What is God? Part I
I realize that many people reading this article may be surprised that I have titled it “What is God?” rather than “Who is God?” Well, I have my reasons.
In June 2016 I wrote an article for Counselor titled “A Spiritual Revolution,” and that has been followed by subsequent articles titled “Prayer: What is it?” and “God’s Grace: What is it?” In light of these published articles, I think it is appropriate to ask the 64,000 question: what is God?
I have devoted most of my years in recovery to the question, “What is spirituality?” and my views on this exciting topic have changed over the years. Also, my views concerning my relationship and understanding of God have also changed. Who knows what I will be writing in the coming years!
If we look at some of the definitions that have been offered over the years we will find the following:
- The Free Dictionary suggest that God is “A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and rules of the universe” (2017). The Merriam-Webster dictionary says, “The Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe” (2017). So, I ask myself, where did they get these theological definitions from? Well, they got them from what traditional religions have said and believed.
- Judaism teaches two aspects of God: the unknowable and the revealed God who created everything and interacts with creation.
- Christianity agrees with Judaism, but goes on to teach God as the Trinity: Father (Creator), Son (Redeemer), and the Holy Spirit (Sustainer).
- Islam suggests that God is the one and only: He begetteth not, nor is He begotten.
- Buddhism is more fluid and suggests that the spiritual life seeks to alleviate any distress. It neither denies nor accepts a creator and goes on to further suggest that questions on the origin of the earth are worthless!
- Hinduism is extremely complex and comprehensive, incorporating all the above theories, but is dependent upon the geographical tradition found in the many parts of India.
These are some of the ingredients that make up the “God Cake,” and I can certainly see why people in recovery, depending upon their religious traditions, if any, often think of God as confusing, baffling, and most difficult to understand!
But let us remember there have always been, in history and today, thinkers who dared to question, disagree or object to the aforementioned teachings. They were called “heretics.” For me, the title “heretic” does not mean that they are wrong—on the contrary, they dared to think differently. In my book, The Happy Heretic, I quote Pelagius, who said,
“That we are able to do good is of God, but that we actually do it is of ourselves. That we are able to make a good use of speech comes from God; but that we do actually make this good use of speech proceeds from ourselves. That we are able to think a good thought comes from God, but that we actually think a good thought proceeds from ourselves” (2012, p. 51).
Description, Not a Name
It took me a long time to realize that “God” is not a name, like “Leo,” “Ann” or “George.” Rather is it a term and a description that seeks to explain the unexplainable. Religious or spiritual people seek to know the unknowable. The belief has slowly taken root that in seeking to understand God they begin to understand themselves.
But does it need to be so complicated? And does what is being said concerning God make sense to what we see and how we live our lives? I think not.
Rumi, a Muslim thinker, makes it so much simpler when he says, “God is in me and I am in God. I am in you and you are in me. We all reflect God” (Booth, 2012, p. 29).
With God, for many people, comes the baggage of Hell, Heaven, sin, fear, right, wrong, immortality, devils, angels, grace, prayer, heretic, saint . . . the list could go on and on and has tragically damaged so many people.
In my previous articles, I touched on this baggage and offered a solution that makes sense to me.
When I pray—and I am certainly not suggesting that God does not hear my prayers—the essential ingredient is that I hear my prayers. For example, if I am praying for a job, I need to search out the necessary qualifications required and fill out the application form!
I do not believe that grace is something that mysteriously falls upon us, rather I believe that it has been to us at birth. God’s grace becomes akin to our reasoning powers, our ability to think and make choices, and our ability to take responsibility for our lives and what is happening in our world.
The divine is in creation, beyond creation, in you, and most definitely in me. This will require my imagination, that poetic aspect of our mind that enables the created to create. God’s kingdom is within.
Booth, L. (2012). The happy heretic: Seven spiritual insights for healing religious codependency. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.
The Free Dictionary. (2017). God. Retrieved from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/god
Merriam-Webster. (2017). God. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/god