This post continues the last post’s response to Anna-Marie, a follower from Estonia. She asked how rethinking our God-images works with an image of God as central as the Trinity. We continue…
When we reduce our quest for God to trying to understand God, we can’t help but limit our experience of God. While the infinite Divine cannot be contained in thought, we can deeply experience God. Experience… but not define.
If I walk outside on a windy day, hold an open box above my head, and then snap it shut… what I have inside the box is not the wind. Sure, elements of wind are in the box. There are oxygen and nitrogen molecules, there is movement… all aspects of wind. However, what I have in my box is not the wind.
That’s just the way wind is. We can experience it as it blows bracingly in our faces; as it wafts comfortingly through the trees; as it storms alarmingly at the door. We can experience the wind… but we cannot capture or contain it. Wind is just not that way.
The same is true of God. We can experience God deeply. As mentioned in the last post, it is a deeply human experience to gain a glimpse of Divine transcendence. Sometimes we experience the Fruit of the Divine Spirit. Other times we are deeply moved by a sense of the beyond-us-ness of reality. We see a sunsets or hold a newborn baby, and we get a glimpse. We love or are loved, and we get a glimpse. We grow in wisdom, awaken to truth, or are captured by beauty, and our experiences are something more… something transcendent. These glimpse-experiences move us. They change us.
And again as we mentioned in the last post, we need a code word to talk about that which cannot be talked about, so we latch on the the word “God.” However, as soon as we shoehorn our transcendent experience into a mental construct we call “God,” the thing we grasp onto, is not God.
This is the dilemma we bring to theological discussions like the one Anna-Mari’s question brings up. This is the background we have to work against as we try to understand our tradition; as we try to move forward on our spiritual journeys.
So, with these two posts as background, in the next post we’ll finally look at her question. If no mental construct can contain God, what about the cherished Christian doctrine of the Trinity?
this is a helpful reminder. I invested numerous years in deepening my understanding of God. Much of that initial understanding came via the traditional modern constructs. A central theme of the traditioal constructs was God as person. As those constructs started to break down the initial temptation was to redefine God in a way that i thought more helpful but with the same absolutist tendencies. This post reminds us that all images and metaphors will ultimately break down. They serve us for a season, a generation, perhaps a lifetime but the images will ultimately need to be reframed. Ironically, the metaphors we find most helpful in our reframing will often be in recaiming metaphors frm many generations past. Regardless of the metaphor, we’rebest served in holding them with an open hand. When we hold on too tightly we begin to connect with the image as opposed to experiencing the wonder of the God the image represents.
1. yes! our christian absolutist tendencies fly in the face of the humility required by our core doctrine of the ineffability of god.
2. yes again! my experience as well, is that the images used before the reformation, particularly the images left us by our mystics and contemplatives are particularly helpful in my own efforts to talk about that which cannot be talked about.