Our Inclusive God!
In the beginning, God created humans in God’s image and likeness. But since then, we humans keep fashioning God after our own image and likeness, following after false gods rather than accepting an inclusive God.
It’s understandable. We are limited beings with constraints on our ability to comprehend the unlimited. We use what we know to create images of God. If we are angry, we see God as angry, throwing out bolts of lightning at all who displease him. If we are filled with hate, our God is a hate-filled, vengeful God. Even our image of a loving God is limited by our own understanding of love.
Our God is a jealous God. God loves us so much that God allows no false gods before him. Yet we keep running off after false god, idols of our own creation, not the true God. We’d rather believe in our image of God, however faulty, than let go of that image to embrace another one.
No human construct for God comes close to the reality which is God. Our God is inclusive, embracing all creation, not limited by our limited perception.
Human History of Division
Since creation, humans have been fighting, starting with Cain killing his brother Abel. Since its inception, the Christian Church has seen divisions and arguments. The early church fought over whether to require circumcision of non-Jewish recruits to the newly formed church. Then there was the struggle over what foods were clean. We keep coming up with reasons for fighting and try to attribute that to God.
In both cases, after prayer, the early church chose to be welcoming rather than exclusive. Paul gave us that well-known proclamation, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)
God and Human Emotions
Our God knows what it is to be human. We Judeo-Christians don’t have a placid God sitting above us, emotionally aloof, contemplating the world from a distance. The Old Testament is full of rich examples of God’s anger, compassion, jealousy, love, kindness even hatred.
And if there is any doubt whether God knows what it is to be human, we have Jesus, God in human form.
Our God rages when we hurt each other, especially when those in power abuse and hurt the least among God’s children. God hates evil and sin, but loves us humans.
Ultimately God is love. Love is more than an emotion. It is a choice. We can choose to act loving even when we don’t feel loving. God’s love encompasses all feelings and goes beyond, greater than any love we can imagine. Still we continue to fall back into arguments and divisions, chasing after false idols.
God and Science
During Galileo’s time, the church condemned science. They claimed that science was opposed to God and that faith required a blind belief.
Science is a search for understanding and knowledge. The scientist wants to know why the world is the way it is. In search of this knowledge, scientists create experiments to test their hypotheses and see if they stick—like throwing strands of boiled spaghetti at the wall to see if it is done. If it doesn’t stick, then it’s back to the boiling water.
Sometimes we act like science is exact and factual when it isn’t. You accept one theory until a better one comes along. In that sense it is always evolving. For all we know, science has yet to disprove the existence of God. Rather, the more we learn, the more evidence there is of God, Barbara Bradley Haggerty shows in her book, Fingerprints of God: What Science is Learning about the Brain and Spiritual Experience.
Ultimately science is about seeking truth. In that God is truth, scientists are seeking God. Our inclusive God is not limited by science but includes science and scientific discoveries.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil 4:6-7
Political Systems and Beliefs
Ingelhart, in his article, Giving Up on God: The Global Decline of Religion (as mentioned in the first post in this series on the Changing Face of Religion), stated that rather than religion influencing politics, politics has been influencing religion. A scary thought.
Just as there is no perfect church, there is no perfect political system. Some have proven to work better than others, but they are still flawed. Democracy is superior to authoritarian regimes, but has its own problems. People with power and money still find ways to “rule.” Some unfortunately put their country or political beliefs above God, above seeking what is best for all God’s people, thereby making them false gods.
Churches are commonly equated with God, understandably so. We look to churches to teach us about God, lead us in prayer, help us lead an ethical life. But churches are meant to lead us to God, not be seen as God themselves. Sometimes churches and church leaders get in the way between God and God’s people, as has happened with the clergy sexual abuse scandal. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time, the Pharisee and Sadducees, weren’t always the most God-like, God-fearing men. Hence, Jesus tells us to do as they say but not as they do.
Our Inclusive God
The good news is that our inclusive God embraces all of creation, all political systems, all scientific knowledge, and goes beyond them. This doesn’t mean anything goes. In that there is truth, it is of God. We need to put the search for truth, the search for God, ahead of everything in our life. If we do that, everything else will fall into place.
This has worked in my own life. I believe it can work for the world, but only if all people are willing and able to set aside their own ego and agenda to listen to truth, to listen to God who is greater than anything we can imagine.
This striping away of false idols and beliefs, purifying the ego, is not an easy process, but it is essential. It is part of the rummage sale Phyllis Tickle referred to in her book, Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing, as mentioned in part two of this series and which leads to the topic of the next post, Are We in the Midst of a Communal Dark Night?
What has been your experience of God? Are their images of God that no longer work for you or that need to be transformed?
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