Good news! I’m pretty sure that I’ve finally found a concept of God that does justice to my head and my heart!
I’ve already taken two stabs at describing this notion of God (here and here), but here’s a tiny thumb-nail sketch: Like love, art, and justice, God very much exists in our lives. Yet, again like love/art/justice, this existence doesn’t depend on whether or not there is a natural (or supernatural) entity named “God” floating around “out there,” beyond our minds.
This allows me to pursue my most radical doubts about God without needing to jettison my relationship with God. Sure, God might just be a weird misfiring of evolution, or a function of my deep unconscious, or entirely non-existent as far as science is concerned. Let’s assume that the New Atheists are 100% correct about all that. But what difference does that make? Consider this: an artist doesn’t have to believe in a supernatural muse beyond her mind in order to pursue her muse with everything she has. Why would God be any different?
To be sure, this notion of God doesn’t include magic tricks or the supernatural equivalent of flamethrowers and nukes – sorry, Kim Jong. God isn’t an Emperor with a few extra superpowers added in. This God doesn’t necessarily hand out touchdowns and cancer cures in exchange for prayers which meet the heavenly criteria… but neither can God be blamed for dropped passes and cancer that remains. For me, God has never been about magic tricks, superpowers, or get-out-of-crisis-free cards anyway; the God I met as a kid promised something far better than any of those things: unconditional love, which would turn my life upside-down if only would I let it. Anything more than that is at best a secondary perk.
But enough of that. Today, I was hanging out with a spiritual director and sharing my revelation, my new theory of God. She asked me what this discovery says to me. What does it feel like? What does it mean?
You have to understand that I’ve had serious doubts about God for a few years. All along, I was terrified that my doubts would eventually rip me from the religious and spiritual life that means so much to me, that has always meant so much to me. I feared that I would have to pick between honesty (God doesn’t seem to exist outside of the human mind) and faith (openness to God in my life).
But with the hard distinction between “reality” and “experience” (a trick I first learned from Daniel Dennett, a New Atheist!), I’m able to doubt the “reality” and be open to the encounter of God at the same time!
To me, this is resurrection!
This is gospel (good news)! Before, I had to secure my relationship with God by believing certain things, holding onto my beliefs for dear life. I had to earn my position before God through my works – the works of belief-through-willpower. But recently I’ve found grace: I am held by God as a free gift, no moral or cognitive works required! Now, I am convinced that neither philosophy nor radical doubts, nor even the power of science can separate me from God’s love! I have found [a] truth, and [a] truth has set me free! While one understanding of God has certainly died on the cross of secular consciousness (RIP, strong God), take heart, for God has risen; God has risen indeed!
This is what Easter faith, resurrection faith, Christian faith can look like after the cross of doubt and loss. There is hope available for all, even Evangelicals whose beliefs have shattered against the hard floor of doubt. There is good news after bad news, grace after anxiety, resurrection after crucifixion, and God after God – thank God!
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