Tuesday, May 7, 2013


   Images of God can be misleading.  For example, early Biblical images describe the world as flat and pie shaped (Gen. 1:6-8) covered by a blue dome, which the Biblical writers called the firmament or the heavens.  The universe was surrounded with water, not unlike a baby in a mother's womb.  The blue dome had water gates that opened from time to time to let the water fall through as rain.  People lived on the face of the earth and God lived up above the water above the dome. (Psalm 104:3a).  People looked "up" toward God, and God looked "down" upon the earth.  As the Biblical writers matured spiritually, they saw God coming closer and closer to the world.  And yet, Jesus, who was God-with-us-on-earth, "ascended" into heaven.  In sum, God and heaven were "up there" outside the world.

   From early on, mystics told us that God was closer to us than we are to ourselves.  Yet, our misleading images of God continued.  For example, when we discovered that the world is round, we realized that if someone in America and someone in Australia pointed "up," they pointed in opposite directions.  "Up" got lost.  But if "up" got lost, then God could get lost.  So people started pointing to God, who was now, "out there." 

   Our philosophical view of God didn't help.  We said God was the Supreme Being or Prime Mover, first in the line of reality, which implied that God is Someone outside the world.  Science contributed its own troublesome image.  Newton gave us a mechanized world, whose workings we could scientifically understand.  As a result, many fascinated people began to view the world as closed in on itself.  Science could now explain the world, therefore there was no longer a need for God.  Christians tried to expand people's view by saying something like, "But science understands only so much about the world.  God is still 'out there,' beyond science's understanding."  When science learned more about the world, Christians simply moved God a little farther out, and then a little more, etc.  Little wonder that when the first Soviet cosmonaut orbited the earth, he reported back that God was nowhere to be found.

   In the 18th century, the Enlightenment replaced faith with reason, which became the new "savior" of the world.  Many of America's founders were educated in the Enlightenment tradition.  Some were also Deists, which gave us a reasonable, absent God.  Deism says that God created the world and then returned to heaven, leaving the world alone to develop itself by using its own ingenuity.  Just about every American political speech tells us what great things we can do, down here under God, by using our own ingenuity.  Then at the end, the speaker adds, "God bless America."  An old Pat Boone song speaks of God watching us "from a distance."

    A 21st century understanding of God gives us a new and more valid image of God.  This understanding is based on a spiritual view of evolution, with emphasis of the evolving energy that makes up the universe and keeps it going.  (Cf. An Evolution Story, in this blog.)  This evolving, sustaining, creative energy is not God, but is a pregnant, 21st century image of God.  God is Love, and we will look at universal energy as created love.  Created love is the living energy of the world, constantly birthing forth and creating new energy-relationships that become manifest as the visible expressions of the world, e.g., a galaxy, a planet, trees, plants,animals, people.  

   Today we can see God as the universe/world's "energy field."  By "energy field," I mean the energy that is giving the world and everything and everyone in it their existence, shape and form, and moving the world and everything and everyone in it forward toward their completion and wholeness.  (Teilhard deChardin called this energy field, "Omega," the ultimate unity of love.)  

   Here's an example of an energy field that we're familiar with.  When we sprinkle iron filings on a sheet of paper, under which we have placed a magnet, the filings form themselves into the shape dictated by the magnet's energy field.  By looking at the organized pattern into which the filings formed themselves, we can see their underlying energy field.  To add an obvious point, we will not see their energy field by looking  "up there," or "out there," away from the iron filings.  Likewise, we will not see God, our "Divine Energy Field," by looking away from the universe/world and everything and everyone in it.  If we look away from the world to find God, we will find, at best, an idea of God, disconnected from the "flesh and bones" of everyday reality.  Since this idea is disconnected, it will quickly become sterile.  It can also become dictatorial.

    In 21st century terms, then, God may be seen as the Eternal, Creative Energy Field of Love, who is creating the universe/world from within it, healing it where necessary, and moving it forward toward its completeness.  With the eyes of faith, we can discern God, present and active, by looking at a flower, a tree, an ocean, a cloud, a sunset, a vegetable, an animal, and especially, a person or a loving family, community, nation.  

   It is important to note that God is not under all the universe/world's things and people, as the magnet is under the paper and iron filings, but within them, lovingly shaping and forming them and is moving them forward from within, giving them not only their existence, shape and form, but also their meaning, purpose and destiny.  Everyone of them, in their own particular shape and form, and in the loving dynamics of their own life, is showing us what God, who is Eternal Creative Love, "looks like," and what God is actively doing in today's world.   

   Further, as Thomas Merton pointed out, we can see a tree, a flower, an animal, a mountain, etc. as "saints."  They are saints because they are exactly what God intends them to be.  Thus they are clearly showing forth the excellence of God's creative and sustaining love.  Our spiritual goal concerning ourselves and the world is to do in our human way what these "saints" are doing in their way.

   Here we can note that mystics like Meister Eckhart saw all images as obstacles to God.  Eckhart prayed to God to remove from him all his images, so he could relate to God directly.  But this prayer, understandable in a great mystic, yet was bound to remain unanswered. Only in eternity, shall we see and relate to God directly.  Here in space/time, we can see and relate to God only in and through all the created expressions of God in the universe/world. 

   When Christ returns, he will transform our world beyond all our imagination.  Then, Jesus' prayer, "Thy kingdom come...on earth," will be ultimately fulfilled. In this world transformed by Christ, we will spend eternity with God, who is already here, waiting for us to relate to him in love here and now, in today's terms. 



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