What does the word ‘God’ mean to you?

After watching an interview in April with Barbara Brown Taylor about her new book, “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” I have created an entirely new foundation for my blog that has effectively been a Work-In-Progress for the last 19 years.

I had become a Christian when I was 22 (over 60 years ago) and as a former Anglican I had been impressed by Barbara’s previous book, “Learning to Walk in the Dark” with its emphasis on Lunar Spirituality (see sidebar for a link).
Barbara had earlier written, “Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith”, and during an interview in 2006 with the same interviewer she had been asked the question:
“What do you think when you use the word God?” This was her response:

When I use the word God, I am so aware I’m using a code word and that everyone who hears that word and probably everyone who uses it imagines something different, imagines a different posture in front of that being, that presence. I suppose my own image, my own idea of God, as imperfect and as evolving as it is, right now would be the glue that hooks everything together, the consciousness that moves between all living things.
When I use the word God, I do not envision a large person with two arms, two legs and nose and two eyes. I envision, instead, some presence so beyond my being, a presence that both knows the stars by name and knows me by name, as well, that is not here to be useful to me, that is not here to give me things as much as to ask me to give myself away for love. I, of course, get a great deal of what I mean by God from the tradition in which I stand – the Christian tradition, the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. But when I say I believe in God, I mean I trust. I trust in the goodness of life, of being. I trust that beyond all reason. I trust that with my life. And that’s what I mean by God.

When asked in the recent interview, what she thought of that now, her response was:
That wasn’t bad. What I like about hearing that 13-year-old answer is how hard it was for me to find language, and I would say that has only increased. I recently learned that Saint John of the Cross – one of his names for God was Nada – nothing – Nada. And by that, he didn’t mean null set, but he meant the place where language runs out, the place where concept runs out. So I suppose now, if I’ve changed at all, it’s in the tradition of the great mystics appreciating the ways in which language will never get there. I think it was Soren Kierkegaard who said, if you think you understand it, it is not God.

Interestingly the interviewer said: And I think that’s why in the Jewish tradition, you don’t spell out the word God because God is too vast and mysterious and unnameable to be embodied in language.

At the time of that interview I had already chosen to step back from all the divisive, denominational theology that had been a part of my life for so many years and collect together some of the thoughts of others:

What do people understand by the word ‘God’?

A link to the interviews with Barbara can be found here.
It was in May that Barbara spoke about her new book in St Paul’s Cathedral in London – see here.
My own summary notes of that talk can be seen here.

In “Stepping Stones I have described some of my journey through Christendom.

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About Peter

I am now 83 and walked away from 'traditional' Christianity over 45 years ago. I stopped attending church in 2009. I have a bit of a reputation for asking some of the awkward questions to which there are no easy answers.
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