Archive for the ‘ God ’ Category

Today in the lunchroom, a co-worker of mine that I’ve never talked to prior came in and we greeted each other. Quickly after some small-talk she asks “Are you a Taurus or Capricorn?” A bit surprised at her out-of-the-blue question, I responded that no, I am Aeries. Apparently she’s an astrologist in training and is always trying to guess people’s sign. Still wanting to practice, she offered to look up my natal chart–and I agreed.

I think most Christians (least the ones I am mostly familiar with) would have said no thanks to the natal chart reading. I was curious about what it might say–and why not? She’s having fun with it, I didn’t mind, and I was kind of making a friend (or as many Christians would put it “building relationships”). So, she read my natal chart to me. A lot of it was pretty accurate (I’d say there were a few things that were majorly off) but vague. I figure any person has those traits in them to some degree and so naturally nod their heads in agreement when a description of their Zodiac is read. Then there was actually a moment when it got kind of eerily accurate–like no one’s business.

Coincidence? Probably. Yet, I’m just now wondering (sort of thinking out loud) if perhaps there is true science in it (sorry astrologers for the insult). From the traditional Christian perspective, astrology and psychic readings are “not from God”, but as I’m just thinking out loud here….I wonder if the Bible really does condemn it. Weren’t the three wise men astronomers? I’m sure there was some astrology mixed in there–after all, they were from the Orient, where we know astrology has it’s roots. I know it’s a weak link–there is no indication that their practices were ungodly–or Godly.

When I was an undergraduate at the Christian university I attended, my professors and classmates would always discuss the importance of contextualism* for cross-cultural ministry. Everybody pretty much assumed this meant to cultures that were really different from our own and that for some reason it was OK to “tweak” the Bible to make sense on their terms but not OK to do that in the American culture (possibly because we were all egotistic and believed we had the correct Biblical practices already down). Now that the U.S. is where I live indefinitely, I’m seeing the need to contextualize in sub-cultures here just as much as elsewhere.

So, I’m willing to be flexible when it comes to getting my natal chart read. I’ll listen with respect and interest–heck, I’ll even take some of its advice! I mean, why not–it’s useful.

Still, I’m not easily convinced that astrology is really a tool to unlocking the human personality. It may be useful, but accuracy is important, too. Just like those 10 question personality tests, the description is too vague–could be anybody.

*In missiology, contextualism goes beyond the Wikipedia definition and is further described as a way to make Biblical concepts understandable and practiced in cross-cultures. For example, prayer in other cultures doesn’t have to be done the same way American churches pray–other cultures prefer communal prayer (everyone prays aloud at once) and the more extreme contextualization regarding prayer includes Muslims praying (and performing all the Islam prayer rituals) to “Issa” (Jesus) in spirit.

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.