Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Self-Interview: Confessions (Part 2)

You referred to God as He, but you don't see God as male. What's the deal?

The nature of the reality of God presents us with a stiff challenge because we try to understand God as if He can be understood in the language and images of human experience. We also try to arrive at conclusions about God by rational means. No wonder it's so easy to say God doesn't exist. If we try to understand God rationally or if we perceive of God as being human-like, only more so, then I don't think that God does exist. I agree with the mystics who, in fact, proclaim, "God does not exist!" -- that is, does not exist except as God is not like us and cannot be understood in our usual ways of knowing.

So you don't see God as male?

No. Or female. Or as it. God is a word we use for a kind of being or a kind of reality beyond our language to denote. We can only approximate God through metaphors and by telling stories that constitute what God stands for.

But how about the concept of will. Will defines human character. We talk all the time about God's will. What do you think of God's will?

I don't think of God in terms of God asserting will. In fact, I don't use the phrase "God's will". I prefer to think of God as the way and to think of the paths God leads us down as God's way, not God's will. I try to understand the way of God in terms of what the Bible most consistently demonstrates as the Way of the Divine. Since Jesus described himself as the way, if we see Jesus as the embodiment of God's way, then the life and death and resurrection of Jesus tell us an awful lot about God's way.

Interesting. So do you obey the way?

I'd say we follow the way, seek to understand the way of God, and try to live that way. When I look to the stories and teachings of the Bible for what it is that the stories show us is repeatedly and consistently the way of God, it's heartening, clear, life-giving, and positive. The way of God leads us to live a life of service, deliverance, mercy, grace, love, and humbleness; Jesus, Paul, the apostles, as well as the prophets, historians, and poets of the Hebrew Bible all consistently portray the way of God as outward looking more than inward, of serving others over getting what we might want solely for ourselves.

So, do you see what you call the way of God as understandable only to Christians?

Not at all. Nor do I see the Judeo-Christian tradition as having an exclusive hold on Truth. It's why I think of and experience Supreme Being (not a or the Supreme Being) as the Way. Lao Tzu explores Divine Being as the Tao or The Way. Buddha thought of truth as the Way. I have learned a great deal from Taoism and Buddhism about the Way that the Judeo-Christian tradition gives little emphasis to. Working together, complementing each other, these great spiritual traditions, all primarily focused on illuminating and living in harmony with the Way, give us a much fuller sense of what kind of world we live in and what the Way leads us to do with our lives.

Wait a minute. Stop. You are saying that you have learned about God from practices like Buddhism and Taoism. Those traditions don't even speak of a God.

No, they don't use the word God, but they do point our attention to truths and ways of seeing and living that are greater than human existence cut off from these ways. Since I think of God as the Way, and not as a supreme human-like figure, I want to understand all I can about the Way. You look disgruntled. Let me try this. In church this past Sunday, our Curate, Rev. Bingham Powell, emphasized that when the light of the Christ Child came into the world, the light did not eliminate the darkness, but the light was in the midst of the darkness. Okay. Now I'll be talking, not Father Powell: Light and dark, in other words, are not separable realities. We do not live in either light or darkness. Both are always present. If light and dark are metaphors for good and evil, then good and evil, in this world, cannot be separated from each other. Both are always present, with the light (or good) sometimes more dominant, but sometimes the dark is. This is central to both the Taoist and Buddhist understanding of reality. It's a vision of non-duality. For much of my life, it has been taught to me that Christianity is a dualistic world view: good v. evil, light v dark, humans v nature, etc. Father Powell's reading of the beginning of the Gospel of John combined with the many times Jesus instructs us to see things non-dualistically (be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, for example..not one or the other), leads me to study the explicitly non-dualistic wisdom teachings as a way to understand God more fully. I'm certain that supreme being or supreme existence, that is, God, is a non-dualistic reality and that we compromise the Way of God by framing God's Way (or Will) in dualistic terms.

Aren't you going out to hear the Floydian Slips tonight?

Yes I am.

Then let's resume this interview later. Uh, before I let you go, though, you aren't going to tell me that you are going to experience the Divine tonight in Pink Floyd's music are you?

I just might. I've experienced the presence of the divine in Pink Floyd before, as well as in those bands that cover their music.

I was afraid you'd say that. Talk to you later.


Grey Like Sunday said...

Would it be sacrilege to suggest that one could potentially have a divinely spiritual experience when adding a marijuana cigarette while listening to some Pink Floyd?

Wish I were there! Floyd brings out my most introspective and philosophical sides while simultaneously soothing a jagged spirit. I could use a little of that!


Anonymous said...

This blog is divine. Like a double stuffed oreo dipped in whole buttermilk. Let brotherly love continue.

Mark said...

Our pastor stated in his sermon today:

"The story of the Bible is the story of war and violence, corruption and selfishness ... the seven deadly sins are still with us and no political change or social change ever results in human change ... with humans real transforming change seems impossible; with God all things are possible."

Then he went on to talk about the passage from Jeremiah in the context of God's judgment Israel's sin.

I guess the thing that strikes me about your discussion of duality is that it doesn't address the concept of "sin." I was struck listening to the sermon by how central "sin" is to Christian belief. If we simply go with "light" and "dark," where does the redemptive element fit in?

Taken in context, it seems like the passage in Jeremiah represents the hope of a future in which we are forgiven. Jeremiah also told the ancient Israelites to repent and return to God.

What do you think?