Friday, March 11, 2011

God's Image

This post is primarily for Daniel Harbin.
I have wrestled with the idea of God since I was a little kid.  I know most people go through this kind of cognitive experience when they are growing up.  In my case, though, it has been a life-long obsession.  I was a Roman Catholic seminarian for 8 years, and a Franciscan Friar.  I studies Scripture in and out of school for many years.  I opened the Bible I used back in the 1970's and took a picture of the page to which I opened at random.  It's here in this post.  Almost every page of this book looks like the page I photographed.  I was going to read and pray and think until I had God squarely in my understanding.  I was out to know God from alpha to omega.

What I discovered after almost 40 years:  I can't know or understand God.  God, if God exists, is way beyond the ability of my human mind to comprehend.  I also came to believe that the same inability is true for every human being.  God, if God exists, has to be the complete and total "Other."  God, if God exists, cannot be like human beings except in one respect.  God, if God exists, is love.  Pure and simple.

If you believe in the Scripture, then you believe what is in 1 John 4/16-21:

[beginning of citation] God is love; they who dwell in love are dwelling in God, and God in them.  This is for us the prefection of love, to have confidence on the day of judgment, and this we can have, because even in this world we are as he is.  There is no room for fear in love; perfect love banishes fear.  For fear brings with it the pains of judgment, and anyone who is afraid has not attained to love in its perfection.  We love because he loved us first.  But if people say, "I love God," while hating their brothers and sisters, those people are liars.  If a person does not love the brothers and sisters who are visible, then how can that person love God who is invisible?  And indeed this command comes to us from Christ himself:  that they who love God also must love their brothers and sisters. [end of citation]

This is pretty much my belief, such as it is, in the nature of God.  What kind of love would destroy the whole earth by flood to punish the ungodly?  Even human "tough love" doesn't include the punishment of the innocent along with the guilty.  What kind of love would turn Sodom and Gomorrah into useless charred ruble because of the misdeeds - whatever they were - of a few of its inhabitants?  What kind of love would create gay people and then condemn them to a life of derision, alienation, and lovelessness?  Not the God that John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved" describes.  Not the only God I can even conceive of existing.  The God you describe is a jealous, vengeful, really hateful being who resembles human beings at their worst.  The God you describe is something out of a Stephen King novel.  The God you describe is not the God that John the Beloved knows and preaches.  My sense is that you fear this God of yours.  That fact alone, for me, calls into question your image of God.

God, if God exists, is the perfection of any concept we humans have of "the good," including kindness, compassion, mercy, and love.  Such a Being would not be a Being to cause fear.  God, if God exists, draws all things to God's self by the power of God's love that "passes all understanding."

No need to reply.  I hope you will read 1 John and think about all this a little bit.

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