What does the word ‘God’ mean to you now?

What place does ‘God’ really have in your life now?
What is the purpose of life?
Where is God?

What I wonder, might your response be to these questions?

I am now 85.
It is said that there is a book in each of us.
Instead of writing a book I created a web site in 2000 that later became the blog that is still an on-going Work-In-Progress after more than 20 years
I have a bit of a reputation for asking some of the awkward questions to which there are no easy answers.

Have you ever asked yourself:

  • How well do I really know God?
  • Do I really know what I believe?
  • How did I come to believe in this God?
  • To what extent have I been influenced by my own culture?
  • How would I describe the purpose of life?
  • Christian faith presupposes that we can talk to God, but what does that mean to you?
  • What place prayer and worship?

I’m not asking for answers. I’m simply trying to encourage thoughts, discussions and conversations around what could be seen as some of the most basic and fundamental questions.
We are all on unique journeys; we only see a small part of the overall picture based on our own experience.

I left school when I was 16 and that was the end of my formal education. My parents never owned a Bible (they had left school at 13 and 14). I became a Christian as an adult but walked away from the Anglican Church in the UK in the early 1970’s after having been treasurer of the local church for 8 years in the 1960’s. I had become disillusioned by what I saw as a lack of ‘radical’ Christianity, and an inability to get answers to some of my questions. I later spent over 20 years with a Sabbath-keeping Christian church before a church split in 1995 destroyed our own family of 14 related by marriage. I was ‘forced’ for a second time to reconsider just about everything I had been taught.

I have described something of my story both before and after 1995.

I was very involved for a few years with the Emerging, the Emergent and the House Church Scene from 2003.

In 2006 there was one of those ‘lightbulb moments’ when I realised that my faith had been based on ‘head knowledge’ and very little ‘heart awareness’ (I wouldn’t use those terms now).
The Shack by Paul Young was published in 2008. Let’s just say that I was very familiar with the background to the publication of that book having read one of the original copies when it was published privately in 2007.
In 2008 as part of his graduate studies, I was asked by a friend to complete a questionnaire online. He was looking at any possible connections between being an introvert and being shy (that I am not). The results showed that instead of being neuro-typical I definitely had Asperger’s Syndrome (sometimes referred to as High Functioning Autism).
Let’s just say that when I found out what that meant I was excited. I suddenly ‘knew’ why I was different and why I thought the way I did! I stopped attending church in 2009.

It was Richard Holloway the former leader of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, who suggested that the symbol ‘God’ is one of the most ambiguous of human inventions.
Richard had a big impact on my thinking – see Broken Myths” that I wrote in 2010.

I was first introduced to the thoughts of Diana Butler Bass in 2012 when she wrote Christianity After Religion” as a result of which I found myself with a faith that I could then hold on to ‘loosely’.
Food for Thought” was a reflection of some of my thoughts at that time.

It was in 2013 when I was 78 that I joined the local branch of U3A – the University of the Third Age and attended classes in Philosophy, Psychology, Counselling, History of Christianity, History of Religion, Buddhism and Islam – just 2 or 3 hours a week for 4 years.
During that time I was introduced to Barbara Brown Taylor who suggested that she had a gift of Lunar Spirituality, in which the divine light available waxes and wanes in seasons. The moon never looks the same two nights running! She had a great curiosity – what would her life with God look like if she trusted this rhythm instead of opposing it. How much more would be available if she could learn to walk in the dark as well as in the light. She found her teacher in John of the Cross, who she says is no help to anyone seeking a better grip on God he wants to convince those who grasp after things that God cannot be grasped – cannot be held on to – can only be encountered as that which eclipses the reality of all other things.

Barbara went on to suggest that John is a teacher in a negative way – he doesn’t teach anything about God by saying what God is – John clears space by teaching what God is not – that images and ideas about God are really obstacles between them and the real thing – offering no handle on this elusive God who cannot be grasped. Often what we don’t want to look at is what we most need to see!

Some of the other people who have influenced my thinking recently include Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Bart Ehrman, Eckhart Tolle and Brian McLaren. Maybe the greatest impact has been the growing understanding of the Enneagram and the place of Spiral Dynamics.

It was in the Autumn of 2018 that I decided to step back from all of the divisive, denominational theology that had been so much part of my life for so long.
It was after listening to Barbara Brown Taylor talking about her new book, “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” early in 2019 that I realised that I had reached a point where I simply wanted to encourage even just a few people to reconsider what they really understood about the place of God in their lives now.

In “Let’s Talk about God” I have tried to start the ball rolling with a few thoughts from Rob Bell and Peter Rollins.

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1. Moving through the Emerging and Emergent Church Scenes

How I moved on after 1995 through the Emerging, Emergent and House Church scene to the time when I finally stopped attending church in 2009 is a very long story
See “My Story (from 1995 to 2012)”.
By 2010 I was involved with a couple of para-church groups in Brighton where I live, including a church in a pub run by an Anglican priest. I was also introduced to the writings of Richard Holloway – the former leader of the Episcopalian church in Scotland. It was Richard who suggested that the symbol God is one of the most ambiguous of human inventions.

In 2012 I found a review of “Christianity After Religion” by Diana Butler Bass  that was another one of those light-bulb moments, as a result of which I found myself with a faith that I could hold on to ‘loosely’ despite no longer attending church.
It also made me realise that even at that time I had been an outside observer of American Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism with it’s emphasis on fear, guilt and shame for over 15 years.

I have commented elsewhere about the impact of Diana’s subsequent book “Grounded” in 2015. This was a major influence on my thinking. Interestingly her subsequent books have shown how our paths were running in parallel but have now diverged.
That’s surely just a reflection of how we are all on unique journeys and are not necessarily being drawn in quite the same way?

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