Friday, January 13, 2006

Elucidation #2—Perceiving God

The second idea that I’ve been deconstructing over the last year is my concept of who God is. Who is I AM? Could He possibly be contained in an ark made of wood with gold overlayment? What about in my finite, human mind?

Thomas Merton asserts, “Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.” I think that is true. We presume that God is more in OUR likeness than we are created in His.

I grew up with this perception that God is both angry with us, yet madly in love with us. This split-personality Deity is mostly angry in the Old Testament, acting out His wrath on those whom He chooses. He is mostly loving in the New Testament, offering up His own Son as a sacrifice for us.

As I’ve grown older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve discovered more of God’s loving-kindness in the Hebrew Scriptures, but I still wrestle with the stories of His wrath…say on Sodom and Gemorrah or on less guilty subjects, like Uzzah who, with the best intentions, touched the ark.

One thing that becomes more and more apparent to me is that the Scriptures were written by human beings, with limited understanding, faulty perceptions and irrational superstitions. Regardless of the amount of divine inspiration—which I do believe was the impetus for the recording of Scripture—there was that imperfect filter called the human imagination that surely played a part in the telling of the grand story.

It goes back to Merton’s assertion that our idea of God is rooted in our own personality, perception and imagination. It’s impossible to separate our ideas from our identity. It’s just as impossible for us to think beyond our limited comprehension. So anything we think we know about God is severely limited by our humanness.

God created us with these limitations. He knew that we could never perceive of His vastness. Yet, we often act like we have Him figured out. How arrogant.

It would be like trying to contain the entire Milky Way in the candy bar by the same name. There’s just no possible way to fit the greatness of God into our human-sized containers. So why do we box Him in by our finite understanding? Why do we even try?

I am discovering that God is so much more than He has appeared to be in my mind’s eye. He is not bound by the black and white text on the pages of Scripture, nor by the black and white thinking of my youth.

He is not some Great Mystery to be solved or a Hidden Treasure to be discovered, but the treasures of His love I continue to discover every year. It is that continuous discovery that makes this journey so worthwhile. My goal is no longer to figure everything out or to hem God in by my vain imaginations. I am just happy to be on this journey of discovery.
In letting go of my black and white presumptions about God, I have found much freedom. I am free to accept more of Him, and to accept others who are created in His image even if they don’t look or act like it to me.

If you are holding onto your perception of God as absolute reality, I ask you to consider the possibility of a much larger, greater, more powerful God than you can even fathom. That is the One True God, the I AM. Don’t settle for a facsimile, no matter how reasonable.


mdwinn said...

Hey brother,
One of the great things about blogs is how they can provide a kind of map of where we have been. One of the first posts you made back in April of last year you quoted Mr. Merton. Hmmm...

"our idea of God is rooted in our own personality, perception and imagination" this is a great observation Mr. Merton!

"I am free to accept more of Him, and to accept others who are created in His image even if they don’t look or act like it to me." Very nice Mr. Doyle. What is very interesting about this is when we began to accept others around us no matter their religious convictions; we begin to see them for who they are. And when begin to see in that manner; maybe we can gain insight into the image of the divine that they bear in their own individual way. So the better we get to know the individual for who they really are the closer we come to see how the One True God is at work in all of us.

What implication does that have in the voices of the scriptures? Maybe the "limited understanding, faulty perceptions and irrational superstitions." of the people of sacred history, is once again God's brilliant use of human resources to reflect the image of what it may look like when Ultimate Perfection relates with the imperfect created ones.

Thanks for the great post this really got me thinking. May we all continue to look with new eyes.

Christine said...

I would agree that He isn't Hidden, although we're so blind to Him, He might as well be.

Meninger wrote that the Intellect can see, but can't see God; the Will is blind, but can reach Him.
Neat, huh?
By this time, I can't remember who wrote that we can only make a weak copy of what God is~ actual description can come only from God (I think it was Bro. Lawrence).

It's imperative we go to the Source, and submit all our faculties to God's giant and Perfect originality of Being.

kingsjoy said...

Chris...thanks for this post. Helps to keep me on track where God is taking me.

Ever read Lewis' "The Last Battle"? Everything we know is shadowy, pale in comparison to the Real World, where colors are vibrant.

The longing I know for that Real World, beyond the Shadowlands, often gives me hope in the midst of doubt.

Christine said...

"That Next Place"!

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