Trouble talking about God (I need more than More)

Trouble talking about God (I need more than More)

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.

To learn more about my God Project, click here.  To receive an email update with each new post (usually one or two per week), find “Follow Via Email” at the bottom of this page and enter your email address.

6 thoughts on “Trouble talking about God (I need more than More)

    1. I see how it might sound like that. But in my understanding of deism, God doesn’t really matter all that much or “show up” in day-to-day life. If I’m right about that, then no, I’m not really drifting towards deism. But I think you might be right about the agnostic tendency. If we’re really talking about something as vast as God, it’s hard for me to imagine a way to know (with much confidence) whether or not we’re right about God.

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      1. Only God can say! 😀

        But in all serious, of course I do think this is progress. The liberal Christian intellectual journey is all about removing unnecessary intellectual hangups that keep us from participating in rich, transformative religion. Insofar as I’m uncovering a way of thinking about God that does justice to experience and intellect, I think this is great progress!

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  1. A good resource, go on YouTube and look up Dr. Richard Carrier. He’s one of my favorites. And yes, I’m an atheist in that I read the entirety of texts within the Bible and came up with the fact that most of the stuff about God, Moses, Jesus et al was pretty much made up. Plus in my Catholic high school we studied the Bible – found out about translation error, copy error and editorializing by scribes. Also found out about gospels that didn’t make the cut, about the two Nicean councils one of which in 325BCE had to hash out the trinity.

    So yeah, that and stepping back from the church and looking at it with a critical eye, I realized what Catholic churches at least, were, a fantasy of light, sound and scent. It’s funny one day someone brought home incense and myrrh and started burning it. My first comment was that it smelled like a Catholic church.

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    1. Thanks for the comment! I’ve actually already critical historical study of the Bible and the Church, as you did. I too grew up conservative (though I was Protestant), so at first I was very shaken by those uncomfortable revelations.

      But unlike you, I found ways to keep my faith without ignoring the fact that much of the Biblical narratives are not historically accurate. (Nor were they meant to be.) I’ve become a pretty liberal Christian since then, so that kind of stuff (even as extreme as Dr. Carrier) doesn’t really phase me.

      Here’s the thing, though: in my mind, God doesn’t work the same way. Whereas I can overlook historical inaccuracies in the Bible by interpreting it as a testament to something (God) which is bigger and more important than history, I can’t imagine a way to interpret God as a testament to something bigger and more important, seeing as God is by definition biggest and most important. So for me, whereas “literal truth” doesn’t matter so much when it comes to Bible stories, it definitely matters when it comes to God.

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