to believe in God's existence.

Isaiah 40:12-15, 21-26

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? 
Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him?
With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? 
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. 
Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble.
“ To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. 
Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.

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