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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

God Talk

Randy Broman, Ann Bontatibus, Regina Saisi and Ann Cromey and I had dinner together recently and got in a wonderful discussion of God or lack thereof. Randy had read one of the recent books spouting there is no God. He has declared himself an atheist and had climbed down off the fence of being an agnostic. I asked him my usual question, “What is the definition of the God in which you do not believe?” He was frank in saying he did not believe in what I call the grandfatherdhood of God, a supreme being a grandfather in the sky counting our sins. Ann and I pointed out we don’t believe in that God either.

God is being itself; God is the ground of all being, in the words of Paul Tillich. These are the concepts of God that I find helpful. We went further with the discussion of the idea of ambiguity. Randy said as a scientist he was taught here is no such thing as ambiguity there is only truth to be sought. Randy sees, like Einstein, that scientific discoveries are not final, they are ambiguous and open to change and development. I said I find the idea of ambiguity to be essential to being a Christian and a mature human being.

We also chatted about transcendence and how most people have that experience of transcendence at the symphony, rock concert, athletic events, sex etc. One aspect of church is the sense that our lives are deeper and broader than our every day experience.

The notion of reverence comes to my mind as I thought of that conversation and as I write now. The reverence for life, the sense of awe and majesty as we stand before the glories and terrors of nature. Albert Schweitzer talked about the reverence for life.

Then there is the numinous and the holy. These ideas are vague yet strong, they call forth images, pictures and icons. In Judaism and Christianity the image of God is named father. That has come down to us from primitive times. Feminists have demanded and suggested mother is just as valid an image. I agree. The Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox use Mary as the Mother of God, putting her into to the Godhead. Perhaps that adds the note of the feminine in the Godhead that pleases many.

I have too simple a mind and imagination to get father, mother, Jesus, Mary and Holy Spirit all wrapped up into the ground of all being and being itself. So my image, picture, and icon of God is father. The Book of Common Prayer, uses God the father most of the time and then throws in the Jesus and the Hoy Spirit. I understand theologically and historically where all that came from.

But in my private prayers and devotions, I pray to God the Father, the ground of all being as the father, being itself as the father. But this is a picture an icon, not GOD. I do not confuse the God and father. I do not expect the ground of all being to save me if I jump off the roof, to end all wars, to be responsible for evil. When I pray I know the prayer works on me not on the being itself.

This is the ambiguity that I live with. God is being itself, the ground of all being. In order to focus on God I use the term father to name the concept of being. The concept of father is an image that is useful for me to focus on God, the ground of all being.

Thoughtful people say if you want to see what God is like, focus on Jesus. This is helpful to some. Jesus is the healer, the feeder of the hungry, the one who calls for seeing the deeper meanings of the law, the compassionate one and the one who sacrifices his life for all human kind.

Jesus is a useful image but it does not work for all people and not particularly for me. Jesus is too visceral a human being for my taste as an image

As we human beings open ourselves to be discovered by God, we can remain ambiguous, use several images, doctrines and notions. I suspect I will never have a solid faith and belief system. I am quite happy to worship within the traditions of the Christian faith and enjoy a floating and ambiguous view of God.

The church means worship and action. The church is a community of friends who care about each other in all aspects of life from baptism, confirmation, marriage, ordination, sickness, health and in death. We come together on Sundays and holy days to break bread together in holy communion, eucharist, mass – worship. Then we the people of the church go out and serve the world.


Robert,
I tried to add this as a comment to your blog. Alas, I couldn't.
Anyway, thank you for your candid post on the image of God that works for you. We all are so different when it comes to the "icon" of God we hold in our mind's eye (if we hold an image at all) when we pray.
I thought we Anglican/Episcopalian Christians also consider Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as the Theotokos or "God-Bearer". Isn't she the "Co-Redemptrix", the second Eve who did her part to fulfill salvation history by saying "yes" to God? Without Mary's participation would Jesus, the second Adam, have been born?
I see God as genderless but having qualities of gender, because we, as males and females, are created in God's image. Julian of Norwich referred to Jesus as "Mother". Certainly the biblical Jesus was a nurturer and healer as most mothers are toward their children.
Some of the Church Fathers viewed the Holy Spirit as the "feminine" Person of the Divine Trinity. The Trisagion Prayers of the Eastern Church begin with this prayer to the Holy Spirit,
"O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who is everywhere present and fills all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life...."
The Holy Spirit is (masculine) "King" as well as (feminine) Comforter and Giver of life.
Because I am a man I primarily relate to Jesus. He is in my mind's eye when I pray. However, there are times -- especially when my prayers appear to go "unanswered" -- that I ask Mary, the Mother of God, to intercede on my behalf. I remember the nun who taught me catechism saying, "Jesus will not deny his mother any request she makes of him." She pointed to the miracle at the wedding in Cana as "proof" of the truth of her belief.

Nevertheless, as you so rightly point out, all this "God talk" can only be metaphor. None of us holds God in the palm of our hand. It's our feeble attempt to wrap our finite minds around the infinite God.

Brad

1 Comments:

Blogger RWC said...

Robert,

Anyway, thank you for your candid post on the image of God that works for you. We all are so different when it comes to the "icon" of God we hold in our mind's eye (if we hold an image at all) when we pray.
I thought we Anglican/Episcopalian Christians also consider Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as the Theotokos or "God-Bearer". Isn't she the "Co-Redemptrix", the second Eve who did her part to fulfill salvation history by saying "yes" to God? Without Mary's participation would Jesus, the second Adam, have been born?
I see God as genderless but having qualities of gender, because we, as males and females, are created in God's image. Julian of Norwich referred to Jesus as "Mother". Certainly the biblical Jesus was a nurturer and healer as most mothers are toward their children.
Some of the Church Fathers viewed the Holy Spirit as the "feminine" Person of the Divine Trinity. The Trisagion Prayers of the Eastern Church begin with this prayer to the Holy Spirit,
"O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who is everywhere present and fills all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life...."
The Holy Spirit is (masculine) "King" as well as (feminine) Comforter and Giver of life.
Because I am a man I primarily relate to Jesus. He is in my mind's eye when I pray. However, there are times -- especially when my prayers appear to go "unanswered" -- that I ask Mary, the Mother of God, to intercede on my behalf. I remember the nun who taught me catechism saying, "Jesus will not deny his mother any request she makes of him." She pointed to the miracle at the wedding in Cana as "proof" of the truth of her belief.

Nevertheless, as you so rightly point out, all this "God talk" can only be metaphor. None of us holds God in the palm of our hand. It's our feeble attempt to wrap our finite minds around the infinite God.

8:52 AM  

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