I was once told by an atheist friend “that he didn’t believe in God”; so I asked him to describe this god he didn’t believe in. After about 15 minutes of in depth discussion on his concept of “god”, I had to admit to him that, “I didn’t believe in that God either”.
I hear a lot of complaints these days about “American’s just don’t believe in God anymore”. People say that there appears to be a war on Christian holidays and a ban on discussing God in the public school system. Just two of a number of causes cited for a Godless America today.
What seems to have happened is not so much a turn away from the idea of God, but rather a growing intolerance for the number of diverse concepts about the “nature of God”. How an individual “pictures God” has a tremendous impact on how that individual practices and thinks about their spiritual life. Both Jews and Christians started out with a similar “idea” of God that was formed form two very important scriptures, the Books of Ezekiel and Daniel. Indeed the picture at the top of this post comes from Ezekiel’s vision of God during the Babylonian Captivity. It is also similar to the Ancient of Days described by Danial from roughly the same time period (600 BC to 300 BC).
1 In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), 3 the word of the Lord came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was on him there.
4 As I looked, a stormy wind came out of the north: a great cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing forth continually, and in the middle of the fire, something like gleaming amber. 5 In the middle of it was something like four living creatures. This was their appearance: they were of human form. 6 Each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: 9 their wings touched one another; each of them moved straight ahead, without turning as they moved. 10 As for the appearance of their faces: the four had the face of a human being, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle; 11 such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. 12 Each moved straight ahead; wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. 13 In the middle of the living creatures there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches moving to and fro among the living creatures; the fire was bright, and lightning issued from the fire. 14 The living creatures darted to and fro, like a flash of lightning.
15 As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. 16 As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl; and the four had the same form, their construction being something like a wheel within a wheel. 17 When they moved, they moved in any of the four directions without veering as they moved. 18 Their rims were tall and awesome, for the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. 19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. 20 Wherever the spirit would go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When they moved, the others moved; when they stopped, the others stopped; and when they rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
22 Over the heads of the living creatures there was something like a dome, shining like crystal, spread out above their heads. 23 Under the dome their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another; and each of the creatures had two wings covering its body. 24 When they moved, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of mighty waters, like the thunder of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army; when they stopped, they let down their wings. 25 And there came a voice from above the dome over their heads; when they stopped, they let down their wings. 26 And above the dome over their heads there was something like a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was something that seemed like a human form. 27 Upward from what appeared like the loins I saw something like gleaming amber, something that looked like fire enclosed all around; and downward from what looked like the loins I saw something that looked like fire, and there was a splendor all around. 28 Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
As I watched,
thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne,
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
11 I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
13 As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a Son of Man
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
14 To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
Both books have etched the “Old Man” image of God into the Christian psyche. Perhaps it is time for the concept of God to evolve into something more relevant to the 21st century worldview. It may be time to ask some pertinent questions about the nature of God circa 2018.
The question we are going to ask is a seemingly easy one, “Who or what is God?” Simple words with a lifetime to try and answer. In asking “Who or What is God?” sincere God-seekers resist the temptation to remain in a “butt frozen to a pew” comfort zone, and instead keep reaching for new and better answers.
So we will begin with the simple question. When I utter the word “God,” what do I mean? What should I mean? The notion of a “personal” God with all-too-human human traits, who shares my sorrows and can be addressed in prayer—isn’t this just naïve “anthropomorphism”.
Can I believe in a “God” who intervenes in human history? Shapes the events of my life? Interrupts the flow of ordinary causality in order to work miracles? Or is it just the superstition of a bygone age?
Can I say that God is a “he” at all? Or should I regard “the divine” as bi-gendered—or maybe even “beyond gender”.
“God is my salvation”, or so I’m told, but from what—and into what—am I “saved”? What kind of “salvation” can I believe in? Actual “resurrection” and “immortality”? Or is this just wishful thinking?
I’m told that “God’s revelation can be found in the Bible”. But what does the Bible really say? Who in charged with it’s “correct” interpretation? How can I call it the infallible “Word of God” when the Bible seems, in all honesty, a quite fallible collection of human texts? And what about other religion’s sacred scriptures? Are they “null and void” in light of Christian scripture?
Has “organized religion” become a hindrance to genuine spirituality? Isn’t it an embarrassment that every sect and denomination thinks itself the sole possessor of the saving “Truth”? History shows that religions in general have been a constant source of oppression, intolerance, bigotry, violence, and war. Is any single religion the “Custodian Of Truth”? How can we live in peace in a religiously pluralistic interconnected world with instant global communication?
Is the very notion of “God” an irrelevant concept today? Don’t we look now to science to answer the Really Big Questions. Does our scientific worldview (especially the concepts of biological evolution and quantum field theory) help to inform or distract for the idea of God?
Two thousand years ago the great Jewish spiritual master Mar Yeshua defined for his seeking disciples the pathway for answering these questions. They are preserved in the original Aramaic core sayings of the Gospel of Thomas, which many scholars date back to the secret teachings of Yeshua to his inner disciples as described in the Gospel of Mark.
Three Important Gospel of Thomas Sayings About The Path Of The Disciple
Logion 2: Yeshua said, Let the seeker keep on seeking until he finds, and when he finds, he will experience the fear (awe) of God, and in that consciousness he will ascend, and he will share Sovereignty with God over all things.
Logion 3: If those who try to exert spiritual influence over you say, “Behold, the Sovereignty will descend from the sky,” then the birds of the sky will be greater than you in that Sovereignty . If they say to you, “Behold, the Sovereignty will arise from the sea,” then the fish will be greater than you. But the Sovereignty is within your heart and beyond your understanding.
Logion 113: His disciples said to him, “When will the Sovereignty appear on Earth?” Yeshua answered, “It will not appear by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying ‘it is here’ or ‘it is there.’ Rather, the Sovereignty of the Father is spread out upon the Earth, but mankind does not see it.”
By Jeffrey L. Taylor