Sunday 22 September 2013

How do we speak of God?

One of the topics that has arisen at times during the Common Dreams conference is how we speak of God. The opinions amongst the delegates were extremely diverse. Some have gone to the extreme of describing God as a human-made construct, while others want to hold on to a God that is real, perhaps even tangible. This, of course, has implications for many aspects in our faith life. One of these is prayer. 

One of the lectures we had was on the topic of "Praying when God is not a person: Non-theistic prayer". Although it was an interesting presentation, I was left wondering what the purpose of prayer might be and who or what God was in order that we would even choose to pray. Today, I got some clues.

Margaret Mayman, from New Zealand (but soon to move to Sydney), spoke about critical realism when speaking of God. She shared an excerpt talking of God that included the following. "Not as real as daisies, but as real as 'I love you'" God is certainly real, but cannot be expressed or even given evidence for. There is something about this way of trying to understand God that is more... More than I  can get a grip upon. 

Bruce Sanguin also offered a very helpful reflection. He expressed that "God is not a person, but is deeply personal". He concludes that God cannot be less than personhood, but is also more. Sanguin told us about Ken Wilber's "1,2,3 of God". God is described in three persons; the one speaking (first person "I am"), the one spoken to (second person "beloved other") and the one spoken about (third person "source of life, energy, light etc."). What a fascinating way to reinterpret the Trinity. 

Sanguin expressed his concern that the progressive movement has tended to forget about the second person of God, the beloved other. This is the God to whom we devote our attention. To reclaim and remember the beloved is to find a place for prayer and contemplation. This image of God does not have to be like a person, but is deeply personal. This person of God is the object of our love, attention and devotion. This is the God that is more than words can express, but closer than our heartbeat.

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