Lately, I’ve had a hard time talking about God.
Back in October of 2016, I committed to a year-long “God Project,” not exactly sure what to expect. As it’s unfolded, one major theme has surfaced over and over again: The challenge of modern skepticism. I have a hard time ignoring a good argument, and I’ve encountered atheists who make pretty good arguments against religion.
I spent the month of December diving into atheist books, lectures, and other resources. In some sense, they won me over. The way of thinking about God that I inherited as a kid shatters easily against the cold, hard surface of our modern intellectual world. Science makes more sense to me than Miracles. Secular history and psychology make more sense to me than Divine Revelation. I might sound like an atheist here, but I don’t think that I am.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been religious. God and I have a history together. I have known God in many ways, including the “personal relationship” paradigm that I cherished as an Evangelical (and beyond). Even now, I pray most days, and I’m 9 months into a “read the Bible in a year” plan. I go to church every Sunday, and I see a “spiritual director” every 3-4 weeks. I have an experiential sense of God, even if I’m not sure how to define it.
Still, if someone (especially an atheist) asked me to define this “God” I’m talking about, I wouldn’t know where to start. Although God remains present for me, skepticism has broken my old language and paradigms for understanding what (or who) God is.
When I created my God Project reading list back in October, I anticipated this kind of predicament. I selected five books in particular that each present a unique way of understanding God, each forged in the fires of modern skepticism.
In April, I explored “process theology,” which thinks of God as the call forward, a Spirit inviting everything towards its best possibility in each successive moment. In May, I considered understanding God as the Infinite. After that, I explored Barth‘s notion of a totally sovereign God. Each perspective has given me a glimpse of a way forward, through both naive theism and naive atheism, but none of them has been entirely able to do the heavy intellectual and spiritual lifting that a God-concept must do.
So far, the most useful image I’ve found is “More.” God is more. When I look up into the sky on a clear day, I feel tiny, one small piece in something vastly larger than myself. That experience is very close to what I mean by God.
Like the sky, there is always more to God, stretching my imagination to its limit (and beyond). Like the horizon which is by definition always beyond physical grasp, perhaps God is by definition always beyond conceptual grasp. I think this way of framing my concept of God can help me avoid some of the knots of everyday theism. Still, a big, un-grasp-able God is pretty similar to a non-existent God. “More” is a good start, but it doesn’t get me very far.
It’s hard to wrap up a blog post when the post is about how my journey isn’t wrapped up yet. In lieu of a proper conclusion, here’s a cool hipster band performing a nice song titled “More.
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