I’m at an interesting stage in my life, and I can’t help but try to view it in some detached manner outside myself. I find that increasingly difficult to do, but let me try anyway to explain the ineffable that’s been going on with me.
First off, let me tell you what I’ve been reading. On the recommendation of Amy, it’s Marcus J. Borg’s The God We Never Knew. If you are a Christian or a Jew, I highly recommend picking this up purely as a different way to view the God you and I both worship. If that didn’t apply to you, but yet you still yearn to understand more about the variety of ways to view a monotheistic concept of a god, Borg’s book is still very enlightening.
Note: My “little g” god reference is not meant to discount my personal belief in God as the Christians know God. Merely, it’s a repackaging of the concept for those who don’t hold to beliefs similar to my own. I’m convinced that my belief is correct, but I don’t want that conviction to become a barrier to the open and honest discussion of theology. If you think I’m being politically correct, then you obviously have never met me. =)
Borg affirms a lot of the things that I’ve been thinking myself on ways to view God. There are primarily two ways to do so. The more common view is the monarchical model: God as king, lawgiver, and judge. If the term “God” springs to mind judgement, thrones, and Monty Python’s interlude in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you know what I’m talking about here. This view of God is, in my and Borg’s view, incomplete. It shows God as rather distant, even as he is transcendent.
The way both Borg and I prefer to view God–and let me note that I felt this way before reading Borg’s book, although I’m much more confident in this thought process now–is in a panentheistic view.
Now, before you scream, “Christians aren’t pantheistic, Geof!”–go back and read that again. It’s panentheism, literally, “everything is in God”. Pantheism is literally “everything is God”, and there’s a huge difference. Borg uses a reference to Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland to make his point. Having not read Flatland, I’ll give you my own account of multi-dimensionality that I’ve been promising for a while.
Consider, for a moment, that you are capable of existing in only one dimension. You can go back and forth along that line [this is the only way we 4-d beings can understand it], but you’re constrained to the line.
Now consider that you’re a 2-d being. You can see someone moving along the line that you were just on, and you can move not only back and forth but side to side.
Now consider that you’re a 3-d being. You can see someone moving along the first line, and you can also see the back-and-forth and side-to-side motion now. You can measure both.
Now come back to your 4-d self. What? You forgot time, right? With your 4-d self, what’s the constraining dimension? Time. You can’t go back–only forward.
Now consider how God is considered in the three omni-‘s: onmipotent [all powerful], onmiscient [all knowing], and omnipresent [present in all places at all times]. In my way of viewing things, for the three omni-‘s to work, God would have to be outside the four-dimensional universe we know and love. If so, God would be all powerful, as energy is a concept of the 4-d world. God would also be all knowing: he could stop time at any place and go, “Okay, I know what you were thinking right here.” Lastly, God would be all-present, because each succeeding dimension encompasses those before it. [If that last doesn’t make sense to you, you might have forgotten something from geometry and/or linear algebra, but I swore I’d never think about eigenvectors and vector space again. Dangit, I just did.]
Anyway, with God encompassing the world [actually, the universe, but let’s go to the limits of what we can see with our naked eye, eh?], we can be near to God. No longer must our relationship be of master-slave, but more of elder-youth. Our concept of sin as something to be guilty for goes away in the traditional Christian sense; it instead is replaced by a concept of the betrayal of the relationship.
Let’s give a real example from my own life. I have a problem with lust. [We can leave it at that; you’re a bright-enough individual to take that to the course that it needs to be taken. Nothing kinky, mind you, it’s just that I like me some women.] I came to this realization last night: my lust isn’t a sin to be repented for in the old sense. In the sense that God and I are in a relationship–and that medium is Jesus Christ’s making God known and accessible, which is a commentary for another day–my abuse of that relationship with lust is evident. If I trust in God to find me a woman to marry [if that is to happen, and most days, I wonder…], which I do, my lust is simply a betrayal of my trust that God will find that one woman he has selected.
You may think, “Gee, wow, ain’t that special,” but when I was greeted this morning with a lingering dream about a former fling, I found myself on the verge of lust. [You might say that I was already there, but then you’ve never been around me first thing in the morning. I do lots of dumb things in that first ten minutes.] Once I remembered my revelation for last night, and also remembered that the fling was now an impossibility [she’s moved away, and heck, she wasn’t a woman of any faith to begin with], I realized, “Hey, I don’t have to deal with this.” And until I started writing this entry and got to this point, I hadn’t thought of it at all. [If this seems unremarkable, three months ago, visions of said fling would have consumed most every waking, non-working thought. I told you I had a weakness.]
Whew! Enough soul-searching and -baring for an afternoon. I’m going to go find some work to do.