What do people understand by the word ‘God’?

I had already started working on this material when I listened to the interview with Barbara Brown Taylor where she had been asked about “What do you think when you use the word ‘God’?”.

I have learned so much about why Christians believe(d) what they believe(d), often as a result of divisive, denominational theology, and also something of why they even fight among themselves about their ‘beliefs’ and what they see as the place of Jesus.
It occurred to me that it might be helpful, especially for some of those who might be considering just walking away completely,  if they had the chance to step back from Christian theology and consider what some people – whether or not they have ever had any theological training – understand by the word ‘God’, and even “Where is 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.

I was told recently that I shouldn’t even ask the question, “Who, What or Where is God?” because it is unanswerable.
It was Diana Butler Bass who suggested that “Where is God?” may be one of the most significant questions we could consider. Do you agree?

  • 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? What place culture?
  • Christian faith presupposes that we can talk to God, but what does that really mean? What place prayer and worship?

The notes that follow 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?

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?

Is it time to move on?

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. Some people see Jesus as their ‘boyfriend’ while some see Jesus as God!

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

There has been a resurgence of interest in the idea of 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.

Why for example do we have this power to direct our attention to the well-being of others – as well as the ability to be selfish, self-centred and materialistic?
What place slavery?
Is humanity in a process of becoming?
Let’s begin with what we see around us.

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

See here for Part 2.