Our understanding of God is always from the ground up.
Another way of putting it is that our descriptions of God can only be just that, our descriptions, not God’s. There is a bumper sticker going around that declares: “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” The problem with such a pious-sounding declaration is, of course, that God didn’t say anything. We said it for God. Unless you believe, as some folk certainly do, that the Bible dropped down from some celestial kingdom and fell into our laps perfectly translated into the King James English, one must consider the possibility that the book so much of the world reveres is the product of people not too different than you…good folk and not so good folk who sought to describe their understanding of the divine with images and metaphors that made sense in their world.
A friend of mine once said, “If horses had gods, all gods would look like horses.” Our gods are shaped by our worldviews. For instance, if our worldview is that men rule the roost then God will, more than likely, be a man. So what happens when our worldview changes as it most certainly has in the two thousand years since the Bible was completed?
This is where many religions find themselves these days. We can see evidence of this in a myriad of ways. Fundamentalist Muslims who see the modern world as evil, who demand ancient dress codes or entice youngsters to suicidal missions with the promise of eternal rewards are convinced that this is the only way of being a Muslim. Or Christians who make similar demands with ludicrous claims on science and sinister designs on the political process. Conversely, there is a growing movement within Judaism that has many faithful Jews wishing to separate their religion from unquestioned support of
One of the great problems with the presumption that God wrote or dictated a particular body of writings is that there is very little room for open discussion. Such an understanding makes any contextual criticism very difficult indeed. This is, of course, how fundamentalists of any persuasion, understand their holy book: “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”
While traveling in
I assume he was being genuinely kind. I assume he really does believe that ultimately all people will come under the Islamic tent, not with fear and trembling but genuinely acknowledging the wisdom of this particular revelation.
On the other hand, I worry that he, like so many Christians I know over here, can’t accept that there are multiple pathways of truth. Why must I become a Muslim or why must he become a Christian? Surely there are other ways of experiencing divine presence than one particular religion.
Until we recognize the inherent destructiveness in our old models of belief that declare our way as supreme and our God as the best, we will continue to engage in the kind of violent foolishness that has brought the world to its currently precarious place.
The way to prevent such instability, it seems to me, is to constantly remind ourselves that the finger we use to point to God is not God, that the lens we look through on our search for the divine, is not the divine. We are working from the ground up using the tools at our disposal to try and express the wonder and mystery of the universe just as our ancestors have done from the beginning of time. “If horses had gods, all gods would look like horses.” The volatile state of much of our world is a vivid reminder of the danger of forgetting this important truth.