Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Concept of God With Which I Can Agree

I think that the questions that are often asked are based on a specific concept of God. It is a concept developed over four thousand years ago among people who if we were transported to their civilization would consider very primitive. Their concepts were come by quite honestly and with the best science of their times so we cannot fault them. However, we live in a very different world with a much different understanding of the universe and to accept and defend their concepts of God is problematic for me.

To summarize with a broad brush, they saw their world as finished and complete. They recognized the patterns of day and night and lived through the seasons. Thus for them God was the creator and the methods he used were beyond their comprehension thus they stated that the world was created by God's word or fiat. With this basic assumption and some 'common sense' observations they developed stories of creation that led to both an explanation of why things were the way they were, and also a description of the nature of the God they understood.

From this background the stories of creation make sense. Human beings are obviously the dominant species and thus they were the primary object of God's creation and the world was provided for their benefit. Obviously all creatures produced their own kind and thus must have been created in their presently observable form. This included human beings and they were created in the very image of God. This was an important concept since the reverse was therefore true. God was envisioned as the ultimate human male with magical powers to control the creation as he willed. Thus as we list all the attributes of God we find each of them the superlative of human attributes.

Early in the Israelite tribes, they developed the concept of a God who had chosen them as his special people and with this selection there came a list of requirements to maintain this favored status. One important one was that God could brook no rivals. This explained many of the worship rituals and social laws and the relationship to other tribes.

One of the easily observed characteristics of humans in general is that they were not perfect. Since one cannot accept an ultimate God who created imperfect humans, then the creation story has a 'fall from perfection' to explain the human condition. The next obvious step is that if there was a fall then there must be some plan for a restoration to perfection. This easily developed into God having a plan and that plan including some method of redemption.

Since it had been observed that blood was the essence of life then it became an object of veneration. Animal sacrifice of perfect animals, to present the life blood to God was honed to an art and even human sacrifice was included in early development of worship among their neighbors. Eventually the concept of the mechanism for redemption of mankind from the 'fall' included the idea of a human sacrifice of a perfect human to atone for mankind's sins. While the original Israelites never got to this stage of their religion, the early Christian followers did. In an attempt to explain the crucifixion of Jesus they developed an elaborate scheme where Jesus was the pre ordained perfect man who was to be sacrificed to atone for the original sin of Adam and to act as a propitiation for the current sins of present generations.

We sit today, after two thousand years with this chain of Jesus redemptive reasoning has led to the orthodox Christian theology. For me, the mystery is that few Christians look at this historical perspective and pause to consider the possibility that with our current understand of the universe that these ancient concept do not fit our reality.

First, we are aware of the events which led to Jesus being crucified. It was the Roman response to someone who proclaimed an alternate social order from Roman rule. Thus we no longer need to explain it in terms of a blood sacrifice.

Second we are aware that the earth is but a speck of dust when compared to the universe and the billions of galaxies, many far larger than our own. This gives us pause when considering our importance in the scheme of things.

Third, we are aware of the creative process, not only of the earth itself, but even of the element of which it along with we are made.

Fourth , we are aware that humankind was not the first or primary life form and we are the result of many millions of years of evolution which in itself was not necessarily destined to produce us in our present form.

Fifth, there is no heavenly throne just outside of the sky where God resides. With what is known of the universe it is impossible to propose an external location for God. The anthropomorphic model of God is increasingly harder to sustain.

Sixth, it is evident that the whole universe is in a state of creation and evolution. Thus there is no evidence of some one time perfect state. Thus the evidence is that perfection is a goal yet to be realized and not a previously lost state. One basic criterion from observations is that change is the nature of the universe and thus is most likely the nature of God.

Seventh, we have two choices in the way that we look at our human predicament. One is that we live in a Godless universe where chance and chaos rules. The other is that there is indeed a God, but we must search for a definition just as those people who lived four thousand years did.

Eighth, I choose to believe that there is a God and start by suggesting that God exists throughout the universe and thus is not identifiable as a super human. I believe that our evidence for the existence of God is in all life forms. I suggest that God is incarnate in all life and that we as humans best observe this incarnation in human life. It might well be that this incarnation is rather primitive with respect to the nature of God throughout the galaxies. But human incarnation is the only contact that we have with God.

Ninth. There is a connection to the ancient stories of Jesus and his proclamation of the establishment of a 'kingdom of God' or the type of society where the God incarnate on this earth can find the fullest expression in the lives of humankind.

Tenth. This leads to a very different view of Jesus and what he taught. It has nothing whatsoever to do with him being the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. It sees him as very human as are we. It even sees that in some things he was very wrong in some of his ideas of how God intervenes in this world.

7 comments:

Sylvia K said...

A very profound post, Margie, and one that I can totally agree with. In fact it is probably the closest thing I've ever read to my own beliefs. I haven't belonged to a church in many years, and have long questioned the many concepts of God. For me, I must live each day with an appreciation of the world around me, respect for people regardless of race, creed, religion, care and concern for the world itself -- our environment.

Thank you.

Margie's Musings said...

That IS belief in God, Sylvia. And it is not an unreal concept.

Betty said...

Thank you for this post. I have never been able to express, in any satisfactory way, my beliefs. You just did it for me.

Margie's Musings said...

Thank you, Betty.

Tacy said...

Margie:

I was glad to find out that you have a blog.

Peace,
Tacy

Sansego said...

You basically summed up my beliefs in a nutshell. I wish more Christians would reevaluate what we've been taught to believe. There's a reason why Europe is as secular as it is. They've finally grown out of the belief system they were taught. There is a place for Christianity, but it must come clean about its history and throw out the beliefs that cannot be verified or what we know is probably untrue (atoning sacrifice).

Anonymous said...

Margie:

A post with which I agree in almost all details. I don't know how I skipped over it earlier this week, but I'm glad I read back until I found it.

I don't think Rome even took notice of Jesus, based on the relative lack of historical references before Josephus. I don't even think the Roman governor took much notice until an "interst group" (a complicit religious establishment) made an issue of it. I share the notion that a sacrifice was never necessary for atonement on God's side, but it was certainly necessary to change humanity.

I'll say more about the "fall" in the context of evolution another time.

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