What is God – A 21st Century Image ‎

What is God? | Total Comments: 0 | Total Topics: 0

			Judaism tends to stress the unknowable quality of God as a cardinal element of faith. This has ‎the advantage of not limiting God to any finite image. It allows God the freedom to exist ‎beyond any human conception or perception. But it suffers from the perpetual problem of ‎remaining nothing more than a vague concept of the mind and not a real part of experiential ‎life. This is the dilemma of Jewish belief – God can never be fully understood, for to do so ‎would be to put God into a box that is no bigger than the human mind. ‎
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So what are we to do about this dilemma? How can we remain somewhat faithful to Jewish ‎tradition and yet venture forth into a territory that goes beyond Jewish tradition? We do have ‎some clues as to the direction we could head. We have collected these clues from images of ‎the distant past, the more recent past, and the present. Maybe we can piece some ideas ‎together to formulate at least a path to an answer. Whatever we come up with, of course, will ‎be nothing more than a suggestion cobbled together from personal leanings and assumptions. ‎It cannot be stressed enough that each person has to come up with their own answer. ‎
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We can gather at least four specific clues from the 20th century images: ‎
‎1.‎	God is the Source of existence ‎
‎2.‎	God is the dual reality of a transcendent ‘out there’ existence and an immanent ‘in ‎there’ existence ‎
‎3.‎	God no longer directly intervenes on a global level in the manner described in the ‎Bible ‎
‎4.‎	God’s image evolves with the changes that take place in the created world ‎
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Numbers 1 and 2 are solidly grounded in Jewish tradition. Number 3 is directly at odds with ‎both the Bible and rabbinic beliefs, and with mainstream views of Jewish philosophy and ‎mysticism. It is a highly controversial position that is sure to rile up a great amount of ‎disagreement and resentment. It simply appears to be a necessity in light of evidence like the ‎Holocaust and modern science. Number 4 is the least compelling of the clues and the most ‎dispensable. However, it does mitigate, to some degree, the problems with tradition that ‎emerge from number 3. ‎
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There is one more clue that we have that is even more debatable than any of the others. This is ‎an idea that has been tossed around in religious circles in one form or another for centuries. ‎This clue takes the form of the ‘God shaped hole in the human conscience’ that has grown ‎steadily since God began being pushed out of the picture in relatively recent times. This idea ‎claims that God is something that has to be found in the human conscience and dismissing it ‎always comes with the price of a feeling of loss. While many people disagree with the whole ‎idea, and others may agree with it but are willing to live with it, it does seem like a fairly solid ‎guideline in looking for our slippery answer. We need God. God must be something that fits ‎squarely into a basic human need. ‎
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With these clues we can proceed. We are venturing out into the realm of speculative theology ‎that will unavoidably cross somebody’s limits of heresy. But we are looking for an answer to ‎an extremely vital and exceedingly difficult question. Forbidden lines are going to have to be ‎crossed. ‎
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God is the Source of existence. The very reality of being is the greatest demonstration of ‎God’s existence. No scientific theory can ever dislodge this idea. It may not fit into many ‎people’s idea of what God should be, but it is the most basic concept possible. This idea, of ‎course, can be traced to the Bible, but there it appears as more of an outside Creator. What we ‎are talking about encompasses the Biblical conception but also includes the mystical idea of ‎all of existence emanating from God’s essence. These two images, Creator and Emanator, can ‎work together if one allows that creation (meaning existence) took place within God rather ‎than outside of God. This is the first clue and will probably prove to be the most useful. ‎
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God is not only the Source of existence, but God is the existing reality itself. This is the ‎pantheist portion of the panentheist view that seems to be the ultimate product of Jewish ‎theological tradition. This idea is surprisingly difficult to assimilate in light of the classical ‎bias towards an ‘outside’ God that is so strong in the Bible and rabbinic tradition. However, ‎it is essential to a theology that includes the discoveries of modern science. Any view that ‎maintains God’s transcendence but not God’s immanence is bound to run into the problem of ‎pushing God out of the picture. God’s immanence guarantees that however firmly we embed ‎the workings of the physical world within a set of natural laws, God will always be present in ‎everything. ‎
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A crucial component that emerges from the combination of the transcendent and immanent ‎aspects of God is the existence of a spiritual dimension. This dimension is entirely lacking and ‎extraneous in the purely physical view of atheism. It is a product of the creation process itself. ‎The very fact that God is the Source of existence and that God is found within all of ‎existence, embeds the spiritual within the physical. Spirituality, according to this view, does ‎not arise from an outside domain that exists beyond the physical, but is an inherent quality of ‎all things that can be found everywhere if one only chooses to look for it. It is the innate ‎presence of God that is within all and is all. ‎
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God’s intervention in the world comes about through God’s immanence in the world. The ‎two are one and the same. God is no longer to be looked upon as an outside deity who ‎imposes His will upon His creations, but as a spiritual power embedded within those creations ‎that permeates every level of their existence. This may seem to be a diminishing of God’s ‎powers, but it is the only way to preserve any semblance of divine intervention in the post-‎modern world. God’s omnipotence, according to this view, is the very allowance of things to ‎evolve in a way that goes outside of the strict boundaries of any set plan. God immanent ‎reality could be all possible outcomes, but it becomes the one that happens. It is a subtle form ‎of intervention, so subtle that most people would hesitate to use the term. But it is ‎intervention in the sense that anything that happens is also a part of reality, and thus is a part ‎of God. God remains within the changes; God is the changes. ‎
