Think Outside the Box of God


There are many notions out there about God. The versions range from defining God as the Holy Trinity to Brahman, to Allah, to Lord and Savior, to Being, to more than I could ever count. Also, God is generally seen as a supreme patriarchal figure. I have wanted to dismantle these limited interpretations of God at different times of my life, but alas I believe that these are all attributes of God. No, they do not define God but are mere features of God.
I hear often that God is our heavenly Father, one with the Spirit and Son (obviously I have a Protestant background) and I’d like to address that first. I often hear that he is near to us in the Spirit, he is our personal Savior, our loving Father. He is fully God and fully human. All such things I believe are true, but I also find with this perspective too much emphasis on the Fatherly aspect (too jolly), on the Savior (too personal), and on the male dominant verbage of God (too masculine). There is no room for God to be authoritative and angry, to be the Savior of the world, or to be feminine. I am tired of going to Bible studies and church where these aspects of God are forgotten and ignored.
Now, I absolutely hate the phrase “think outside the box” because it is exactly what it isn’t. It is like this oxymoron that we tend to define God in our culture and worldview. We are told by Evangelicals to put away the notions that God is distant, that he is angered and punishing us but to embrace the peaceful, loving-kindness of Jesus. So we think that our understanding of God has evolved through this enlightenment–yet what is it really when we do not consider even the veracity and currency of God’s characteristics in the Old Testament? The irony is that we can never fully know God at all—at least, some impart, not in this life. But does that make our quest to know God suddenly invalid? So it should be with open minds that we consider the truths of other definitions of God. These, such as the Brahman, mere being, or Allah are what I’d like to bring to the table.
Quite honestly, I do not know much about these gods, but I do accept that they have elements of God which are usually excluded in the Western concept of God. I liked the way that Karen Armstrong, author of The Case for God, described the power of Brahman in a recent National Public Radio interview: “The Brahman was not present in the wordy definitions of the divine. It was present in the stunning realization of the absolute powerlessness of language and speech to describe this.” With such a statement, I am attracted to the idea that God is beyond what our words describe, and beyond what our minds can imagine. Sometimes, words get in the way of things. I think what is greater than words is when we can realize that God is present in the awesome silences.
Likewise, the idea of just existence, or being, is a characteristic of God that is largely underestimated. Before there was time, God existed. Then he put the world into existence by his ideas. There is so much beyond us that exists, but little do we acknowledge it. Even the simple (or complicated?) fact that we exist must be a part of God. I think this should be taken into account a little more and the fact that there was a whole history of existence before us and will continue after us. Ecclesiastes is a great book to help self-focused and work-driven individuals see how brief life is, and that the meaning isn’t in ourselves or how busy we can be.
I have already brought up some Hindu and New Age ideas, as some people would label or accredit it, and now I’m bringing up a Muslim aspect of God: Allah. Actually, here I’d just say it’s another name of God, but hardly another aspect. As Juliet said in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” it does not matter what something is called, but what it is. There are a lot of parallels between the Judaism, Islam, and Christianity; the most shared concept is of Yahweh, Allah, or God. In this, I think we should remember that God isn’t Christian, but he can be anyone’s God. This, too, is an aspect largely overlooked, unfortunately. God is often associated with one religion or faith, but he is God of the world and universe!
I can see that for some readers, this may not be a topic of interest especially because it sounds like an attack on monotheism, or a branching out towards pluralism, but let it be clear that I am only suggesting there are more aspects of God that are not regularly taken into account. And I don’t think that we can fully know God—there will always be culture and our finite minds in the way. However, let us not stop to think of the many ways that God is good, the many ways he is present, and of his many qualities.
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  1. Right on! Whether it is pluralistic or not, I worship ShangDi as God. While ShangDi is simultaneously the Almighty Lord of Heaven, wielder of lightning, ruler of Creation, some worship him as leader of a pantheon of Chinese folk gods. As a Chinese Christian, I worship Him as the just, merciful and good ruler of Creation and almighty lord of heaven of the Old Testament and of Chinese history and culture. It is the only way that we know God. That there is now a book of writings and a whole new history of worship and salvation is simply the change in history, not of faith. In this way, I suppose I worship pluralistically. Yet, no less do I worship GOD simply because I have a different understanding of Him. He is still GOD and will always BE God.

  2. So to kind of go along with this blog post, I'd like to share a recent story with you both. The other day, I was on my way to work and was stopped by these two "Mother God Christians" who asked me to take a survey. I'm not sure if it is a rebellion against cultural norms or not in Korea, this colt has taken off and has a fairly large gathering. As I sat and tried to listen to the man in his broken English pull verses out of context to support his claim that God is a woman, I couldn't help but be affirmed that HUMANS DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE MIND AND MYSTERY OF GOD. I don't disagree that women and men are made in God's image, therefore, he has qualities that are what we call "masculine" and "feminie". However, my biggest problem with his horrible rhetoric was that he tried to apply human understandings to an Almighty God. He was trying to convince me that there is a heavenly mother since we need earthly mothers. That's restricting God.Anyway, here's the tie into your blog: I think Westerners dislike the idea of mystery and anything that is foreign to us (thanks to Plato and Aristotle). So we apply our understandings to an infinite God rather than embracing the wonders and mysteries of God, Allah, YHWH, Tin-Hungh, etc.

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