I’m back from some holiday/vacation days, so let’s get back to thinking about how we think about the God-Everything Reality more as oneness than twoness (review).
When I was in high school, Jethro Tull came out with a popular album, Aqualung. On the album sleeve there was a picture of an ancient manuscript with the following words…
In the beginning, Man created God
In the image of Man created he Him
And Man gave unto God
a multitude of names,
That he might be
Lord of all the earth…
When it was suited to Man
As a young, fervent, Christian, I took great offense to these words. I was pretty sure this was why youth ministers told us not to listen to rock and roll. The idea that man created God was deeply offensive to me.
However, as the years have progressed… as I have continued on the spiritual journey… as my images of God have come and gone… I’ve had to acknowledge that Jethro Tull was right. We do tend to create God in our own images.
That is not a value judgment about whether we should or should not do it… just that we do. Our spiritual ancestors did it; we do today.
I think it’s OK that we do it. We learn a lot when we fashion human-shaped metaphors for God. For example, I have learned a great deal about the Divine by parenting my children. When they were born, I experienced a deep, unanticipated, conditionless love for them. I used that experience to help me imagine God. In my heart, I drew a comparison between my love for them, and God’s love for me. The experience helped me learn something profound about the Divine… about what the ancients were talking about when they spoke of merit-less Love being the Ground of all Being. Fashioning a metaphor of God in my own image was very helpful for my spiritual journey.
Some very beautiful and moving images in history speak of God in human terms. One of the best ways we make meaning is to compare something we don’t understand to something we do. We use what we can experience to understand and talk about that which we cannot.
Humanizing God is not a bad thing.
But it is an incomplete thing.
God cannot be limited to the human forms we assign to help us make meaning.
So we do well to simply be aware when we are doing it; and to acknowledge that it is both a helpful… and limited… thing to do. Self-awareness and humility insist we acknowledge that our images of God cannot contain God.
Which invites us to try other meaning-making images. In this series of posts, we’ll talk about a few non-human ways to think about and experience God.
How do you see the trinity?
good question. i’ll start thinking out loud about that in the 12/12 post.
Thanks for your thoughts Doug.
In the early days of my spiritual walk I thought that God really was a person. Though I wouldn’t put it in these exact terms the sense was that God was a really big guy up in the sky. As I moved forward the image of god as a loving parent was quite helpful in my own redemption process. Over the last few years I’ve unintentionally moved beyond (away) from a view of a personal God. There was no significant event that caused this shift, it simply occurred naturally. Now, I’m more aware than ever that all our images of god are just that…images. The image now that resonates is God as a rhythm.
Regardless of the images that are helpful from season to season I think it’s important to remember that through time people have always strugglled to articulate their understanding of God. We’ve said God is LIKE…. or we see God AS…. In my opinion there’s a danger when we absolutize our understanding and forget the LIKE and AS.
Interesting…I posted the reply to the first part of the story before reading the second. I’m drawn to the God-Song analogy.
like! (we should have a facebook button on the comment section, shouldn’t we?)