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This final idea represents a fundamental split from the classical image of God which was ‎forever unchangeable. This modern image reveals God as the entirety of created reality – a ‎reality in which change not only must be tolerated but is its most essential feature. Reality is ‎not a mere snapshot of God. It is God in motion, in action. It is God becoming real. ‎
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Now that we have these fundamentals laid down, we can deal with plugging up that hole in ‎the conscience. Assuming there is some truth to that description of the hole, we can learn ‎something from it. God’s shape is the shape of that hole. If we can somehow learn something ‎about the shape of that hole, we can learn a corresponding thing about God’s shape. What is ‎the shape of that hole? What was left empty when people began abandoning traditional belief ‎in God or belief in God altogether? ‎
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It happens to be that there is more to this hole than just a deity to pray to in times of trouble. ‎In fact, it may be that the interventionist function of God is only a minor part of God’s true ‎repertoire. There is another, much more profound and essential quality that began to vanish ‎when people started to lose their belief in a deity. This is the sense that life is fundamentally ‎meaningful and has an ultimate purpose. This is such a basic part of our human experience ‎that even those who deny it on purely rational grounds have tremendous trouble actually ‎believing what they profess. It is almost impossible for a human being to truly believe that life ‎is utterly devoid of meaning and purpose. To do so would be to admit that nothing anyone ‎does has any significance whatsoever. Does anyone truly look at their actions and thoughts in ‎this way? It is difficult to believe that such a thing is humanly possible. ‎
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Having a God as the Source of existence and having God be within all of existence, gives ‎ultimate meaning to everything. That hole has the shape of meaning. The void is the void of ‎meaninglessness. Is this an imaginary void or is it the most real thing in our lives? When we ‎lost our sense of God, we lost our sense of meaning. We lost something as real as our very ‎existence. The only way to regain the sense of meaning in life is to reclaim God’s natural ‎place in the conscience. God is not just the source of existence and the reality of existence. ‎God is the meaning behind existence, the sense that it exists for a purpose. This is the final ‎piece in the puzzle. God is existence with a purpose. ‎
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Perceiving the Image ‎
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God is the source and reality of purposeful existence. There it is right in a nutshell. Could ‎someone print it across a T-shirt or plaster it on the bumper of a car? Maybe at the very least, ‎it will inspire other people to think of their own answer. Go ahead, what are you waiting for? ‎What is God to you? ‎
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Being as this is the answer on the table, we have to ask if it is possible to truly treat this image ‎as one expects to treat God. Can this image be worshiped or revered? Can it be prayed to? ‎Does it bring a sense of spirituality to life? The answer to most of those questions is very ‎possibly a resounding ‘yes’. The source and reality of purposeful existence, as clumsy as it ‎sounds, is about as godly and as spiritual a thing as could be imagined. Existence has a ‎purposeful source which continues to infuse it with meaning. This is the most spiritual ‎property one could possibly find for reality. It is not just ‘there’ – it exists with a cause and ‎for a reason. Its very continuity reveals this cause and this reason in every possible manner. If ‎this is not God, it is difficult to imagine what might qualify as God. ‎
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Can it be worshiped and prayed to? This is a bit of a tougher question to deal with. This is ‎very personal and is dependent on the spiritual needs of the individual worshiper. If one ‎expects the solace of knowing that there is Someone or Something at the other end of the line ‎listening to the prayers and perhaps drumming up a positive response, this image probably ‎won’t meet expectations. But if one has no such expectations, and is only looking for a ‎genuine experiential awareness that existence and life truly matter, and that what we do with ‎our time here actually has some ultimate meaning, this image may be just what the doctor ‎ordered. It can be worshiped in the sense that it is the ultimate reality that permeates all the ‎mundane and the glitz. It is what we seek when we truly search for meaningful existence. ‎
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Will it answer anyone’s prayers? That depends on what one calls an answer. It won’t ‎necessarily get you a raise, or a healthier body, or a better love life. But it just may inspire you ‎enough that you work a little harder, or reprioritize things in life, or make yourself a more ‎lovable person, or make others seem a little more lovable to you. These are also pretty ‎important and they may accomplish everything you prayed for without having to resort to ‎supernatural intervention. Or maybe whatever changes happen as a result of your prayers ‎really was supernatural intervention. It’s almost the same thing – God’s hand altering reality ‎or reality changing reality. It’s still God all the way down. ‎
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Reflections ‎
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Does this final image fill in the missing pieces or is it just one more image in this long line of ‎images of God? This is a question for all of us. What is your image? What is God? ‎

		


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