What do people understand by the word ‘God’?

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.

  • What is Life and does it have any meaning?
  • Who, what or where is God?
  • Is God present and active in the world today? Some unanswerable questions?
  • How much do we know about God?  How well do we know God?
  • Do we really know what we believe?
  • How did we come to believe in this God?
  • Christian faith presupposes that we can talk to God, but what does that really mean? What place prayer and worship?

These notes are loosely based on a three part podcast by Rob Bell in 2015.

There have been endless efforts trying to figure out why this God who is apparently somewhere else intervenes down here from time to time!
How do we get God to come to us here?

Consider this critique of Christianity:
Because there was a problem here on earth, God had to send his son from somewhere else?
Was it necessary that God’s son had to be killed so that there would be less violence in the world?
Peace would only come if God killed someone?
If this is true no wonder this tradition has had some awful wars that it has tried to justify.

How many of us resonate with atheists (or agnostics) who reject some or all of these views of God?
A/theismagainst theism – maybe against a three tier system that puts a divine being somewhere else?
It’s surprising to me how many Christians still believe in that “Grandfather in the sky”.
Who else doesn’t believe in this God that we don’t believe in?
Are we witnessing the death of a way of thinking about God.
Is it fair to suggest that few things have caused more atheism than Christians clinging to ways of viewing the world that now sound crazy?

Time to move on?

It is said that there is a book in each of us waiting to get out. Instead of writing a book I created a web site over 18 years ago and that has been a work-in-progress ever since. It’s almost impossible to recall how my thoughts have changed in that time as I have had the chance, especially over the last 12 years, to share something of the stories of over 2,000 people who have been drawn away from churches that they may have attended for many years (including several leaders and former leaders). I seem to have built up a real awareness of why people believe(d) what they believe(d), often as a result of divisive, denominational  theology.
Why for example is there so much fear, guilt and shame associated with Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christianity?
It is a sad fact that Christians can’t agree amongst themselves, even about what they believe about the place of Jesus. It is worth considering how in some people’s eyes Jesus became God.

As people are being drawn away from churches that they may have attended for many years there is a lot of talk about deconstruction. There is far less talk about reconstruction of one’s faith, and there is a real emphasis – especially amongst Evangelicals and Fundamentalists on demolition of any beliefs in God.

I want to end this first part with a brief reflection of my own thoughts and feelings at this time.

There has been a resurgence of interest in the work of Paul Tillich and the Ground of Our Beingthe electricity of God that everyone can be plugged into!
Are we moving from God up there somewhere to God as source or that from which everything flows. God with us? Our experience as an echo of a larger sound?
Communications with others that resonate – feelings of being connected to everything – to nature – a deeply divine presence – a strength that is available beyond self?
These all describe ways of putting God right here with us – pulling us forward?
Why do we have this power to direct our attention to the well-being of others?
Begin with what we see around us.
Why for example have we moved beyond slavery?
History on a trajectory forward?
Humanity in a process of becoming?

How’s that for starters? End of part 1.