I am currently taking a week off from work, which means a week not leading worship. Instead of going to morning worship today, I will be in worship this evening, either for evensong or compline. I am taking some time this morning to say a few things about what it means for me to be Christian.
Via Negativa – what God is not.
1. God does not “live” in the sky. Well, God does not “live” in that God is not organic – at least, God exists in and out of the organic.
2. God is not gendered.
3. God is not a person.
4. God does not think.
5. God does not choose.
6. God is not omnipotent (more on that later).
7. God is not Christian.
8. God is not a noun and therefore the modifiers “a” and “the” make no sense.
9. If God is not a noun (which is my premise), then God is not. (Because of this, I do not identify as a theist or a deist – I am a “non-theistic” Christian.”)
10. “God” is not a name.
On to something a little more constructive. What God is.
1. “God” is what people have used as a place holder for the ineffable. It points to something as close as our breath and as incomprehensible as, well, something incomprehensible.
2. In my working definition of “God,” that word – “God” – points to the force and the movement that bend toward compassion and justice. That’s God.
3. God is not omnipotent in that God is relational. Relationship implies serving as both actor and the acted upon. We affect God. That means that God can be changed. In fact, to me, changing and “godding” are quite interlinked.
4. “Godding” – We usually say “God,” which is a noun and has definition – edges. But the divine is bigger than that – undefinable. Literally. There are no edges to God. Nouns, by their very existence, have beginnings and ends. For the sake of grammatical convenience, I talk about God a lot. But, in my heart, I know that there is no “god” – there is “godding.” God is an active verb. God is a doing.
5. Since God is not a noun or a person (much less gendered), God does not act as we act. God does not have a divine brain that “thinks,” “chooses,” or “decides.” But God does indeed act in particular ways, those ways that move toward wholeness, compassion, and justice.
6. Since God is without beginning and end, God existed before Christianity and God exists outside of Christianity. Claiming exclusive rights to God is idolatrous.
7. God is mystery.
What does all of this mean?
Even if God is ineffable, we live in a world of speech. This is one of the reasons that the creation story has so much truth in it. We speak our worlds. Language creates. It totally shapes how we understand and experience life. So, we have to come up with the best language that we can.
The struggle for how to think about and put language to God is a very old struggle. St. Anselm once used an a priori argument that included this supposition, that God is “a being than which no greater being can be conceived.” Of course, I don’t think God is a being, but Anselm is grappling with the ineffability of God just as I am…just as we all are.
So, I use the language that we have, the metaphors of our world, and the reductionistic thoughts that make talking about God easier. I also use the very powerful tool of story…