I don’t really expect to be able add anything to the mountain of material that has been written about God. In fact, I couldn’t even begin to make a reasonably complete list of books you can read to understand this term. All I can do is briefly summarise my travels with the Mystery we label ‘G-O-D’.
I use ‘G-O-D’ instead of ‘God’, because the latter comes with so much baggage. Whatever ‘God’ means to you, I can almost guarantee it is partial, insufficient, biased and maybe even unhelpful to gaining a fuller understanding. ‘G-O-D’, on the other hand perhaps allows a fresh start.
G-O-D is not a word with any precise meaning; rather, it is a word symbol that conveys a mystery. Furthermore, this mystery, from a scientific perspective, is complete. There is absolutely nothing about G-O-D that we can pin down with repeatable experimental evidence; yet there are many who would swear that they ‘know’ G-O-D from experience. Undoubtedly, their experiences are real, but the source of their experiences are part of the Mystery. This includes accounts from Jesus, Mohammed, the prophets, et al.
As a first step, let us then say that G-O-D is an acceptable way to talk about some of our experiences that cannot be explained any other way. This step requires no faith; it merely adopts a term with which to talk about the Mystery at the foundation of our existence. There is no need or point in arguing about the existence of G-O-D; it is just a word we use to talk about something about which no one knows anything for certain.
Let us next admit that, from a scientific perspective, G-O-D is not necessary to explain our physical existence. Cosmologist are able to form theories that explain the origins of the universe without relying on a supernatural instigator. As far as science can tell, there is nothing that exists that cannot be explained or theorised without resort to a supernatural creator.
Early in my theological career, I realised that G-O-D made much more sense as a verb. i thought I had discovered something new until I read Buckminster Fuller’s poem from the 1960s. Here is part of it:
Of course, Fuller wasn’t the origin of the idea any more than I was. The Old Testament word for G-O-D can mean “I am becoming,” thus giving rise to a Jewish notion of G-O-D as an unfolding, as in an unfolding pattern of the universe, where G-O-D is the weaving of the web that binds us all together, with each other and with everything in the entire creation.
At all the various stages of our faith development we have an image of G-O-D that serves as needed, but our image cannot be static, because G-O-D is not static. Our image evolves, and at the final stage it is no longer needed and can just disappear.
Jesuit Anthony de Mello tells a story tells the story of the Master who would insist that the final barrier to our attaining God was the word and concept “God”. This so infuriated the local priest that he came in a huff to argue the matter out with the Master.
“But surely, the word ‘God’ can lead us to God?” said the priest.
“It can,” said the Master calmly.
“Well, how can something help and yet be a barrier?”
Said the Master, “The donkey that brings you to the door is not the means by which you enter the house.”